When looking into health supplements, we often see the term ‘vitamins and minerals’. But vitamins often take centre stage while the importance of minerals is overlooked. In reality, these two types of nutrients are equally important to keeping our bodies functioning as they should.
In this article, we’ll explain what minerals are, why they’re important for good health and which mineral supplements you might need.
What are minerals?
Minerals occur naturally in soil and water, where they’re absorbed by plants or consumed by animals or humans that eat the plants. Scientists have found that when soil is rich in a particular mineral, local plants and animals are likely to have higher-than-average concentrations of that mineral.
Most people have heard of the most common minerals, like calcium, sodium and potassium – these are called ‘macrominerals’. However, there are other lesser-known ‘trace minerals’, like iron, selenium, and zinc, which are just as important to people’s well-being – but in very small amounts.
Macrominerals and trace minerals are equally important for good health. The distinction comes from the quantities in which they’re present in the body. If you were to extract and distil all of the trace minerals normally found in your body, they’d fit in a thimble!
Why are minerals important for good health?
Minerals are essential to helping your body function normally in hundreds of ways. One of their main tasks is to help maintain a proper balance of water. Minerals also stabilise the protein structures that comprise hair, skin and nails, contribute to bone, muscle, heart and brain health — and help the body to produce enzymes and hormones.
Here are four important ways that minerals help to keep your body functioning properly:
1. Healthy Bones
Not only does your skeleton support your muscles, protect your organs and keep you mobile, but it also stores minerals. In fact, your body is constantly absorbing and reforming your bones, which is one of the reasons that calcium is the most plentiful macromineral in your body and why it’s so important. Together with phosphorus and magnesium, calcium builds and maintains bone strength and density.
A calcium deficiency caused by illness or poor nutrition and inadequate supplementation can lead to osteoporosis, which causes brittle bones and increases the risk of breaks and fractures – especially as we age.
2. Nerve and muscle function
Potassium is essential to a normally functioning nervous system. This macromineral helps your body to maintain the right water balance in your nerves and muscles. Without this balance, your nerves would be unable to send the impulses necessary to move your muscles voluntarily – and the muscles in your heart and organs wouldn’t be able to flex and contract.
3. Immune system support
Minerals like calcium and zinc are crucial to proper immune system functioning. They help your body fight infections, repair cells, and heal wounds and sores. Research shows that some minerals can even help reduce the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer.
4. Energy production
Red blood cells carry oxygen to every cell in your body, which is essential to all of its processes and functions. Iron is a trace mineral that binds to oxygen so it can be delivered to all of your tissues. Without iron, oxygen can’t attach to red blood cells – which means that the body can’t produce enough energy to stay alive.
How do I know which minerals I need?
Your body can’t produce minerals on its own, so they must be obtained through diet or supplements. Minerals are generally required in small amounts, so a balanced diet consisting of fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, lean protein, dairy products and unsaturated fats should contain adequate amounts of most minerals. However, others, like, iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc are more difficult to consume in the right amounts. This is where supplements become important.
Let’s have a closer look at each of these elusive minerals.
Iron plays a crucial role in immune system support and the production of red blood cells. Without it, your body can’t circulate optimal oxygen levels. This can lead to fatigue and loss of energy.
Heme iron is found in meat, chicken and fish, while non-heme iron is found in whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. Non-heme iron is more difficult for your body to absorb – and daily habits like taking fibre or calcium supplements or drinking coffee or tea after a meal can further inhibit your body’s ability to absorb iron.
A combination supplement of iron and vitamin C can be an excellent way to ensure that you’re getting enough iron. Vitamin C helps the body to dissolve and absorb iron better than it can on its own, which is especially important for vegans and vegetarians who rely on plant-based iron sources.
Magnesium is a mineral powerhouse that’s involved in over 600 metabolic reactions. It affects energy production, mental well-being and muscle function. This macromineral is found in nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, leafy vegetables and dairy products. Low magnesium levels can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and insomnia.
Of the various types of magnesium, some are easier to absorb than others. On average the body only absorbs 30 – 40% of the magnesium contained in even the most magnesium-rich foods. Fortunately, there are supplements that combine the most vital and difficult-to-absorb forms of magnesium to help ensure that you get what you need to achieve good sleep quality, proper absorption of vitamin D, and optimal mental, bone and muscle health.
Human thyroid tissue contains high concentrations of selenium, which is essential to the reproduction and metabolism of thyroid hormones. It’s also an important antioxidant that protects cells from infection and contributes to normal immune system function. A selenium deficiency can lead to heart disease and osteoarthritis.
Selenium is commonly found in meat, seafood, beans, lentils, whole-grain bread and Brazil nuts. However, the concentration of selenium found in these foods can vary widely depending on its concentration in the soil in which plant-based foods (or animal feed) are grown. This is why a selenium supplement is an important part of many people’s health regimens.
Zinc is the second most abundant trace mineral in your body after iron. It’s involved in more than 100 enzymatic reactions and is essential to your immune system, skin health, and proper cellular function. It’s also important for wound healing, fertility, and healthy hair and nails.
Your body needs zinc every day, yet consuming food sources of zinc – like seafood and animal products, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains – is often not enough. Plant-based sources of zinc particularly have low bioavailability of this important mineral, which makes it difficult for the body to absorb it.
Zinc Bysglicinate is widely considered the best type of zinc supplement because it combines zinc with amino acids to make it easier for your body to absorb what it needs. This supplement is gentle on the stomach and is formulated to optimise the delivery of zinc to the bloodstream.
Take Control of Your Health and Well-BeingWith an understanding of the importance of vitamins and minerals for optimal health and well-being, you might wish to consider where your diet and current supplement regimen might be lacking—and take the appropriate steps.
DESEJR® offers a high-quality line of the most important minerals, specially formulated to help support your best health. All of our mineral supplements are 100% vegan and free from artificial flavours and colourings, added sugar, GMOs, lactose, gluten, and most common allergens.