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Minerals- an overview
Minerals- an overview

Minerals play very important roles in our lives. Several of them are essential for the proper functioning of our body. Among the more familiar minerals for health are calcium, zinc, magnesium, and sodium which regulate such things as proper water balance, taste and smell. Although minerals are made up of elements and appear in the periodic table, you don’t have to worry about repeating a chemistry course to know some basic facts about minerals.

We can group minerals into major minerals and trace minerals. Major minerals are minerals which your body needs a lot of. Examples of major minerals are calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium. That is why the FDA recommends 1,000 mg of calcium a day* and a daily value of 400 mg of magnesium*. Trace minerals are minerals we need only a trace amount of, or small amount of, for our bodies to function correctly. Some trace minerals are copper, selenium, and manganese. An example of an amount for a trace mineral would be 2 mg of copper*. Each dietary mineral, whether it is a major mineral or a trace mineral is essential.

Confusing the issue, minerals are not available individually but are always attached to something else, so that the same mineral may come in various forms. Many people have heard of calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. But there are also other forms such as gluconate, lactate, and chelate. Some forms are gentler on the stomach, some are more easily absorbed, and some forms allow for a more concentrated among of mineral which results in a higher dose per tablet. Not all forms are right for each person. In the case of individuals who are on special diets or have allergies, a qualified health professional should be consulted.

Here is some information about minerals you may want to know:

• The word elemental, when applied to a mineral supplement, refers to the actual amount (in weight) of that mineral in each tablet. An example would be: the weight of actual calcium in the tablet and not of both the calcium and the carbonate.
• Magnesium, an important major mineral, affects the functioning of more than 300 biochemical processes in the body .
• Zinc, widely touted to help against colds should be taken orally, not as a nasal spray which has been linked in some cases to a weakened sense of smell .
• Many people know that sodium, which is an important mineral, can have various negative effects when consumed in excess. Aside from the well-known effect of causing high blood pressure, one of the lesser known, harmful effects of too much sodium is its ability to attach to calcium so that some calcium is excreted from the body with the excess sodium .
• Some types of fiber can decrease the absorption of minerals; therefore it is wise to take any fiber supplements and minerals supplements at different times .


The mineral potassium is essential for your body to work correctly. It helps build muscle and proteins, breakdown carbohydrates, and it helps regulate the electrical activity of the heart . Potassium is also an electrolyte, an ion that can affect metabolic processes such as the transport of nutrients into cells .

Most people know that potassium helps preserve water balance in the body. The body needs a balance of sodium and potassium, which helps maintain the balance of water. This balance is regulated by the kidneys which is why people with poor kidney function may develop a condition known as hyperkalemia, or too much potassium. Hyperkalemia can also be caused by certain heart medications or some types of diuretics . However there are some kidney disorders which can cause the opposite problem, hypokalemia, or too little potassium. Hypokalemia may manifest as weak muscles or abnormal heart rhythms . Because potassium helps regulate blood pressure, some people who are sensitive to high levels of sodium may be able to use an increase in potassium to guard against hypertension . This approach should be discussed with a qualified health professional.

Things to keep in mind when trying to get enough potassium include:

• Some types of cooking may destroy the potassium in certain foods
• If you are taking a potassium supplement, take it with a full glass of water
• Easting a lot of highly processed foods,, which are usually high in sodium, can upset the balance of sodium to potassium in the body.

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