SOURCE: Kirkman Group, Inc.

Kirkman Group, Inc.

June 08, 2015 13:42 ET

The Role of Minerals in Your Diet

RENO, NV--(Marketwired - June 08, 2015) - Every living cell on earth depends on minerals for proper structure and function. Minerals are naturally occurring chemical elements that are found in the earth. Erosion breaks down stone, rocks, particulate and sand to form soil, which is the basis for plant growth. The minerals are thereby passed on to the plants, which are in turn passed on to the herbivorous animals that eat the plants. Humans eat plants and the herbivorous animals to obtain necessary mineral nutrients.

Minerals are needed for the proper composition of body fluids, including blood, and for the proper composition of tissues, bone, teeth, muscles and nerves. Minerals also play a significant role in maintaining healthy nerve function, the regulation of muscle tone, and supporting a healthy cardiovascular system.

Like vitamins, minerals also function as coenzymes that allow the body to perform its biochemical functions including:

  • energy production
  • growth
  • healing
  • proper utilization of vitamins and other nutrients

The human body must have a proper chemical balance that depends on the levels of different minerals in the body and in the ratios of certain mineral levels to one another. If one mineral level is out of balance, all other mineral levels may be affected. If this type of imbalance is not corrected, a chain reaction of imbalances can begin that may lead to disease or illness.

Nutritionally, minerals are generally subdivided into two groups, macrominerals and trace minerals (microminerals). The macrominerals include calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and sodium. These are the minerals that are required in large amounts in the body. Trace or microminerals, on the other hand, are those minerals that are required only in minute quantities in the body. These include zinc, copper, chromium, selenium, molybdenum, manganese, iodine, iron, boron, silicon, and vanadium. Though only required in small quantities, they are, nevertheless, essential for good health.

Unlike vitamins, minerals are very stable in composition and do not get degraded by heat, cooking or light. They maintain their nutritional value through the cooking process, even if baked or boiled. It is, therefore, possible to incorporate minerals in numerous recipes to help prevent a nutritional deficiency. This is especially important for individuals on special diets who may not get their mineral requirements from the foods they eat. Individuals on a dairy free diet, for instance, don't get enough calcium for good health. These individuals can incorporate calcium into various prepared foods such as bread, casseroles, cookies, juices and semi-solid foods.

Minerals taken as dietary supplements come from mineral salts, which are the minerals hooked to a molecule such as a sulfate, carbonate, citrate, oxide, picolinate, or other negatively charged chemical group. Since minerals and some mineral salts are often naturally occurring in the ground, it is important that supplement companies test these mineral materials for the absence of significant amounts of lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium, all of which can cause toxic states in humans that lead to certain illnesses.

MineralFunctions and Facts: Macrominerals

Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It makes up 1.5-2% of our body weight, with bones making up about 99% of the body's calcium content. The major function of calcium is to build and maintain healthy bones and teeth; however, it is also involved in much of the body's enzyme activity as well as regulation of cardiovascular function. It is recommended that all individuals consume about 1000 mg. of elemental calcium daily, which is the 100% recommended daily value for this nutrient.

The primary source of calcium is dairy products, making it imperative that individuals on a dairy free diet incorporate supplemental calcium into their diet. Some plant foods are also rich in calcium, such as tofu, kale, spinach, turnip greens and members of the cabbage family. Calcium from spinach, however, is poorly absorbed. Sardines also serve as a very good source.

When taking calcium dietary supplements, it is important to take the supplements with food to ensure the best possible absorption. It is also best to take smaller doses of calcium spread throughout the day than to take one megadose. The best sources of calcium as far as absorption is concerned are considered to be calcium bis-glycinate and calcium citrate malate. Calcium citrate and calcium carbonate are also well absorbed if taken with food. Adequate levels of vitamin D in the diet aid in maximizing calcium absorption. Since calcium is such an important component in our bodies, it is especially important to make sure your supplement company uses calcium materials that are very low in heavy metals contaminants such as lead.

Calcium deficiency can lead to rickets (a bone deformity disease) and growth retardation in children. In adults, deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, poor bone density, muscle spasms, leg cramps and cardiovascular irregularities.

Magnesium

Magnesium is involved in more biochemical functions than any other mineral in the body. Over 300 metabolic reactions involve this important nutrient so it is prudent to ensure your daily intake is sufficient. Magnesium is also extremely important in regulating heart rhythms. The recommended daily value for magnesium is 400 mg. and most dietary surveys indicate that most individuals only get 220-320 mg. per day, a suboptimal level. It is important, however, not to overconsume magnesium since excess amounts of this mineral have a laxative effect.

Foods rich in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, fruits and grains. Meats and dairy are less rich sources. Good magnesium sources in dietary supplements are citrate, glycinate, aspartate and oxide. There is no compelling data indicating that the different magnesium salts have any significant difference in magnesium bioavailability.

Magnesium deficiency can lead to serious health consequences including cardiovascular disease. You should discuss this with your physician to make sure you are getting enough of this nutrient.

Potassium

Potassium is a mineral necessary for good health and organ function, though most individuals' potassium requirements are met by their diet. Additional supplementation outside of the diet is NOT RECOMMENDED. This is because life-sustaining functions are regulated by potassium and upsetting the chemical balance of this nutrient can be life-threatening. For this reason, potassium is not found in significant quantities in dietary supplements.

Almost all healthy foods are high in potassium content including dairy, fish, meat, poultry, vegetables, grains, fruits, nuts, potatoes, rice and beans. Unless one has a serious health problem such as kidney or cardiovascular disease, an individual's potassium level is generally good. Potassium should only be supplemented if prescribed by your doctor.

Phosphorous

Phosphorous is an important macromineral in the body, but, like potassium, the diet usually supplies adequate levels. Phosphorous deficiency and the need for supplementation are rare because almost all foods are rich in this mineral, including carbonated beverages. Some nutritional supplements may contain a small amount of phosphorous as a safety factor, but that supplementation is seldom required.

Sodium

Sodium is another mineral that is obtained from the food we eat and the salt that is used to help season our foods. Sodium deficiency is rare and most people actually have excessive levels. Individuals who have excessive levels are often advised by their physician to cut down their salt intake because excessive sodium can result in edema, high blood pressure, potassium deficiency and kidney problems.

Mineral Functions and Facts: Microminerals (Trace)

Zinc

Zinc is a mineral that is essential to humans and animals, and it plays several vital roles in maintaining good health. Zinc is involved in more than 200 enzymatic reactions that make up our metabolic processes. Other vital functions of zinc include:

  • maintaining growth and development
  • maintaining a healthy, effective immune response
  • supporting healthy skin and proper wound healing
  • supporting sexual maturation and reproduction

Zinc is found in many food sources including egg yolks, fish, meat (including fish and poultry), seafood, seeds and grains. Even though it is found in many regularly consumed foods, zinc deficiency is common due to body functions that interfere with its absorption such as:

  • zinc loss through perspiration
  • diarrhea
  • kidney disease
  • the binding of zinc with phytates from consumed legumes and grains, which makes the zinc unabsorbable

Because zinc binds with certain foods, it is often recommended that at least some of your daily zinc supplements be taken in the evening (about two hours away from dinner) or at bedtime.

Zinc deficiency can result in loss of taste and/or smell, delayed sexual maturation and a depressed immune response. The 100% recommended daily value for zinc is 15 mg., though many health professionals believe that is too low and recommend at least 25-30 mg. daily.

Copper

Copper is an essential trace mineral in human and animal nutrition. Copper aids in the formation of various human tissues and red blood cells. It also works synergistically with zinc and vitamin C in the formation of skin protein. Though rare in humans, copper deficiency can prevent normal growth and development. Most individuals consume enough copper in their diets so that additional supplementation is not necessary. In fact, excessive copper intake can lead to copper toxicity and a drop in zinc and vitamin C levels. For this reason, copper supplements are not common. If a copper supplement is taken or if copper is included in a multiple mineral preparation, the dose should not exceed 1-3 mg. daily. The recommended daily value is 2 mg.

Selenium

Selenium is an essential tract element in humans and animals. It is involved in a healthy immune system, the detoxification process and also has high antioxidant activity. It works synergistically with vitamin E and vitamin C in preventing the formation of free radicals.

Selenium can be found in meat and grains but is very soil dependent as to how much is present in those foods. So, areas of the country where the soil is low in selenium produce crops that are also low in selenium content or farm animals deficient in this nutrient. One of the best sources of selenium is Brazil nuts, which can contain in excess of 500 micrograms per ounce of nuts.

The 100% recommended daily value for selenium is 70 micrograms, but taking up to 200 micrograms is considered safe for most people. Excess selenium should not be consumed, as this can lead to selenium toxicity that can cause numerous health issues. If you eat a lot of Brazil nuts (more than an ounce per day), you should not take supplements containing selenium.

Chromium

Chromium is an essential mineral in human nutrition, though its mechanisms are not well understood. Chromium does play an important role in carbohydrate metabolism and is important in glucose regulating activities. It may be useful in type II diabetes, though more clinical trials are necessary to verify that premise. Good sources of dietary chromium are whole grains, cereals, mushrooms and meat. The 100% recommended daily value for chromium is 120 micrograms.

The average American diet is chromium deficient because chromium is poorly absorbed, even from chromium rich foods. For that reason, most multiple vitamin/mineral products now contain chromium. As with selenium, however, excess chromium should not be consumed because of the possibility of toxicity leading to organ failure.

Manganese

Manganese is believed to be essential in human nutrition. Manganese deficiency in animals is well documented, but it has not been documented in humans. It probably functions in enzymatic and biochemical reactions in the body. Some of the best sources of manganese are grains, nuts, vegetables and teas. Because it is believed to be necessary as a human nutrient, the recommended daily value is listed as 2 mg. Most multiple vitamin/mineral combinations contain this amount.

Molybdenum

Molybdenum isa trace mineral required by both animals and humans to activate certain enzymes used in catabolism and detoxification processes. Though deficiencies in humans are very rare, individuals undergoing detoxification protocols may want to supplement with this mineral just to be sure catabolism is at its optimal levels. Molybdenum is found naturally in beans, liver, cereal grains, peas, legumes and dark green leafy vegetables. Molybdenum intake should not exceed 1 mg. daily. Excessive amounts can lead to gout or molybdenum poisoning. The recommended daily value is 70 micrograms.

Iodine

Trace amounts of iodine are vital to human nutrition by functioning primarily in assuring a healthy thyroid gland. An iodine deficiency can lead to goiter, a condition characterized by a grossly swollen thyroid gland. Goiter is rare these days because most people consume enough iodine by using iodized salt in their diet. Other foods high in iodine content include seafood, kelp, asparagus, spinach, mushrooms, Swiss chard, turnip greens and sesame seeds. The daily requirement for iodine is 0.15 milligrams and most multiple vitamin/mineral products contain that amount. Individuals on a low sodium diet may not consume enough iodized salt to get their daily requirement, so those individuals will need to make sure they take a supplement or eat iodine rich foods.

Iron

Iron is essential in the human diet for the respiration process, the transport of oxygen in the blood and in the oxygenation of red blood cells. It is estimated that 25% of the world's population is iron deficient. Iron deficiency often leads to anemia, tissue inflammation and fatigue.

Even so, iron supplementation is not recommended unless one is diagnosed as anemic. If you are not anemic, you should choose a vitamin/mineral supplement without iron or one that contains low amounts. The 100% recommended daily value for iron is 18 milligrams (27 milligrams for pregnant women). Those doses should not be exceeded unless prescribed by your physician.

Iron rich foods include eggs, meats, whole grains, almonds, avocados, beets, and green vegetables. Iron found in breads, milk and cereals are not well absorbed. If your doctor prescribes iron supplementation, it should be taken with food as iron tends to upset and irritate the digestive and gastrointestinal tracts.

Boron

Boron is a trace mineral essential to plants. Evidence is mounting that it is also essential to animals and humans, though its biochemical mechanism is not yet known. There is some, though not overwhelming, evidence that boron supports bone and joint health and that it may enhance the absorption of calcium and magnesium. For that reason, some mineral supplements contain trace amounts, usually one milligram or less. Fruits and vegetables are our natural dietary sources of boron. There is no recommended daily value yet established for this nutrient.

Vanadium

It has not been determined whether vanadium is essential to the human diet. There is some evidence that it may be essential to some other animals. The typical human diet supplies about 30 micrograms of vanadium daily, primarily from shellfish, dill, olives, and vegetable oils. Much ingested vanadium is poorly absorbed. There is no reason to recommend vanadium supplementation at this time, though some doctors do encourage trace amounts to be taken.

Silicon

Silicon is not considered an essential mineral to human health. There is no scientific evidence indicating a need for supplementing this nutrient. It is naturally found in many foods including alfalfa, beets, rice, whole grains, soybeans and green vegetables, though its absorption factor and usefulness are still questionable.

For more information or to see Kirkman's line of mineral products, please visit the Kirkman Website.

Contact Information

  • Kulani Mahikoa
    503-694-1600