Minerals and your body

Vitamins and minerals work together for our health. Learn which minerals are essential to our well being and where to find them.

We've all heard that it's necessary to provide our bodies with vitamins and minerals, but few of us understand why. While vitamins and minerals are very different, the body must have both. One obvious difference is that vitamins, because they contain carbon, are considered organic substances. Minerals lack carbon and therefore are classified as inorganic substances.

The 7 major minerals

Calcium
Phosphorus
Magnesium
Sodium
Potassium
Sulfur
Chloride

The trace minerals

Chromium
Copper
Fluoride
Iodine
Iron
Manganese
Molybdenum
Selenium
Zinc

Inside the body, vitamins and minerals play many important roles. But whereas the body can continue to function without getting the recommended daily allotments of some vitamins, a mineral deficiency can lead to death. As important as they are, most people today don't really know that much about minerals and how they impact the body.

Some of the roles minerals play

In order to make the hemoglobin found in red blood cells, the body needs iron. In order to build strong teeth and bones, the body needs calcium. Calcium is also crucial for the proper functioning of the kidneys, muscles and nerves. Without adequate levels of Iodine, the thyroid gland cannot perform its most important task which is to produce energy. Manganese, selenium and zinc are antioxidants and some of their responsibilities include helping to heal wounds, helping the skeletal system develop properly, and protecting cell membranes. Chromium helps keep arteries clear.

The minerals the body needs are divided into two categories. These two categories are: Major minerals and Trace Minerals. The difference between the categories mainly has to do with the amounts the body requires. The body must have a minimum of 100 milligrams per day to carry out the bodily functions associated with the Major minerals. In the case of Trace minerals, on a per day basis, less than 100 milligrams are required.

Mineral sources

Interestingly, minerals come from the ground that covers the Earth. We don't eat dirt and rocks, yet we get our minerals from the foods we eat. How can this be? Minerals primarily make their way into our bodies by way of the foods that grow from the ground and the animals that survive off the land. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, poultry, dairy products, grains, legumes – these and others are the primary sources of the minerals our bodies need to survive.

What's also interesting is that individuals who eat a lot of processed foods or who fail to consume a nutritionally-balanced diet often suffer from diseases that have been directly attributed to vitamin- and mineral-related deficiencies.

Much controversy surrounds the subject of mineral supplementation. Ideally, people should strive to meet their daily mineral requirements from food because, as is the case with some vitamins, excessive amounts of some minerals inside the body can have a toxic effect.

Minerals are used for creating automobiles, building, pots, pans and many other durable products. But most importantly for humans, minerals are needed to build and maintain strong bodies capable of functioning as designed!

The topic of taking mineral supplements is a controversial one. It is like every other topic, with one side believing that mineral supplements are acceptable substitutes for those who don't consume nutritionally-balanced meals and an entire other side feeling very strongly that mineral supplements should be available only by prescription, like so many other drugs.

Why we need essential minerals

Essential minerals are labeled as such because they are essential to maintaining human health. The major minerals and the trace minerals help the body perform many important bodily functions. Calcium and magnesium both help build strong bones and teeth. Iron is needed to produce red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. Other minerals are needed to assist with the production of hormones, proteins and amino acids. The hair, fingernails, nerves, skin, muscles and all the major organs count on these essential minerals to help them do their jobs.

Unlike vitamins, many of which are water-soluble meaning that excessive amounts and those amounts not used are easily and regularly eliminated from the body via the urine or sweat, there are real dangers associated with consuming excessive amounts of some minerals. Those individuals who regularly consume a diet that is full of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, lean meats, 'good' fats and low-fat dairy products usually get the recommended daily allowances of most vitamins and minerals and don't need supplements.

But many people don't eat that way. Eating fast food, no food, restaurant food, and high-fat snack food is the norm rather than the exception for these people. Vegetarians may also need to rely on mineral supplements for their mineral needs. By restricting meat and sometimes dairy from their diets, their bodies may be severely lacking.

In these cases, it may make sense to take a mineral supplement. Before doing so, take time to first speak with your medical provider. Talk about your typical diet, any known medical conditions and any prescriptions you're currently taking. After that, you'll both be able to make a more informed decision about mineral supplements. Should the decision to proceed be made, keep the following in mind:

Select your mineral supplement with care. Go with a name brand you trust or that you're familiar with. Price shouldn't be the main consideration. It's okay to purchase online, but research your source first.

For the most benefit, look for a supplement that contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Be sure to take only as required. Taking more than has been instructed won't double or triple your benefits. In fact, the opposite may happen. Excessive amounts of some minerals can have toxic effects.

Don't rely on vitamin or mineral supplements to provide your body with the nutrients it needs. Make time to get nutritional foods into your diet. Snack on fruits rather than chips. Consume red meat and dairy in moderation. Add a vegetable to each meal. Something as simple as a side salad -(using leafy green lettuce- will make a huge difference!