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Mineral Supplements

The function of minerals in the body

Dietary minerals are all the chemical elements required by living organisms other than carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen. Of the 92 elements, two-thirds occur in the human body, of which 22 are considered essential minerals. Of these, seven major elements (calcium, chlorine, magnesium, potassium, phophorous, sodium and sulphur) are usually required in small, but still significant amounts of milligrams or grams per day.

The remaining 15 minerals are required in even smaller amounts usually in the order of millionths of a gram per day (mcg or µg) and are referred to as trace minerals.

A relatively recent category of ultratrace minerals has also been recognised where the elements concerned occur at less than 1µg/g and it is not known whether some of these are essential or incidental to human life.

Within the body all minerals function in a fluid either within the cell as cytosol, as extracellular fluid or contained within the blood or lymphatic circulations. In fluids, minerals exist in their ionic forms carrying an electrical charge which enables the body to manage and transport them. It is these charged particles that make the muscles contract and conduct nerve impulses.

Whilst the amount of major and trace minerals the body needs is small, the importance of these nutrients is huge. Minerals are required in the human body to:

  • Transport life-giving oxygen around the body
  • Aid in the assimilation of other nutrients
  • Form building blocks such as amino acids, hormones and proteins
  • Act as antioxidants 
  • Activate all digestive enzymes
  • Bind to cell receptors preventing and displacing heavy metals from docking
  • Activate all the enzymes required for the processes of detoxification 


Mineral deficiency

The often-touted advice given by the medical profession that you should be obtaining all your dietary needs from a 'well-balanced' diet is no longer true. The reason for this is that while food may look the same as it did 30 years ago, it now has a fraction of the nutrients and especially the trace minerals.

Almost everyone is now estimated to be deficient in one or more minerals - especially trace minerals. This has occurred for a number of reasons including:

  • Poor dietary choices, ready meals, junk food, etc
  • Not allowing the land to rest between growing seasons
  • The use of fertilisers and pesticides which bind mineral minerals in the soil and prevent its utilisation by the crops and animals 
  • Not rotating crops as has been practiced for thousands of years
  • Not using manure to fertilise the soil 
  • Harvesting foods green
  • Ripening foods in artificial environments
  • Modern food storage and transportation methods
  • Preparation and cooking methods


Sources of minerals

As minerals are progressively lost from the land and the crops and animal products it produces they are washed into the seas and inland salt water lakes and the sea foods and sea salts that they produce.

Since extracellular fluid, blood and lymph all have approximately the same concentration of minerals as those found in the seas, sea salts can provide a good balance of bioavailable trace minerals. You need to ensure that your source is clean and free of heavy metals and other contaminants.

The table below shows the recommended amounts of minerals and these recommendations were developed to prevent deficiency diseases in population groups and were not intended as recommendations for individuals whose requirements may vary vastly.

Smoking, for example, is thought to either bind or destroy half of all the nutrients consumed in the diet and other factors such as levels of physical activity, size, gender, health, alcohol consumption, the amount of additives in the diet, the presence of digestive problems (including food intolerances) and exposure to heavy metals and other toxins can vastly alter individual requirements. 

All nutrients are best packaged in the way nature intended, so look at the lists to see what foods you could include in your diet to get a broad selection of the minerals and vitamins you require. It is important to take supplements in their bioavailable forms, and in the same ratios that occur in nature and in balance with other nutrients and most supplement manufacturers will have taken this into account when formulating multimineral or multivitamin and mineral formulas.

Where no recommended figure has been shown this is either because there is no agreement or the amounts obtained in the diet are considered adequate.








Aids utilisation of calcium, magnesium and vitamin D; aids brain functioning; reduces menstrual pain. An ultratrace element

Fruit and vegetables    

The most abundant mineral in the body requires fat, magnesium and boron to be absorbed and utilised. Essential for muscle, heart and digestive system health; builds bone and teeth; supports the synthesis and function of blood cells; required for relaxation and sleep

Dairy products; canned fish with bones (salmon, sardines); green leafy vegetables; nuts and seeds; dried figs; tofu; beans 1200 mg 1000 mg

An electrolyte that works with sodium and potassium to control fluid and cellular pump functions; also required for synthesis of stomach acid

Table salt


Essential for synthesis of glucose tolerance factor which aids the utilisation of insulin and maintenance of blood sugar levels; aids in breakdown of proteins and fats. Required as chromium picolinate

Brewer's yeast; whole grains; dairy products; meat organ meat; raisins; beets; grapes; eggs; molasses   25 µg

Required in the synthesis of vitamin B12

Trace amounts in many foods    

Required for many enzyme systems; required for even pigmentation of the skin and hair; helps to prevent cardiovascular disease; promotes fertility; aids collagen formation; required in red blood cell development; aids utilisation of stored iron; helps to maintain immune function

Shell fish; artichokes; garlic; avocados; nuts; legumes; whole grains; meat; organ meat; raisins; almonds; peas; radishes; tomatoes; bananas; soy 900 µg 2 mg
Iodine Essential for synthesis of thyroid hormones (thyroxine and triiodothyronine) 

Oysters; meat; organ meat; poultry; dried fruit; leafy green vegetables; eggs; whole grains; seaweed; saltwater fish; fruit and vegetables grown in coastal regions

150 µg 150 µg

Required for many proteins and enzymes, notably haemoglobin to prevent anaemia; myoglobin to aid oxygenation of muscle, immune system function and energy production

Oysters; meat; organ meat; leafy green vegetables; fish (tuna, salmon); shell fish; eggs; dried fruits; beans; whole grains and enriched grains; dried apricots; raisins; brewer's yeast; molasses  12 mg     18 mg


Stablises mood, relieves gout. Very small therapeutic window. Not known if essential. An ultratrace mineral.

Sea fish and shell fish    

Required for processing ATP and for bones; healthy muscle tone (including the heart); aids the absorption and metabolism of other minerals; aids premenstrual tension; relieves anxiety

Nuts; soy beans; dark green vegetables; meat; dairy products; fish 350 mg 400 mg

A cofactor in enzyme functions,; involved in the synthesis of fat, sex hormones and breast milk; stimulates growth in connective tissue; required in order to utilise vitamin C, vitamin B1, biotin and choline; neutralises free radicals; aids blood sugar regulation; required for nerve and brain functioning

Nuts; whole wheat; leafy green vegetables; pineapple; blueberries; seeds; legumes; eggs; brown rice 2.3 mg 7 mg

Essential to some enzyme systems

Legumes; dark green leafy vegetables; whole grains; dairy products; organ meats; shell fish; wild rice

45 µg  


Involved in enzymes aiding production of urine. Recently recognised as essential. An ultratrace element


The second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. Required for the synthesis of bones and teeth; converts nutrients into energy; synthesis of hormones and other important functions

Usually occurs as phosphates in meat; fish; poultry; dairy products; soft drinks such as Coca Cola 1000 mg 800 mg

The third most abundant mineral found in the body mainly within the cells. Regulates ATP with sodium, nerve impulses, muscle contraction, heart rate and blood pressure and body fluids. Enables the conversion of glucose into storable energy (glycogen); aids removal of toxins from the blood

Legumes; potatoes; tomatoes; bananas; green leafy vegetables; nuts; dairy products; avocado; fruit    

Essential for function of the many antioxidant enzymes especially protects the DNA thus aiding cancer prevention. Selenium is found throughout the body, but in high concentrations in the liver, kidneys, pancreas, spleen and testes. Also thins blood preventing heart attacks and strokes

Brazil nuts; sesame seeds; sunflower seeds; brewer's yeast; whole grains; seafood; organ meats; avocado   55 µg 55 µg

An ultratrace element. Not known whether silicon is essential and function

Cucumber; whole grains; root vegetables


An electrolyte, regulates ATP with potassium; involved in the synthesis of stomach acid

Table salt; sea vegetables; milk; spinach    

Required for the synthesis of amino acids especially proteins in hair, skin and nails; important to liver detoxification; assists immune function; prevents ageing and age related illnesses such as arthritis

Beans; Brussels sprouts; cabbage; dairy products; eggs; fish; meat; onions; turnips; wheat germ    
Vanadium May increase insulin sensitivity. An ultratrace mineral

Corn (maize); dill; fish; meat; olives; soybeans; whole grains


Essential for many enzyme systems; growth and rebuilding of cells; healthy hair and skin; endocrine gland function especially prostate function; involved in sexual development and fertility. The body does not make or store zinc and requires a constant supply

Brewer's yeast; fish; meat; organ meat; peas and beans; poultry; seeds; whole grains; nuts  12 mg

15 mg



Further resources

The taking of multivitamin/mineral supplements is recommended throughout the process of detoxification and the suggested doses are outlined in chapter 17 of Chronic Fatigue, M.E., and Fibromyalgia: The Natural Recovery PlanFor more about the particular supplements available through this site click for recommendations in the UK or in the US or to go to the Supplements Hub.

You might also be interested in the following: 

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Vitamin C Examined

Nutritional Recommendations

Supplement Regulations

Yin and Yang

Omega 3 and Fish Oils

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Minerals for Health, Magnificent Magnesium, Making the Most of Minerals and other similar podcasts are listed under Supplements and Nutrition in the Audio Hub
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The Three Supplements You Should Be Taking 

Or for all media use the Search facility at the top of the page


Minerals: Article summary

This article examines the growing problem of mineral deficiency in humans and the implications for health. A table of food sources and functions and recommended amounts of the various minerals is provided.


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The Natural Recovery Plan Ezine August 2010 Issue 8. Copyright Alison Adams 2010. All rights reserved
Dr Alison Adams Dentist, Naturopath, Author and Online Health Coach

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