Minerals are an essential nutrient that is required by the body to form structures such as cells, bones, hair, teeth, connective tissue and muscle. They're also needed to form many enzymes and other important compounds that regulate the body's metabolism and sustain health. Like other essential nutrients (fatty acids, essential amino acids and vitamins), they are necessary for optimal health but can't be manufactured by the body.
Even the Best Diet Doesn't Provide All Needed Minerals
It is difficult to get the minerals you need from your diet. One reason is that today's farming practices have reduced the nutritional content of many of our foods. Without special efforts to remineralize soil, the low mineral content will transfer to the food grown in that soil. Each crop will have successively lower mineral content, which studies on soil mineral content have borne out. It has been suggested that this is due to the move to factory-scale farming. The result is that even if you eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, you might not be getting the essential minerals, and especially the trace minerals, that your body requires. Mineral supplementation may be required.
Trace Minerals and Macrominerals
Dietary minerals are typically comprised of macrominerals and trace minerals. Macrominerals are required in large amounts, while trace minerals are needed only in trace amounts. This is relative, as there is no standard of what is meant by large (macro) and small (trace) when it comes to mineral requirements.
Macrominerals and their Benefits:
- Calcium (builds bone, teeth, also for muscle, heart and digestive system health)
- Magnesium (cardiovascular and nerve health, builds bone, important enzyme cofactor)
- Phosphorus (component of bones, needed for metabolism)
- Potassium (major electrolyte, needed for fluid metabolism)
- Sodium (major electrolyte, needed for fluid metabolism and muscle contraction)
Sodium, chloride and phosphorus are rarely supplemented unless for medical reasons.
Trace Minerals and their Benefits:
- Cobalt (required for vitamin B12)
- Copper (enzyme cofactor, needed for red blood cell production)
- Fluorine (tooth enamel)
- Iodine (required for thyroid hormone)
- Iron is (enzyme cofactor especially for hemoglobin)
- Manganese (enzyme cofactor for superoxide dismutase, needed for bone growth)
- Molybdenum (enzyme cofactor)
- Selenium (required for antioxidant enzymes)
- Sulfur is (essential component of cysteine and methionine amino acids, hair, skin, nails, joints)
- Chromium - (needed for proper utilization of insulin)
- Vanadium - (exact role unclear, involved in blood sugar regulation, may be an insulin mimicker)
Most Multivitamins Don't Include All Minerals
When it comes to the essential minerals, most multivitamins are incomplete. Certain minerals such as magnesium and calcium are supplemented in high quantities (400-800 mgs/day and 100-1500 mgs/day). You'd need four capsules just to satisfy these two requirements, and most of the one or two per day vitamin formulas don't provide this kind of mineral support. Read your multivitamin's Supplemental Facts data for complete information. For adequate mineral coverage, many multivitamins must be taken with a multimineral supplement. If you choose a bone formula, this usually suffices, as they tend to have what the multi formulas lack.
How to Use Mineral Supplements
Follow these guidelines for effective mineral supplementation:
- Use mineral supplements as directed.
- In most cases, minerals should be taken with solid food in equally divided doses throughout your day. One exception is ZMA, which should be taken on an empty stomach.
- Because there are many drug/mineral interactions, tell your doctor if you plan to take a multivitamin that contains minerals (they all do) or a mineral supplement.