Nutrient - Minerals
Like vitamins, minerals are essential for optimum health. The body cannot make minerals so we must get them from food. Minerals are split into three groups:
Macro minerals: are needed in large amounts and include calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, chloride and sulphur.
Micro or ‘trace’ elements: are needed in small amounts and include iron, zinc, copper, selenium, chromium, iodine, silicon, molybdenum, cobalt and manganese.
Ultra trace elements: boron.
Minerals perform many roles in the body as co-enzymes. They are stored mostly in bones and muscles, except iron.
Levels of nutrients in foods depend largely on the levels of nutrients in the soil in which they are grown. Modern farming methods have led to the depletion in soils around the world of many minerals, resulting in depleted nutrients in food. Milling wholegrain cereals to produce white flours and white rice also results in the loss of minerals. Some are replaced (fortified) to a degree but not all.
Many minerals can be difficult to absorb from food – commonly only 15-20% - for various reasons. For example, the section of gut along which minerals are absorbed is small, thereby reducing chances of absorption. Substances in our diet can interfere with absorption, such as caffeine in tea, coffee, cola and energy drinks, phosphates in fizzy drinks and phytates in bran. Minerals can leach into water during boiling and a high protein diet can interfere with absorption.
Just like in food, minerals in food supplements must be attached to a ‘carrier’ molecule to enable them to cross the gut lining and enter the system. Some carriers are ‘inorganic’, for example oxides, sulphates and chlorides. These are less efficiently absorbed. Other carriers are ‘organic’, for example citrates, gluconates, ascorbates, acetates and malates. These are more efficiently absorbed.
For these reasons, supplementing extra minerals in the most absorbable forms may prove helpful.