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Overview of Dietary Minerals

Dietary minerals are elements from the earth that are needed by the body to be healthy. There are two types of minerals, those that are essential in relatively large quantities, like Calcium and sodium, and those trace minerals, like zinc and selenium, still necessary but only needed in relatively small quantities. The best way to get all the minerals your body needs is to eat a well balanced diet of a variety of whole foods.

Overview of Dietary Minerals
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What it is

Dietary minerals are chemical elements that come from the earth or from water and are absorbed by plants and animals. They are non-organic nutrients necessary for your body to be healthy. The term dietary minerals do not refer to the four elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen that are present in common organic molecules.

There are two types of minerals, Essential or Macro-Minerals and Trace Minerals. 

Essential minerals are needed by your body in relatively large amounts to help build bones, strengthen digestion, make hormones and regulate your heartbeat along with many other functions. These Essential minerals are well known to nutritionists and scientists. They are.
• Calcium
• Sodium
• Potassium
• Chloride
• Phosphorus
• Magnesium
• Sulphur 

Our bodies need trace minerals only very small amounts, even so, their importance has become a focus for many Scientists and nutritionists. These trace minerals include,
• Iron
• manganese
• Copper
• Iodine
• Zinc
• Chromium
• Molybdenum
• Boron
• Cobalt
• Fluoride
• Selenium

There are other trace minerals cited and being studies for their role in the body. Many other elements have suggested 

Other minerals with unknown or unproven need by the body,
• Nickel
• Tin
• Silicon
• Vanadium
• Cadmium
• Other elements:
o Aluminium
o Antimony
o Arsenic
o Barium
o Boron
o Bromine
o Gold
o Lead
o Mercury
o Rhubidium
o Silver
o Strontium

The body cannot make trace minerals. The only way to get them is through what we eat.

Minerals and Vitamins have a strong interlocked relationship in our bodies, as both must be there before either can function properly.

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What it does

Your body uses minerals to maintain its performance and condition as well as assisting in the prevention and treatment of serious illnesses. For more information of the roles of the essential and trace minerals please see the articles on those minerals.

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Where you get it

Dietary minerals can be found in abundance in natural unprocessed foods. Many of these minerals are lost in many types of processes used to transform foods into the fast foods and packaged foods that fill many supermarket shelves. So the best source is to eat a balances diet of a wide variety of whole foods.

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Things to watch out for

Not Enough 

Essential minerals, and many trace minerals cannot be created by the body and must be eaten in the diet. Eating a healthy and varied diet will ensure that the body gets all the minerals it needs. If a person is often under stress, cuts meals, eats too much processed and fast foods there is a possibility that they may develop a mineral deficiency. Because mineral deficiencies can cause health problems, it is important to be sure to meet the minimum requirements. 

The best way to treat a deficiency is to eat a good diet that includes a wide variety of foods from all the food groups although dietary supplements can help when a good diet is not always eaten.

Too Much

As you only need relatively small amounts of most minerals be careful when supplementing your diet with dietary mineral supplements as they can have toxic effects if too much is taken.

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How much you need

If a person eats too much processed foods and not enough fresh and natural foods they may lack minerals.

Dietary supplements play a role to help those with deficiencies to meet their dietary requirement of minerals.

Government groups and organizations have outline their Recommended Daily need for a normal person. These recommendations are the result of much study and should be followed. 

For the daily requirements of the individual minerals see the articles of those particular minerals.

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Harvard Medical School,, retrieved 02/2009

USDA – National Agriculture Library,, retrieved 02/2009

US National Library of Medicine and the National Institute if Health, retrieved 02/2009

US Food and Drug Administration, US Department of health and human services, Fortify Your Knowledge About Vitamins,, retrieved 02/2009

University of California, Berkley, The newsletter of nutrition, fitness and self care,, retrieved 02/2009

Oregon state university, retrieved 02/2009

Office of Dietary Suppliments,, retrieved 02/2009

Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2001.

Prepared by the editors at Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Meir J. Stampfer, M.D., Dr.P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Vitamins and Minerals: What you need to know,  Harvard School of Public Health, 2008.

Murray, Michael T.  Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements,  Prima Publishing, Rocklin, CA, 1996.

Dunne, Lavon J. Nutrition Almanac, 3rd ed, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1990.

University of California, Berkley,, retrieved 2009.
Bratman, Steven, and David Kroll. Natural Health Bible. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1999.

Paul Pitchford. Healing with whole food, North Atlantic Books, 2002.

Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders, 2004.

Offenbacher E, Pi-Sunyer F. In: Handbook of Nutritionally Essential Mineral Elements (edited by O'Dell B, Sunde R). Marcel Dekker, New York, 1997

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