Minerals: Requirement, Benefits, Side-Effects & Sources

Minerals: Requirement, Benefits,  Side-Effects & Sources
Top 13 Essential Minerals 

How well do you know your minerals?

When you sit down to dinner do you worry about how much copper, fluoride, iron, phosphorus, and zinc you are giving yourself and your family? Probably not.

When our earliest ancestors foraged for food, they did so without thinking about why they craved and consumed certain plants, clays, salts, and other substances. It was instinct that led them to eat “right.” Without the benefit of modern-day knowledge, they somehow knew what science has now confirmed: For the human body to grow, develop, and maintain good health, it needs minerals.

What are minerals?

Minerals are naturally occurring elements that serve a multitude of roles in health. Bone density, brain function, transportation of oxygen, insulin regulation, muscle development, and heart rhythm regulation all rely on a supply of minerals. Minerals are also responsible for making enzymes and hormones. It may be surprising to learn that the human body can function without vitamins, but without minerals it not only can’t function, but it also can’t survive. If the body’s mineral supply is depleted (e.g., during aging or illness), cell growth slows and cell reproduction eventually stops.

Types of minerals

Minerals are categorized as bulk minerals or macro minerals (calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus) and trace minerals or microminerals (including zinc, iron, copper, manganese, chromium, selenium, and iodine). Bulk minerals are needed in fairly large amounts to ensure proper health, whereas trace minerals are needed in smaller quantities. Certain minerals, however, can compete with other minerals, so there must be a proper balance for any of them to be effective. For example, an excess of zinc can cause copper to be depleted; too much calcium may impede the body’s absorption of magnesium.

Where do you get minerals from?

So how do we know if we’re getting the right amounts of minerals? Often, we don’t. Minerals accumulate in the soil and are passed to the plants that grow in the soil and then to the animals that eat the plants. We obtain minerals through the foods that make up our diets. Unfortunately, the common use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has reduced much of our soil to a “dead” substance. Chemical fertilizers are full of salts that are deadly to the microorganisms that break down soil nutrients so plants can use them. Pesticides kill the beneficial creatures that help protect plants from disease and insect invasion. Ultimately, the use of fertilizers and pesticides causes a loss in soil fertility so that rather than containing life-giving nutrients, some soil becomes just dirt.

Are you getting enough minerals?

Additionally, minerals that are present in the foods we eat are often destroyed by cooking, freezing, exposure to air and/or light, and in food processing. And certain groups of people are more at risk for mineral deficiencies. Children and pregnant women, for example, have a higher than average need for minerals. People who engage in heavy alcohol use or smoke cigarettes are at greater risk because these toxic substances destroy vitamins and minerals. Nutritional needs also increase during illnesses and the following surgery.

Although it’s best to get our nutrients from eating a wide variety of foods (because minerals in food are naturally balanced), mineral supplements can be an effective way to make sure our bodies get an appropriate and balanced amount. Many experts suggest that the most effective way to take a mineral supplement is with a meal. This allows the supplement to dissolve more thoroughly for better absorption into the bloodstream. Don’t take more than the recommended dose, though, because some minerals can do more harm than good if taken in excessive amounts.

Adequate mineral intake is crucial to your health. Because of this, it’s important to ask yourself this critical question: Are you getting all the minerals you need?

Top 13 Essential Minerals

1) Calcium

How much calcium is required? 

The calcium requirement is fulfilled by a balanced diet. Adults need 1000 mg of calcium per day. Many physicians recommend calcium supplements during old age or for recovery. 

Why calcium is needed?

Calcium is very essential for building strong bones and teeth. It also regulates muscle contraction like a heartbeat. Calcium is also beneficial in regulating blood clots. It is important for the transmission of nerve impulses to target cells, aids in muscle contraction, and helps regulate metabolism.

What are the side effects of calcium? 

High doses of calcium can cause stomach pain and diarrhea. 

What are the best sources of calcium?

The best sources of calcium are milk, cheese, and other dairy foods, green leafy vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage, and okra, but not spinach), soya beans, legumes, tofu, nuts, bread, and anything made with fortified flour, and fish such as sardines.

2) Potassium

How much potassium is required?

Adults require 4500 mg of potassium per day.

Why potassium is needed?

Potassium is responsible for maintaining fluids in the body. It helps in lowering blood pressure. It also helps nerve transmission. Potassium is an electrolyte that maintains acid-base balance, helps muscle contraction and nerve impulses, heart and kidney function, and regulates blood pressure and water balance in cells. Potassium deficiency leads to weakness, anorexia and nausea, drowsiness, and irrational behavior. 

What are the side effects of potassium?

An overdose of potassium is called hyperkalemia which can cause nausea, weakness, irregular pulse, and diarrhea. Too much can cause cardiac arrest.

What are the best sources of potassium?

The best sources of potassium are meat, chicken, tuna, beef, milk, yogurt, fresh citrus fruits, and vegetables like tomato, potato, banana, whole grains, legumes, and soybeans.

3) Sodium

How much sodium is required?

Adults require 1500 mg of sodium per day.

Why sodium is needed?

Sodium is required for maintaining fluid balance in the body. Sodium is an electrolyte that helps maintain acid-base balance, regulates blood pressure, and water balance in cells, and aids in muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmission. Lack of sodium causes headaches, weakness, muscle cramps, and shock. Don’t supplement sodium.

What are the side effects of sodium?

An overdose of sodium increases the risk of heart attack and blood pressure.

What are the best sources of sodium?

The best sources of sodium are table salt, soy sauce, processed foods, milk, bread, vegetables, and meat products.

4) Phosphorus 

How much phosphorus is required?

Adults require 700 mg of phosphorus per day.

Why phosphorus is needed?

Phosphorus is required for maintaining healthy bones and teeth. It also maintains an acid-base balance. It is required for cells to work properly and making energy. 

What are the side effects of phosphorus?

Phosphorus overdose may cause diarrhea and stomach pain. Prolonged overdose may reduce calcium in the body which may affect bone strength. 

What are the best sources of phosphorus?

The best sources of phosphorus are meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, milk, processed foods, some cereals and bread, rice, and oats. 

5) Magnesium

How much magnesium is required?

Adult men require 400 mg of magnesium per day whereas adult women require 300 mg of magnesium per day.

Why magnesium is needed?

Magnesium is required for making protein, regulating muscle contraction, increasing bone strength and immunity, and maintaining nerve function. Magnesium aids in the regulation of normal heart rhythm. It also aids in the regulation of blood pressure and water balance in cells. Lack can cause nausea, weakness, irritability, and heart rhythm disruption.

What are the side effects of magnesium?

Overdose if magnesium can lead to diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, and weakness.

What are the best sources of magnesium?

The best sources of magnesium are nuts and seeds, soybean, potato, legumes, quinoa, leafy green vegetables, seafood, meat, chocolate, artichokes, and dairy.

6) Iron

How much iron is required? 

The iron requirement is fulfilled by a balanced diet. Adult men require 8 mg of iron per day whereas adult women require 15 mg of iron per day. 

Why iron is needed?

The most important function of iron is to help synthesize red blood cells that carry oxygen in the body. It is also needed for energy metabolism. Iron, which is found in animal products, is absorbed better than non-heme iron, the type in plants. To boost non-heme Iron absorption, foods rich in Vitamin C must be eaten during the same meal. Iron aids the formation of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood, and myoglobin, which carries oxygen in muscle tissue. Lack of iron can cause anemia, fatigue, and a decrease in immune function.

What are the side effects of iron? 

High doses of iron can cause heart diseases, liver problems, and diabetes.

What are the best sources of iron?

The best sources of iron are red meats, fish, poultry, shellfish (especially clams), egg yolks, legumes, soybean, dried fruits, green leafy vegetables, and fortified cereals, beans, and lentils.

7) Zinc

How much zinc is required?

Adult men require 9 mg of zinc per day whereas adult women require 7 mg of zinc per day.

Why zinc is needed?

Zinc is required for making new cells and enzymes. It helps in processing and breaking down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in the food. Zinc is helpful in healing wounds. It is also helpful in sperm production, sexual maturation, and fetal development. Zinc is also responsible for boosting immunity. Low levels can cause loss of appetite skin and immunological problems, dwarfism, slow growth, and healing.

What are the side effects of zinc?

Overdose of zinc reduces copper absorption in the body which leads to anemia and bone weakness.

What are the best sources of zinc?

The best sources of zinc are meat, fish, poultry, whole grains, fortified cereals, vegetables, nuts, milk, and dairy foods. 

8) Fluoride 

How much fluoride is required?

Adults require 4 mg of fluoride per day.

Why fluoride is needed?

Fluoride is required for maintaining bone and teeth health. Fluoride helps form bones and teeth and may help prevent osteoporosis. Lack of fluoride may cause increased tooth decay. Toothpaste is a common source of fluoride. It is never necessary for adults to supplement this mineral.

What are the side effects of fluoride?

An overdose of fluoride can damage teeth, bones, and joints. Too much fluoride may impair kidney function, muscle and nerve function

What are the best sources of fluoride?

The best sources of fluoride are drinking water, fish, and tea. 

9) Manganese 

How much manganese is required?

Adults require 2 mg of manganese per day.

Why manganese is needed?

Manganese is required for making enzymes in the body. It is helpful in strengthening of bones. Lack of manganese can cause nausea and vomiting. 

What are the side effects of manganese?

An overdose of manganese may damage nerve function and cause fatigue or depression. Excess manganese may interfere with iron absorption. 

What are the best sources of manganese?

The best sources of manganese are nuts, beans, legumes, green vegetables, tea, whole grains, and cereals.

10) Copper 

How much copper is required?

Adults require 1.2 mg of copper per day.

Why copper is needed?

Copper is required to produce red and white blood cells. It helps in processing iron to form hemoglobin. Copper acts as a catalyst in the storage and release of iron to form hemoglobin for red blood cells. Copper is also beneficial in infant growth, brain development, and boosting immunity.

What are the side effects of copper?

An overdose of copper may cause diarrhea, stomach pain, and may damage the liver and kidney.

What are the best sources of copper?

The best sources of copper are legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, meat, seafood, and drinking water.

11) Molybdenum 

How much molybdenum is required?

Adults require 45 micrograms of molybdenum per day.

Why molybdenum is needed?

Molybdenum is required for making enzymes in the body and strengthening bones. Activates certain enzymes in the body necessary in energy metabolism. It aids in blood, cartilage, and bone formation. Deficiency is rare.

What are the side effects of molybdenum?

An overdose of molybdenum may cause joint pains. Excess amounts may interfere with copper absorption.

What are the best sources of molybdenum?

The best sources of molybdenum are milk, legumes, nuts, vegetables (peas, cauliflower, spinach), and cereals such as oats.

12) Chromium 

How much chromium is required?

Adults require 30 micrograms of chromium per day.

Why chromium is needed?

Chromium is required to regulate blood sugar levels in the body. Promotes glucose metabolism, helps insulin regulate blood sugar, decreases insulin requirements.

What are the side effects of chromium?

Overdose of chromium can lead to blood disorders and may damage the kidney and liver.

What are the best sources of chromium?

The best sources of chromium are wholegrain, nuts, cheese, broccoli, potatoes, meats, poultry, fish, some cereals.

13) Selenium 

How much selenium is required?

Adults require 0.07 mg of selenium per day.

Why selenium is needed?

Selenium is required for boosting immunity. It is helpful in thyroid hormone metabolism. Selenium is a good antioxidant and prevents cell and tissue damage. Selenium prevents the oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids while helping with heart function. Lack of selenium can cause muscle weakness and cardiomyopathy. 

What are the side effects of selenium?

An overdose of selenium can cause hair loss, nail and skin damage, nausea, fatigue, and damage to nerve function. 

What are the best sources of selenium?

The best sources of selenium are dairy, nuts, bread, fish, meat, and eggs.

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