We Need Minerals in Our Diet But Not Too Much

~ January 2001 No.121 ~

Nutritionists are very careful when they say that a nutrient is essential in the human diet. This is particularly true when it comes to minerals, because some minerals taken in high concentrations can be toxic. We can`t make minerals in our body; we must ingest them either in our food, our drinking water or in supplements. Most minerals are required in very minute amounts, and proving that a trace mineral is essential for health is a very difficult task. It is hard to find a definitive list of minerals that everyone agrees are essential for humans. Of course that doesn`t stop companies from claiming that their product contains more essential minerals (sometimes referred to as elements) than their competitor.

Yes, many minerals are essential; we need them in our diet. But we have to be careful. Plants often contain minerals that are taken up from the soil they are grown in. In some parts of the world where heavy metals such as cadmium and selenium are found naturally in high concentration in the soil, the plants (such as grains) have been found to have unusually high levels of undesirable minerals.

When it comes to supplementing common foods with essential nutrients one of the concerns is that, if too many foods we usually eat contain added minerals, and, if at the same time people are taking supplements, there is a very real possibility that mineral toxicity may be a problem.

List of Minerals Believed to be Essential to Humans
and Their Roles in the Body
MineralRoles in the Body
boron: promotes healthy bones, teeth; metabolism of other minerals
calcium blood clotting, intracellular signalling, muscle contraction
chromium: insulin and glucose tolerance responses
cobalt: contained in vitamin B12
copper: formation of haemoglobin; absorption and use of iron; skin, hair pigmentation
fluoride: prevents dental carries; crystalline structure of bones and teeth
iodine: contained in hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
iron: contained in cytochromes , myoglobin, haemoglobin.
magnesium: mineral present mainly in the bones; maintains electrical potential in nerve and muscle cells
phosphorus: contained in bones, teeth; role in energy metabolism
potassium: role in fluid and electrolyte balance; heart muscle activity; metabolism and protein synthesis
selenium: proper heart function; possibly prevents certain cancers
sodium:present in extracellular fluid
sulphur: energy metabolism, enzyme function, and detoxification
zinc: contained in enzymes, transcription factors


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Last modified

September 03 2015