These elements play a key role in health and well-being.
While less famous overall than their vitamin cousins, minerals play roles no less vital in the thousands of bodily functions required to keep the body alive and well. Some, such as calcium, are called macrominerals because they’re needed in relatively large amounts. Others, such as zinc, are called microminerals because they’re required in small, but crucial, quantities.
As inorganic elements, minerals are best absorbed when bound to organic compounds found naturally in foods, particularly when combined with protein building blocks called amino acids to form amino acid chelates. Fiber plays a double-edged role in mineral absorption: While inhibiting the body’s ability to absorb minerals over the short term fiber actually enhances absorption over time, possibly by enhancing digestive health and/or by serving as a food source for probiotics, the healthy microbes that live in the gastrointestinal tract.
|Mineral||Where it’s found||What it does|
|Calcium||Collards, dairy, sardines, tofu||Best known as a bone builder but is also required for blood clotting, nerve and muscle function and energy production; vitamin D helps regulate calcium levels|
|Chromium||Broccoli, grape juice, onions, romaine lettuce, tomatoes||Crucial to the activation of insulin, the hormone that regulates glucose, or blood sugar; deficiencies can result in elevated bloodstream glucose, a condition associated with diabetes|
|Copper||Almonds, barley, brazil nuts, cashews, chickpeas, lentils, liver, mushrooms, oysters, raisins, sunflower seeds||Aids in immune function; helps strengthen bones and collagen, a protein needed to build skin and connective tissue; used in cellular energy production|
|Iodine||Cod, eggs, kelp, milk, yogurt||Required for the creation of hormones by the thyroid, the body’s master energy controller, making it crucial to weight control and overall metabolic activity|
|Iron||Hazelnuts, lentils, oats, oysters, sesame seeds, soybeans, swiss chard||Helps form hemoglobin, the substance that lets red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body; women of childbearing age are particularly prone to deficiency|
|Magnesium||Bananas, brown rice, cashews, halibut, lima beans, peanuts, pumpkin
|Used in hundreds of enzymatic reactions throughout the body; required for proper regulation of blood flow; helps relax muscles; had been found to help ease migraines and menstrual problems|
|Manganese||Almonds, brown rice, hazelnuts, mussels, pecans, potatoes, spinach, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes||Used in an enzyme that helps regulate energy production and in a molecule that helps protect the mitochondria, the cell’s energy plants, against damage|
|Molybdenum||Beans, lentils, peas||Required for the elimination of harmful substances called sulfites and of toxins resulting from nitrogen usage within the body|
|Phosphorus||Almonds, brazil nuts, beef, eggs, milk, oats, peanuts, pumpkin seeds,
salmon, sunflower seeds
|Helps form the nucleic acids found in DNA, which carries the body’s genetic code; works with calcium to strengthen bones; helps form cell membranes and maintain a healthy pH balance|
|Potassium||Bananas, beans, potatoes, prunes, raisins, sweet potatoes||Required to maintain proper electrolyte balance; helps support healthy heart, muscle and nerve function|
|Selenium||Brazil nuts, eggs, mussels, salmon, shrimp, tuna, whole wheat||Works with vitamin E to help eliminate free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage cells; essential for sperm production; supports immune health|
|Sulfur||Asparagus, beans, broccoli, cabbage, dairy, eggs, garlic, radishes||Helps tissues throughout the body maintain their structural integrity and is especially crucial to joint health; MSM provides sulfur in a form that is readily assimilated|
|Zinc||Almonds, beef, oats, oysters, peanuts||Used to form dozens of enzymes within the body; required for healthy cell growth and development; helps stabilize cell membranes; plays a vital role in male reproductive health|
NOTE: Optimal dosages will vary from person to person. Consult a nutritionally aware
practitioner who can help you formulate an individualized supplementation plan.