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Updated: Mar 11, 2022

Like vitamins, minerals are nutrients you get from food that provides nourishment to your body. In fact, there are six types of nutrients that your body cannot live without. They are carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and #water. While each has its own role to play in ensuring your body functions at its best, none is more important than the other.

The primary role of minerals is helping your body carry out its daily functions and processes in the most efficient and beneficial way possible. There literally is no bodily process, on either the cellular or systemic level, that can operate at its best, or even continue to operate efficiently for that matter, without the right amounts of minerals. They are that critical to your body’s daily functioning.

If your body doesn’t get enough, or gets too much, of any of the critical nutrients, you increase your risk of disease or other medical problems. For this reason, minerals can have a significant impact on blood pressure, weight management, cancer prevention, depression, pain, PMS, and digestion, to name a few.


Unfortunately, most people, including many health care professionals, tend to focus on making sure they have enough of the more well-known minerals such as sodium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, and calcium. But there is a whole other group of minerals that, while they are not often in the spotlight, are just as essential to your well-being. These are the “trace” minerals, typically metal ions, that your body needs, but in very-very small amounts when compared to other minerals.

They have essential functions including the following:

  • Being crucial building blocks for hundreds of #enzymes.

  • Facilitating a multitude of biochemical reactions.

  • Being a requirement for normal growth and development as well as #neurological functions.

  • Serving as anti-oxidants.

  • Supporting the blood system,

  • Being necessary for certain #hormones.

  • Being required for normal gonadal development.

Here is a rundown on the most important trace elements:

IRON is an essential component of many proteins and enzymes. It is vital in the formation of red blood cells and lean muscle. Iron deficiencies occur worldwide in children, women of childbearing age, pregnant women, and individuals with medical conditions such as gastroenteritis and parasites as well as in persons involved in recurrent intense physical exercise. Strict vegetarian diets may also contribute to iron deficiency. You can find iron in red meat, poultry, seafood, and dark leafy vegetables.

CHROMIUM helps with insulin functions and glucose metabolism. Not getting enough chromium can lead to symptoms that mimic diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, and a need for higher insulin levels. Normally, a well-balanced diet that includes fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and grains should easily cover your dietary needs for chromium.

COPPER is a component in many enzymes involved in such key functions as energy production, iron metabolism, healthy connective tissue, neurotransmission, and the making of #hemoglobin. Copper deficiencies can occur from #malnutrition, malabsorption, or excessive zinc intake. Symptoms may include abnormal blood cells, bone and connective tissue changes, decreased immune function, bone demineralization, and increased risk for #cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Copper occurs in a wide variety of foods and is most plentiful in organ meats, shellfish, nuts, seeds, wheat bran cereals, and whole-grain products. Copper toxicity is rare but can occur with very high levels.

ZINC is necessary for normal growth and development in children, proper functioning of the immune system, many neurological functions, and reproduction. Dietary zinc deficiency is quite common in the underdeveloped world and may affect some two billion persons. It can cause impaired development, anemia, skin rashes, neurologic abnormalities, and decreased immune function. Zinc-rich foods are oysters, beef, crab meat, dark-meat chicken, turkey, pork, #yogurt, milk, cashews, chickpeas, #almonds, peanuts, and cheese.

IODINE is a well-known key component of the thyroid hormone. Too little thyroid in drinking water and nutrition can lead to a slowed metabolism, weight gain, abnormal lipid profile, and mental sluggishness. Iodine deficiency can have detrimental effects on the developing brain and can cause mental impairment and retardation in children. Some 120 countries fortify salt with iodine to counteract iodine deficiency. Seafood is an excellent source of dietary iodine. Dairy products, grains, eggs, and poultry contribute substantially to dietary iodine intake in the US.

MANGANESE is an ingredient and facilitator in many enzymes which have anti-oxidant benefits for multiple metabolic functions, support bone development, and wound healing. Low manganese levels have been linked to weaker bones. People eating vegetarian diets and Western-type diets may have higher manganese include whole grains, nuts, leafy vegetables, and teas.

SELENIUM is part of the amino acid selenocysteine which occurs in 25 different selenoproteins. Selenoproteins play critical roles in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism. DNA synthesis, and protection from oxidative damage and infection. Not getting enough selenium can make it more likely that you may suffer from cardiovascular disease and, if you are a man, infertility. #Seafood and organ meats are the richest food sources include muscle meats, cereals, other grains, and dairy products.


Luckily, you don’t have to guess about how much of any given trace mineral your body needs every day. All you need to do is look at the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI, for short), published by the National Institutes of Health, for a wide variety of nutrients. Here are the RDIs for the most important trace minerals:

  • Chromium: 25 mcg for women; 35 mcg for men

  • Copper: 900 mcg for men; and women

  • Iodine: 150 mcg for men; and women

  • Iron: 18 mg for women; 8 mg for men

  • Manganese: 1.8 mg for women; 2.3 mg for men

  • Selenium: 55 mcg for women, men

  • Zinc: 8 mg for women; 11 mg for men


There are several reasons why you may not be getting all the trace minerals your body needs:

POOR DIET: The top reason that you may not be getting enough trace minerals is not having a well-balanced diet.

WHERE YOU LIVE: Trace mineral amounts in soil and water are not the same in all parts of the world, so where you live could also impact the quantity and quality of trace minerals in your food.

MALABSORPTION AND GASTROINTESTINAL DISEASE: If the gastrointestinal tract becomes inflamed, infected, or has a disease that interferes with absorption of minerals and other nutrients, this certainly can lead to decreased absorption and excess loss of minerals.

Surgery: Surgical resection of bowel segments can cause a loss of important uptake and carrier channel sites for mineral uptake.

Pregnancy: Trace mineral deficits frequently occur during pregnancy. While it is rare to encounter severe trace mineral deficiency in the Western World, mild to moderate deficiencies are common and may lead to general often less clearly recognized symptoms such as fatigue, slow metabolism, decreased immune system, and decreased mental capacities.

Although a healthy diet does usually provide adequate trace minerals in the body, it is notable that strict vegetarian diets, strenuous exercise, pregnancy, gastrointestinal diseases, and malabsorption issues can all contribute to trace mineral deficiencies.



Franz Gliederer, MD, MPH is a doctor with Proactive Health Labs. He is a specialist in Preventive Medicine with a Medical Doctorate from the University of Vienna, Austria, and a Master’s Degree from the University of California Public Health School. Joy Stephenson – Laws is the founder of Proactive Health Labs, a national non-profit health information company that provides education and tools needed to achieve optimal health.

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