Before you can decide which mineral supplements you should be using, you have to know what minerals are and understand the different roles they play within the body, including the trace minerals. For example, do you know what the most abundant mineral in the human body is, the one that every single cell needs to function properly? No? You probably know it better as the most important mineral for bone health—calcium!
MINERALS are organic elements found naturally in the earth. The fascinating story of minerals is really the story of our entire universe, including us humans. Did you know that the human body contains the exact same minerals as the soil does...and in the same proportions, too? We are children of the cosmos just like our beloved Mother Earth.
Every one of our trillions of cells requires minerals to function properly and at peak efficiency, and they must maintain a precise balance. Minerals have countless functions in the body, but one of the most important things they do is act as coenzymes, enabling the body to assimilate nutrients, grow and produce energy. Clearly, minerals are essential to human health and wellness. Below are several key minerals and trace minerals, along with a brief explanation of their role in human health.
The trace mineral boron stimulates the production of estrogen, a hormone that helps to keep bones strong. It also enables to the body to metabolize and more effectively use calcium, magnesium and vitamin D to maintain bone health. Boron also helps maintain a healthy immune system.
As you learned above, every cell in the body requires calcium to survive and function. It is vital for calm and steady nerves, muscle contractions, strong bones, bright and happy moods, quality sleep and many other bodily functions. The alkaline chemistry of calcium is also important for maintaining a proper pH level in the body, which tends to be overly acidic. For best bioavailability, take calcium with magnesium and vitamin D.
Chromium is most often associated with blood sugar health since it helps insulin move glucose out of the blood and into the cells where it can be used for energy. Chromium also helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, along with maintaining optimum fat metabolism for healthy weight management. For maximum absorption, take your chromium supplement with vitamin C.
Copper is required for the production of white blood cells and also for one of the body’s primary antioxidants called SOD (superoxide dismutase), all helping to maintain a healthy immune system. Additionally, it is necessary for the formation of collagen.
Iodine is a key component of proper thyroid function, enabling it to make an important hormone called thyroxine, which regulates metabolism and the breakdown of fats and proteins. White blood cells absorb iodine from the blood and use it to enhance their immune functions. Iodine is so important to health that in 1920 US health officials suggested that it be added to table salt. The seaweed called kelp is an outstanding natural source of iodine. Due to the abundance of this mineral from iodized salt, it is best to consult with your physician before taking an iodine supplement.
Iron combines with protein and copper to form hemoglobin, carrying oxygen through the body via the bloodstream. Without this source of oxygen, the body quickly becomes fatigued. Iron also supports immunity. Vitamin C-rich foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits greatly enhance iron absorption. On the other hand, calcium can interfere with iron absorption, so it is best to take supplement forms of these two minerals at different times of the day. Also, take iron and zinc supplements separately, as they, too, interfere with each other’s activity.
Magnesium is critical for steady nerves, muscle comfort, energy production, strong bones and heart health. In fact, all the cells of the body require magnesium, and it is critical for over 300 chemical reactions in the body that take place every second. Chelated forms of magnesium are better absorbed than magnesium oxide.
Manganese plays an important role in metabolic processes, helps maintain bone health and activates antioxidant enzymes. Manganese also works in tandem with B-Complex vitamins to create an overall feeling of well-being.
Potassium helps balance the important acid-alkaline system and regulate water balance in the body. One of its most important functions is to support healthy blood pressure levels. Potassium is one of the electrolyte minerals that transmit electrical signals throughout the body, allowing muscles to contract. Stress increases the body’s potassium requirement, while tobacco and caffeine reduce potassium absorption.
Selenium is a component of glutathione, which is one of the most powerful antioxidants in the body. It is particularly associated with supporting a healthy prostate gland and fighting free radicals. Selenium also works with vitamin E to promote cholesterol and heart health.
While strontium is a staple in the production of pyrotechnic displays (fireworks) where it lends a brilliant crimson color to flames, it is also a necessary mineral for human health. It's molecularly similar to calcium and helps to maintain strong, healthy bones and teeth. Because of its molecular similarity to calcium, the two minerals can compete for absorption. Thus, it might be wise to consider taking a calcium supplement along with your strontium supplement—taking them roughly two hours apart from each other.
Vanadium almost sounds like it was made up, an imaginary element created for science fiction. But this mineral is real and needed for cellular metabolism, heart health, and for the formation of healthy bones and teeth. Vanadium is a cofactor for several enzymes and recent studies show that it may support sugar metabolism. There may be an unwanted interaction between chromium and vanadium, so if you use both as individual supplements, it is wise to take them at different times of the day.
Like copper, zinc is required for the production SOD (superoxide dismutase), the body’s super-powerful antioxidant that protects against free radicals. Zinc is also regarded as a brain food, and it is important for the health of the reproductive organs, including the prostate gland, as well as the formation of hormones like testosterone. Stress dramatically decreases the body’s levels of zinc, so individuals who get little sleep and work long hours should consider a zinc supplement under the guidance of their primary doctor.
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†Ratings based on results of the 2015 ConsumerLab.com Vitamin and Supplement Users Survey. More information at www.consumerlab.com/survey2015.
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