Magic Minerals! (Part 1)

by Steven Carney on July 22, 2013

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I’m sure you’ve heard of minerals before. Maybe you take a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. If so, good for you! For adults who don’t think they need a daily vitamin/mineral supplement, the problem is simple: modern farming methods in the U.S. focus on crop yields (food per acre), not on nutrition or health!

Many experts agree that nutritional levels in food have dropped in recent decades, so most adults (and children) need to add these micro-nutrients in supplement form. As you will see below, it’s really hard to get all your micro-nutrient needs met, especially in a good balance, without taking a supplement.

And if you include days of shipping, handling and exposure to heat/light, the food you buy does not have the same nutrition as the food our parents or grandparents ate from the farm. It has less nutritional content and it’s less nourishing! Studies have demonstrated probable declines of up to 50% for a range of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients compared to previous generations (see my recent Vitamin post for more details).

What are some common health benefits, sources and deficiencies for essential minerals? I hope to provide those important answers below, where I list the first 5 minerals alphabetically (I’ll do a separate post for the remaining minerals later, but vitamins and minerals work together and deficiencies are quite widespread for these critical micronutrients).


Main functions:

Calcium is one of the most common of the essential minerals. Many older adults, especially women, take a calcium supplement. Women are particularly susceptible to bone mineral loss/weakness after age 40 or 50 so a supplement is a reasonable idea. But for calcium to help bone health effectively, you need to combine calcium with other key vitamins and minerals.

I often suggest at least 4 nutrients together: calcium, magnesium (aim for about a 2:1 ratio, such as 1,000 mg calcium and 500 mg magnesium), vitamin D (get the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test to know your levels) and vitamin K2 because they work together and with other nutrients synergistically. In fact, I usually recommend adding calcium only after a good multi-vitamin/mineral so you are getting a good complement of those other micro-nutrients.

And the citrate forms for calcium/magnesium are more bioavailable. The more common carbonate form is not as good because it can lower your stomach acid. The rest of your food won’t digest as effectively, especially for higher amounts of calcium.

Calcium is also important for strong teeth, and plays a role in many organs and systems, including heart, muscle, nerve/brain function, blood pressure, artery health, hormones, weight, disease prevention like cancer, etc.

Some recent studies claim that taking a calcium supplement is dangerous or causes heart attacks! Those studies are often poorly done and mostly nonsense, although again, I recommend you take calcium with other vitamins and minerals to be more effective. But calcium intake through diet or as a supplement in moderate amounts, especially with other vitamins and minerals doesn’t cause heart attacks!

These types of anti-vitamin studies are done often and the media loves the dramatic, often misleading headlines for them! Unfortunately, many are more political than scientific (they almost never show a causal relationship, merely a loose association with other important variables left out). They are biased and designed to attack supplements. They want to push consumers toward drugs, such as those terrible bone drugs (those don’t nourish you nor will they cure anything)!

Possible sources:

Good sources of calcium are dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese/cottage cheese), soy/tofu, canned fish like salmon and sardines (with bones), and greens and veggies like kale, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc.


Deficiencies are more common in older adults, especially women who eat little or no dairy, vegans,  or those with lactose intolerance). Also, a high soda intake is a problem, along with some medications (diuretics, etc.). Deficiencies can run 50% or more and women are especially vulnerable. Other vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also contribute, especially vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K2, etc. Most teens and adults need around 1,000-1,200 mg daily, much higher amounts than most other minerals.

Vegetable sources are not as rich in calcium so supplementation is more important for various groups. Did you know? Your bones act like a storage area for calcium, and that’s why deficiencies will lead to weaker bones and de-mineralization. Your body will draw it from bones to keep other blood and tissue functions normal.


Main functions:

Chromium is another essential mineral (we need it from outside sources like food or supplements). Chromium is probably best known for it’s role in helping to stabilize blood sugar and glucose metabolism by supporting good insulin levels. One form, chromium picolinate (a more absorbable form), is often sold as a separate supplement for the management of blood glucose.

Chromium can affect overall metabolism of fats, carbs and weight. Research suggests that chromium can also play a helpful role for insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high lipids/cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure, enzyme function, mood/depression, metabolic syndrome, etc.

Possible sources:

Many multi-vitamin/mineral supplements have chromium. It’s also found in small amounts in foods, such as broccoli, green beans, asparagus, spinach, mushrooms, carrots, grapes, apples, bananas, garlic, onions, eggs, cheese, meat, herbs, spices and tea. But it’s hard to get enough through diet alone, partly because absorption is low.


Considering how much sugar, refined carbs and processed foods Western people eat, the need for chromium is probably well above the U.S. RDA of 25-30 mcg (micrograms). And for lactating females, 45 mcg is recommended. In addition, a high intake of sugar can deplete chromium, causing a deficit.

Because chromium absorption is low (only a few percent of what you take in), some studies indicate that deficiencies for health are quite common, perhaps up to 90% of U. S. adults. Certain vitamins may enhance absorption when taken with chromium, including vitamin C and some B vitamins.


Main functions:

Yes, copper is related to copper plumbing (I bet you’re seen copper pipes). In supplement form, it’s another essential trace mineral. Like other minerals, even small amounts of copper can play a big role in your health, including areas like metabolism/energy, many enzyme reactions, blood health, growth and tissue repair, nerves/myelin, immune function/inflammation, vision, hair color, and key organs, such as the heart/heart rhythm and thyroid gland. Copper also functions as an antioxidant, as well as other areas.

Possible sources:

Common sources are nuts, avocado, seafood (especially oysters), meats/organ meats, beans, garlic, beets and some whole grains. As a trace mineral, I recommend you get your copper in food and in a multi-vitamin/mineral. Generally, you shouldn’t need an additional supplement beyond a multi.


Copper needs to be balanced with other minerals and vitamins, especially zinc. Copper helps iron work more effectively and vitamin C is another important vitamin that cooperates with copper. Recommended intakes are from about 500 mcg to 1,300 mcg (micrograms) for teens to adults (varies per age/gender). Deficiencies are around 20% if you look at optimum health rather than just meeting the RDA. Around 1-2 mg may be beneficial.


Main functions:

Iodine is an important nutrient for health, especially women’s health. Iodine is mainly known for it’s role in thyroid function, a key organ for a healthy metabolism. And about 70% of the iodine in your body is concentrated in the thyroid gland, a thin, butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of the throat. The thyroid converts dietary iodine into the iodide form for its use in making critical thyroid hormones.

Iodine also plays a role in many other functions and systems, such as immune health, mineral and metal detox, cancer prevention, breast health, mood, cholesterol levels, antioxidant activity, etc. So it’s important to realize that iodine is important for many areas, not just the thyroid where many doctors focus.

Possible sources:

Foods from the sea are the best sources: fish, shellfish, sea veggies, kelp, etc. Also, some dairy like milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs and iodized salt (the iodine can weaken over time).


Experts say that the iodine in our modern soil has been significantly depleted over recent decades (although the oceans have always been a better source of iodine). But for those who don’t eat lots of fish, shellfish or sea veggies, your diet probably has less iodine then it used to. Some experts say that iodine intake has dropped by up to 50% in our lifetime.

Many experts estimate that iodine deficiency affects about 15% of U.S. adults. The research I’ve seen indicates higher levels. If you look at iodine deficiency and insufficiency (borderline for thyroid function and too low for optimum health in other areas), many adults are too low, and probably 30-50% need a higher intake. Most people will need the minimum of 150 mcg (micrograms) and may need more like 500 mcg, depending on thyroid function and overall health needs.

Many adults are deficient in iodine because we have cut back on adding table salt (tied to high BP), and because processed foods rarely use iodized salt, many people get less iodine through their diets now.

Plus, for those who eat lots of cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, they can interfere with the conversion of iodine to iodide, the form the thyroid needs. So again, taking a quality supplement is important so you know you are getting a base level that is good for overall. health. And especially if you have fatigue, weight gain, feeling too cold, moody, dry skin and hair loss, see the post noted below.

Please see my full post, “Iodine for Health” where I cover many additional details of iodine intake, the best forms to take, and thyroid function. See link to post below with note. BTW, that post link includes over 25 links to additional material on iodine!


Main functions:

Iron is a mineral that is most needed by women and kids, although men need some as well. Men should get their iron from diet so many male-oriented supplements don’t add iron. One reason is that women lose blood and the iron it contains during menstruation. And kids need adequate levels of iron because they are growing.

Iron is known for helping to oxygenate the body and tissues through its support of red blood cells (hemoglobin) as well as helping to remove carbon dioxide through the lungs. It plays a role in energy production, immune function, stamina, temperature regulation and the ability of enzymes to work effectively. It also helps with muscle and organ function, and brain areas like learning and concentration.

Possible sources:

Common food sources are red meats, organ meats, chicken and fish/shellfish, seeds, beans/peas, spinach, asparagus, kelp, oats, and fruits like raisins, prunes/plums and tomatoes. One interesting note is that animal sources (called the hemi-iron form) have 2-3 times the absorption rate compared to the non-hemi, vegetable sources.

Here again, non-hemi iron from veggie/fruit sources need vitamin C and some foods and drinks, such as coffee, tea, grains, milk and dairy can decrease absorption of non-hemi iron.

As with other minerals, iron is best taken in a multi-vitamin/mineral form based on your age and gender and included in a balanced diet. Under some circumstances, additional supplementation might be needed but only after appropriate blood testing.


Iron deficiency is often called anemia. Some research indicates that even small insufficiencies can cause anemia-like symptoms (fatigue, weakness, tiredness), is somewhat common globally but less so with adult men. Women are susceptible and usually need a supplement. Good intakes range from about 10-25 mg daily, depending on if you are an older child, adult male (on the lower intake range) or an adult female (women and pregnant females are on the higher range).

I hope this initial summary of minerals is useful. Many people never know this information in their lifetime! And if you aren’t taking a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement, you will hopefully realize that you do need a quality multi to be healthy, fight disease and aging (I can recommend a few). I will finish the remaining minerals in part 2.

I can also offer an affordable nutrition review in a few calls if you would like to make sure you have optimal intakes of vitamins and minerals! Everyone is different and will have different needs. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at:

A link to the recent post on vitamins if you want to start there or learn more:

Helpful links (in general order of mineral and points listed):—Benefits-and-Deficiency&id=456562

(This post covers iodine and thyroid function in great detail):

A new study that shown how vitamins and minerals can help with health, energy and mood issues: 

I saw this study about how supplements can cut hospital stays and save significant money. I decided to add on 9/3/13:

Here is a link to Part 2 on Magic Minerals I posted later:

© 2013 by Steve Carney/End Sickness Now


dawn July 23, 2013 at 11:55 PM

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janna December 1, 2013 at 7:36 PM

An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a friend who wanted to know more about minerals.
Thanx for spending some time to discuss this topic here on your blog.

hedem December 10, 2013 at 4:48 PM

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