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Home/Blog/How Many Minerals Does the Body Need? A Comprehensive Guide

How Many Minerals Does the Body Need? A Comprehensive Guide

By Ethan Boldt

February 16, 2024

How many minerals does the body need?

Most of us are very aware of our need for vitamins, but what about minerals? Although we need both, minerals in our diets are a bit different than vitamins. Vitamins are made by plants or animals, while minerals come from soil and water. Minerals make their way into the foods we eat by being absorbed by plants and animals, which we then eat.

In particular, the human body needs 13 different minerals to maintain overall health. These minerals include well known types like calcium and magnesium alongside lesser recognized ones like sulfur and iodine. 

Learn about these essential minerals, the benefits they provide, what foods provide them, and also whether or not you may have a mineral nutrient shortfall. You’ll also be shown the recommended daily requirement for each, and whether or not a multivitamin will contain these minerals.

As always, you should consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen. 

Benefits

What are minerals good for? Minerals in our diets have numerous important functions that help us each day.

They maintain our overall health by performing jobs such as:

  • Creating enzymes that help with digestion, energy production and metabolic processes

  • Facilitating nerve transmissions

  • Allowing for muscle contractions, muscle relaxation and movement

  • Regulating fluid balance

  • Maintaining normal blood pressure levels

  • Carrying oxygen throughout the body

  • Maintaining normal bone density and teeth strength

  • Facilitating normal blood clotting

  • Producing stomach acid and other digestive “juices”

  • Supporting growth and development in babies and children

  • Promoting healthy skin and tissues

  • Facilitating normal thyroid function

  • Maintaining a normal acid-base balance (pH level)

13 Essential Minerals

1. Zinc

Zinc is an essential nutrient that is involved in a number of different aspects of health. In fact, zinc is second only to iron in its concentration in the body and is required for everything from healthy skin and skin integrity to supporting normal DNA synthesis, cell division, immune function and more.

Although most people are able to get enough zinc in their diet from food sources alone, those with restrictive diets (such as vegans or vegetarians) or certain circumstances may be coming up short. Additionally, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding typically have higher zinc requirements, which may make it more difficult to meet their needs from food sources alone.

Food sources: Meats like beef, organ meats like liver, fish, poultry, some vegetables like mushrooms, broccoli and asparagus, wheat germ, garlic, oats, rice, corn.

Recommended Daily Amount (RDA): 8 mg per day for women; 11 mg per day for men 

In your multivitamin? Yes, most multivitamins contain around 100 percent Daily Value of zinc. There are also individual zinc supplements, such as Ancient Nutrients Zinc + Probiotics with 182 percent Daily Value of zinc.

2. Iron

Iron plays many key roles in the body, such as helping to make amino acids, collagen, neurotransmitters and certain hormones. It also helps to form hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood, and assists in development.

It’s estimated that 30 percent or more of the world’s total population might need an iron boost. However, women in general need to be careful to get enough iron in their diet or through supplementation. Demand for iron naturally increases during menstruation due to blood loss. 

Food sources: Organ meats like chicken or beef liver, red meats, fish, poultry, clams, egg yolks, legumes, dried fruits like raisins, dark, leafy greens.

RDA: 8 to 18 mg/day

In your multivitamin? Not necessarily. While some may contain up to 100 percent Daily Value of iron, others have a lower percentage. Check the labels. There are also individual iron supplements like Ancient Nutrients Iron with 18 mg of iron. 

3. Magnesium

Magnesium helps to support bone health, heart health and even a positive mindset. It also supports healthy immune system function and proper function of nerves, muscles and tissue. It even balances nitric oxide in the body and stomach acid. 

Although we only need small amounts of magnesium relative to other nutrients, we must regularly replenish our stores, either from foods or magnesium supplements.

Did you know that having low levels of magnesium is one of the leading nutrient shortfalls affecting adults? It’s estimated that a whopping 80 percent of adults may be running low in this vital mineral, which is why it’s a good idea to consider taking a magnesium supplement regularly, especially if you’re not eating plenty of magnesium-rich foods.

Food sources: Avocado, bananas, potatoes, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, leafy greens, artichokes, whole grains, beans and legumes, dark chocolate, some fish.

RDA: 310 to 320 mg/day for adult women; 400 to 420 mg/day for adult men

In your multivitamin? No, only low levels of magnesium are typically included in multivitamins. 

4. Calcium

Calcium is important for maintaining a healthy skeletal structure, bones and teeth. It also helps muscles relax and contract. Calcium also plays a role in nerve functioning, blood clotting, blood pressure regulation, immune system health and metabolic functions.

Women older than 50 years are believed to be most likely to have low calcium levels. It’s especially important for postmenopausal women to make sure their calcium levels are optimal in order to support their healthy bones. 

Women with lactose intolerance as well as vegans may also lack calcium because they avoid eating dairy products, which are some of the most convenient dietary sources of calcium. Other factors can affect the amount of calcium absorbed from the digestive tract, including older age (being over 70) and lower vitamin D status (vitamin D is needed for proper calcium absorption). 

Food sources: Yogurt, kefir, raw milk, cheese, canned sardines, leafy greens like mustard greens or kale, broccoli, cashews, almonds, fortified tofu and fortified soy milk, parsley, legumes.

RDA: RDA of 1,000 to 1,300 mg/day.

In your multivitamin? Typically, it can't be included at 100 percent Daily Value because that’d make the multi too large to swallow. Instead, it’s best to use a body-ready, food-sourced form of calcium that’s made without dairy. Ancient Nutrients Calcium also features vitamin D3, which, in general, is a preferred form of vitamin D and acts as a supporting role in the body’s absorption of calcium.

5. Selenium

Selenium is a powerful micronutrient that acts as an antioxidant to neutralize harmful free radicals and assist cellular health. It maintains normal thyroid hormone production; assists in metabolism and DNA synthesis; promotes a healthy response to oxidative stress; supports a healthy immune system; plus is needed for healthy fertility, especially in men since it promotes sperm health.

One review in The Lancet noted that low intake of selenium may be associated with several negative effects on health, including immune function, cognition and overall mortality.

Food sources: Brazil nuts, fish and seafood like tuna, organ meats, beef, turkey, chicken, eggs, oatmeal, milk, lentils, cashews, oats.

RDA: 55 to 70 mcg/day.

In your multivitamin? Yes, nearly all multivitamins feature at least 100 percent Daily Value or more, including Ancient Nutrition's mulitivitamins

6. Iodine

Iodine is needed to produce thyroid hormones; supports metabolic reactions; helps with development; facilitates normal brain development and cognitive functions. The thyroid gland requires iodine to produce the hormones T3 and T4, which help control your metabolism. Iodine intake is especially important for young women looking to become pregnant or who are pregnant because it plays a role in brain development of the growing fetus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women between the ages of 20–39 have the lowest urine iodine levels compared to all other age groups. 

Most people eating a Western diet consume a good deal of iodized salt found in packaged foods and refined grain products, which has iodine added purposefully to help keep levels where they should be.

The RDA for iodine is 150 micrograms every day for those over the age of 14. For those pregnant or breastfeeding, the amount goes up to 290 micrograms every day.

Food sources: Seafood and fish like cod and tuna, some algae/seaweeds and sea vegetables, shellfish, iodized salt, fortified breads, some dairy products.

RDA: RDA of 150 to 200 mcg/day.

In your multivitamin? Most multivitamins — such as 110 percent Daily Value in Ancient Nutrition's Women's Fermented Multivitamin and Ancient Nutrition's Women's Fermented Multivitamin — will usually cover one’s daily requirement for iodine.

7. Potassium

Helps with normal fluid balance, nerve transmissions, muscle contractions and normal blood pressure. 

Food sources: Bananas, sweet potatoes, spinach, lentils, orange juice, most beans, peas, beets, dried fruit like dates, coffee.

RDA: 4,700 mg/day.

In your multivitamin? Yes, most multivitamins will usually cover one’s daily requirement for iodine.

8. Sodium 

Sodium is needed to maintain fluid balance and counteract potassium, supports nerve transmissions, and assists in muscle contractions. Competitive athletes, for example, should be mindful of their sodium intake and be sure to replenish any electrolytes that are lost through sweat when working out.

Many studies show that it’s widely present in the American diet, most often in the form of sodium chloride, which is added to a variety of packaged, canned, bottled and frozen foods and beverages. 

Food sources: Sea salt, pickled/fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickles, cottage cheese and other cheeses, olives, canned and preserved foods, soy sauce, milk, breads and unprocessed meats (in small amounts, as processed foods contain the most added sodium).

RDA: No more than 2,300 mg/day (should be consumed in moderation to balance other minerals)

In your multivitamin? No, sodium does not appear in multivitamins because it’s so present in the average diet. 

9. Phosphorus 

Phosphorus is the second most abundant element in the human body (second to calcium). It makes up about 0.5 percent of an infant’s body and about 1 percent of an adult’s body.

Phosphorus is important for healthy bones and teeth; found in every cell; part of the system that maintains acid-base balance; helps nerves function and makes muscles contract. It helps us utilize nutrients from the foods that we eat and supports detoxification. 

In general, people don’t need to take phosphorus in supplement form considering the average person gets plenty from his or her diet.

Food sources: Meat like beef, fish, chicken, turkey, dairy, seeds like pumpkin and sunflower seeds, legumes like lentils.

RDA: 1,250 mg/day

In your multivitamin? No, phosphorus does not appear in multivitamins because it’s so present in the average diet. 

10. Chloride 

Chloride works with sodium to help balance fluids and assists in digestion by producing stomach acid needed to maintain a normal pH level.

Food sources: Table salt, soy sauce, seaweed, olives, breads, celery, tomatoes.

RDA: 3.1 g/day

In your multivitamin? No, chloride does not appear in multivitamins because it’s so present in the average diet. 

11. Copper 

Copper is an important mineral because it benefits the health of our bones, nerves and skeletal system. It’s also essential for the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells, and it’s needed for the proper utilization of iron and oxygen within our blood.

We need to eat foods high in copper because the body cannot make the mineral itself and it uses copper frequently, without being able to store it in sufficient amounts.

Not getting enough copper can impact the function of red blood cells and oxygen delivery to our body tissues. A copper shortfall is more common in malnourished populations where people don’t consume enough calories and are unable to get enough copper-rich foods in their diets. 

In the typical American diet, we meet or exceed the copper RDA.

Food sources: Shellfish, organ meats, spirulina, mushrooms, dark chocolate, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, wheat bran.

RDA: 900 mcg/day

In your multivitamin? No, copper does not appear in multivitamins because it’s so present in the average diet.

12. Manganese 

Manganese is an important trace mineral needed for many vital functions, including nutrient absorption, production of digestive enzymes, bone development and healthy, normal immune system defenses.

This essential nutrient works closely with other minerals, including iron. Key for normal growth and development, manganese has an important role in the synthesis of nutrients like cholesterol, carbohydrates and proteins.

Even though it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to consume these foods, many people don’t eat enough manganese-rich foods, most likely because refined grains are consumed more than whole grains.

Food sources: Whole grains, shellfish, nuts, soybeans and other legumes, rice, leafy vegetables, coffee, tea.

RDA: 1.8 mg/day for adult women and 2.3 mg/day for adult men 

In your multivitamin? No. Because a manganese shortage is rare, it doesn’t appear in multivitamins.

13. Sulfur 

Sulfur serves many functions in the human body, including promoting a healthy response to oxidative stress, helps with the synthesis of antioxidants, builds DNA, maintains nitrogen balance and supports a healthy immune system. 

There are currently no recommended daily intakes (official guidelines) for sulfur. One study found that, on average, people consumed about 950 milligrams of sulfur per day from diets containing a variety of foods, especially green veggies, onions, garlic and protein foods.

Food sources: Foods rich in protein including meats like beef, poultry, fish, soybeans, black beans and kidney beans, eggs, milk, nuts.

RDA: N/A

In your multivitamin? No, sulfur does not appear in multivitamins because it’s so present in the average diet.

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