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Minerals Guide

Minerals Guide

Minerals are categorized by the amount needed per day. Major minerals require 100 mg or more per day. The rest are considered trace minerals. They are found in animals and plants. Minerals in animal products are absorbed better because binders and fiber aren’t present to hinder absorption. Vegans should be especially aware of taking a good mineral supplement.


Calcium requires a slightly acidic pH and Vitamin D for efficient absorption. Calcium carbonate is the most common form used in supplements and it has the highest concentration of calcium by weight (40%) compared to calcium citrate (21%) and calcium phosphate (8%). Calcium citrate may be better to take due to its acidic properties and enhanced absorption. Calcium is best absorbed in doses of 500 mg.

Natural Sources: Milk, cheese, leafy green vegetables, broccoli, sardines, fortified juices, breakfast cereals, tofu

RDI: 1000 mg Safe Upper Limit: 2500 mg

Function: Builds bone and teeth, maintains bone density and strength; helps prevent osteoporosis, assists in blood clotting, important for the transmission of nerve impulses to cells, aids in muscle contraction and helps regulate metabolism, helps heart beat regularly

Deficiency Symptoms: Frequent fractures, muscle contractions, convulsive seizures and muscle cramps

Toxicity: Symptoms can include headaches, irritability, kidney failure, kidney stones, constipation, and decreased absorption of other minerals


It's sometimes sold as glucose tolerance factor (GTF), a combination of chromium, nicotinic acid, and amino acids. But GTF may vary so much in composition that it's not a reliable chromium source. Chromium picolinate is a better source because of how readily it's absorbed. Chromium chloride is the least absorbable.

Natural Sources: Brewer's yeast, broccoli, grape juice, ham, egg yolks, beef, sweet potatoes, molasses, mushrooms, nuts, whole-grain products

RDI: 120 mcg Safe Upper Limit: 1000 mcg

Function: Helps insulin regulate blood sugar across cell membranes and into cells where it can be burned for energy, decreases insulin requirements and improves glucose tolerance of some people with Type II diabetes, helps raise HDL cholesterol levels, aids in protein synthesis

Deficiency Symptoms: Impaired glucose tolerance, elevated blood cholesterol and triglycerides

Toxicity: Based on average intake levels, toxicity is unlikely. People with diabetes who take chromium should be under medical supervision, since their insulin dosage may need to be reduced as blood sugar drops


Natural Sources: Beans, cocoa powder, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, shellfish, whole grains, oysters

RDI: 2 mg Safe Upper Limit: 10 mg

Function: Plays a role in the body's formation of strong, flexible connective tissue; in the production of neurochemcials in the brain; in the functioning of muscles, nerves, and the immune system; promotes normal red blood cell formation; acts as a catalyst in storage and release of iron to form hemoglobin for red blood cells

Deficiency Symptoms: Anemia, which is low red blood cell count associated with reduced resistance to infection; faulty collagen formation; bone demineralization; and loss of hair or skin pigmentation

Toxicity: Dietary copper is not toxic because intakes are usually low and our bodies can regulate storage through excretion. Excessive intake may cause vomiting.


Natural Sources: Bread, iodized salt, saltwater fish, lobster, milk, oysters, shrimp, molasses

RDI: 150 mcg Safe Upper Limit: 1,100 mcg

Function: Used by the thyroid gland to produce a hormone called thyroxine. This hormone helps regulate blood cell production, body temperature, growth reproduction, metabolic rate, and nerve and muscle function.

Deficiency Symptoms: Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland) which leads to a fall in metabolic rate and an increase in blood cholesterol

Toxicity: Most people get several times the RDI through iodine fortified salt with no ill effects


Iron comes in two forms: heme iron (found in meats) which is well absorbed, and nonheme (found in vegetables) which is not as well absorbed. Experts say ferrous sulfate is the best source of iron supplements.

Natural Sources: Baked potatoes, beef, cereals, liver, clams, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, bread, crackers

RDI: Men 10mg, Women 15 mg Safe Upper Limit: 65 mg

Function: Forms hemoglobin which helps the red blood cells transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body; forms part of several enzymes and proteins in the body; supports immune function

Deficiency Symptoms: Anemia, fatigue, listlessness, heart palpitation upon exertion, loss of appetite, pale skin appearance

Toxicity: Severe toxicity can lead to organ damage, especially in the liver and heart, diabetes, and bronze skin pigmentation


As a general rule, you need about 6 mg of magnesium for every kilogram (2.2lb) of body weight. You should take it in divided doses to avoid diarrhea. Vitamin D enhances the absorption of this mineral.

Natural Sources: Avocados, bananas, brown rice, broccoli, haddock, navy beans, oatmeal, pinto beans, spinach, sweet potatoes, yogurt

RDI: 400 mg Safe Upper Limit: 350 mg from supplements

Function: Assists in transmission of electrical impulses across nerves and muscles; eases PMS, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, asthma and kidney stones; helps activate ATP; supports optimal hormone balance; contributes to calcium and potassium metabolism

Deficiency Symptoms: Muscle contractions or pain, convulsions, confusion, lack of concentration, irregular heartbeat, irritability, nervousness, skin problems

Toxicity: Toxicity is of higher concern to those people with compromised kidney function because the kidneys primarily regulate blood magnesium. High blood magnesium can lead to weakness, nausea, and depression


Consuming high amounts of calcium and phosphorus can inhibit abortion of this mineral

Natural Sources: Cocoa powder, nuts, canned pinnacle juice, seeds, shellfish, tea, wheat bran, wheat germ, whole grains, beans, oatmeal

RDI: 2 mg Safe Upper Limit: 11 mg

Function: A co-factor for certain enzymes, it aids in carbohydrate metabolism and the formation of connective tissue and bones; promotes nerve function

Deficiency Symptoms: Low levels have been associated with epilepsy.

Toxicity: Is unlikely, as average intakes fall within the RDI range. Toxicity has been seen in people who work in manganese mines and drink contaminated well water. Symptoms include irritability, violence, hallucinations, and impaired control of muscles


Natural Sources: Beans, cereals, milk, milk products, vegetables, whole grains, nuts

RDI: 75 mcg Safe Upper Limit: 2,000 mcg

Function: Part of a sulfite oxidase which is an enzyme that helps the body detoxify sulfites (compounds found in protein foods and used as chemical preservatives in some foods and drugs); Necessary for the function of the enzyme xanthine in the formation of uric acid and the mobilation of iron from liver stores

Deficiency Symptoms: None have been observed in people consuming a normal diet

Toxicity: High amounts can inhibit copper absorption


85% of the body's phosphorus is found in bones. Experts say there is virtually no reason to supplement with phosphorus because it is so plentiful in our diets. Drinking too much soda can tip your delicate calcium-phosphorous balance in the wrong direction.

Natural Sources: Milk, cheese, yogurt, meat, cereals, bran, eggs, nuts, fish, and soft drinks

RDI: 1000 mg Safe Upper Limit: 4,000 mg (age 70 and under); 3000 mg (over 70)

Function: Builds strong bones and teeth; promotes energy metabolism; promotes growth, maintenance and repair of all body tissues; buffers body fluids for acid base balance

Deficiency Symptoms: Deficiency is highly unlikely since phosphorus is widely available and easily absorbed, but symptoms can include bone pain, loss of appetite, weakness and brittle bones

Toxicity: Excessive amounts may reduce calcium retention in the body which could lead to osteoporosis over time.


Potassium chloride is the most common form used in supplements. It's a key factor in keeping blood pressure at the right level for maximum cardiovascular health. Deficiencies can lead to low blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.

Natural Sources: Apricots, bananas, prunes, spinach, sweet potatoes, watermelon

RDI: 3.500 mg Safe Upper Limit: 4,500 mg

Function: Maintains water balance in body tissues and cells; promotes regular heartbeat and normal muscle contractions; regulates transfer of nutrients to cells

Deficiency Symptoms: Potassium along with magnesium helps muscles contract and relax. Low levels of potassium can cause muscle to cramp more easily and fatigue can occur quicker. Other symptoms include muscle weakness, numbness and tingling in feet, nausea, vomiting, and confusion.

Toxicity: Poorly functioning kidneys can cause potassium to accumulate in the blood, inhibiting heart function


Look for supplements labeled "l-selenomethione" and avoid those marked "sodium selenite" because l-selenomethione is less likely to cause side effects and won't react with Vitamin C to block selenium absorption.

Natural Sources: Clams, crab, lobster, oysters, whole grains, broccoli, cabbage, chicken, garlic, milk, mushrooms

RDI: 55 mcg Safe Upper Limit: 200 mcg

Function: Complements Vitamin E as an efficient antioxidant; plays a role in thyroid hormone metabolism; supports immune system; protects against free radicals, activates substances that protect the eyes from cataracts and the heart from muscle damage

Deficiency Symptoms: Muscle pain and wasting, cardiomyopathy and myocardial deaths

Toxicity: Excessive amounts can cause loss of hair and nails, garlic order on breadth and skin, a metallic taste in mouth, nausea, and dizziness


Table salt is 40% sodium and 60% chloride. A teaspoon of salt contains about 2,000 mg or 2 grams of sodium.

Natural Sources: Table salt, white bread and rolls, processed meats, cheese, soups, spaghetti and tomato sauces

RDI: 2,400 mg

Function: Helps regulate water balance in the body, plays crucial role in maintaining normal blood pressure, aids in muscle contraction and nerve transmission, and regulates the body's acid-base balance

Deficiency Symptoms: Muscle and stomach cramps, nausea, fatigue, mental apathy, muscle twitching and cramping, loss of appetite

Toxicity: Some experts suggest that adults limit their intake to 3,000 mg daily, but the verdict is still out on toxicity. Approximately 10% to 15% of adults are sodium sensitive and for these people, high sodium intakes can contribute to hypertension.


Zinc and iron interfere with each other's absorption, so make sure you take them separately.

Natural Sources: Beef, eggs, lamb, oysters, whole grains, yogurt, fish, sunflower seeds, turkey, soybeans

RDI: 15 mg Safe Upper Limit: 40 mg

Function: More than 300 enzymes require zinc as a co-factor for optimal activity; supports synthesis and function of DNA; aids in would healing; essential for normal immune function, ensures development of sexual organs and bones; and supports insulin function.

Deficiency Symptoms: Loss of taste and smell, slow growth in children, rashes, mult