Minerals: General Info

Certain minerals are necessary for the human body to function properly. Some minerals are needed in very small amounts and are referred to as microminerals. Others are needed in larger amounts and are known as macro minerals. Examples of minerals that the body uses for various physiological functions include calcium, zinc, iron, chromium, potassium, selenium, and magnesium. Many minerals are toxic in large doses, especially trace minerals such as zinc, selenium, chromium, and magnesium, of which the body requires very little in order to function properly.

Health benefits of minerals

Minerals such as calcium and magnesium work together to build strong bones and teeth. Magnesium is used in protein synthesis, while chromium is involved in maintaining proper blood glucose levels. Potassium regulates heartbeat and blood pressure in addition to being necessary for the proper function of nerves and muscles. Zinc is important in protein and DNA synthesis as well as in insulin formation and maintaining adequate iron levels, which is necessary for healthy red blood cells.

Are mineral supplements necessary?

A multivitamin usually contains small amounts of minerals. Standalone mineral supplements are also available. In most cases, additional supplements -- especially of trace minerals -- is not necessary. Most Americans obtain the minerals their body needs through their diets, especially those that are rich in whole grains, seafood, fruits, and vegetables. Selenium is found in Brazil nuts, iron in dried beans, zinc in seafood, and potassium in bananas. In certain instances, however, women who are pregnant or lactating, vegetarians, teenagers, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, diabetics, and those with kidney dysfunctions may benefit from mineral supplements for a variety of reasons. Iron and calcium are the two minerals most likely to be deficient in women’s diets. For this reason, they may take iron and calcium supplements. Ferrous sulfate and ferrous gluconate are the two most common types of iron supplements, and should be taken with foods or beverages rich in vitamin C.