Elixir of life: Vitamins & Minerals

Part III: Minerals

The first two parts of this three part blog we took an overview of vitamins and minerals and took a closer look at the role vitamins in maintaining good health. In this part we will take a closer look at Minerals and their importance in maintaining good health.

Minerals play an import role in a lot of bodily functions and processes. As is the case with vitamins the minerals can be divided into two categories namely the so called major minerals and the trace minerals. At any given time the body stores large amounts of the major minerals. However it should not be inferred that these minerals are somehow more important than the trace minerals; it’s just that the major minerals are present in the body in larger quantities.

As mentioned above the minerals that we require can be classified into two broad categories, the major minerals and the trace elements. This classification is based on the amounts that are present in the body. Let’s look at the Major minerals to start with.


Major minerals are absorbed, stored and travel through the body in a host of ways. Potassium, for instance, is readily absorbed and enters the bloodstream quickly; the level of potassium is regulated by the kidneys. On the other hand, calcium requires a carrier for absorption and transport.

Major minerals

  • Calcium

  • Chloride

  • Magnesium

  • Phosphorus

  • Potassium

  • Sodium

  • Sulfur

So what’s the big deal about these minerals? You may ask

Though minerals play a host of functions in our body, the list is too extensive and is out of the scope of this blog. In order to get some clarity let’s just look at the major functions these minerals play. Probably the most important role that major minerals play is that they help to regulate the water level in the body. Potassium, chloride and Sodium together are responsible for this. On the other hand calcium, magnesium and phosphorus—are instrumental for maintaining healthy bones. Sulphur another major mineral aids in stabilizing the structure of proteins, including the once that make up hair, skin, and nails.

So how much is too much?

As it is true with other things in life too much of even a good thing can be bad. The body needs to get the major mineral in balanced amounts. Having one major mineral in excess can result in the body being deficient in the. These sorts of imbalances rarely result from diet alone and may be caused by supplements. One should make sure that the levels in the supplement that they consume are close to the RDA and do not exceed it by a big number. Here are two examples:

Sodium along with calcium plays an important role in the normal functioning of the nervous system. Once the body senses that sodium levels are higher than ideal it excretes the sodium and the calcium is excreted along with it. So if you are consume sodium in access, you could end up losing the much needed calcium from your body. Same way an excess of phosphorus in the body can hinder the body’s capacity to engross magnesium.

Trace minerals

Thought required only in very small amounts as compared to the major minerals, trace minerals have an equally important role to play in maintaining overall well-being. To give you an idea just cap of your supplement bottle could accommodate all the trace elements in your body on the other hand calcium and phosphorus two of the major minerals, could each account for more than a pound of your body weight.

Trace minerals

  • Chromium

  • Copper

  • Fluoride

  • Iodine

  • Iron

  • Manganese

  • Molybdenum

  • Selenium

  • Zinc

The big deal you ask

  • Trace minerals carry out a number of diverse set of functions in our body. For instance,
  • Iron present in the blood stream plays a vital role in ferrying oxygen throughout the body.

  • Fluoride another important trace mineral plays a key role in maintaining bone strength and wards off tooth decay.

  • Zinc helps in the blood clotting and also in the functioning of the sensory organs that help us taste and smell. It also has a role to play in shoring up the immune response.

  • Copper acts as a building block for a number enzyme.

These are just a few of the bodily functions that trace minerals perform. In additions the other members of the trace mineral family play an equally vital role in a number of other bodily functions.

Words to the wise

As is the case with major minerals, trace minerals too interact with one another, sometimes in ways that can cause imbalances in the body. Excess of one can cause a deficiency of another.

Here are some examples:

  • An excess of even a little manganese can aggravate the deficiency of iron.

  • Low levels of iodine can cause the thyroid to produce lower quantities of thyroid hormone, causing listlessness and result in weight gain in addition to other health concerns.

  • A deficiency of selenium can act as a catalyst in this situation and aggravate the problem.

  • The variance between “just enough” and “too much” of the trace minerals is often tiny. Generally, there is little chance that food alone may cause an imbalance, but if you take supplements, it’s important to make sure not to exceed the safe levels.

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