Functions of Minerals

Like vitamins, minerals function in a way similar to coenzymes, enabling the body to quickly and accurately perform its activities. They are needed for the proper composition of body fluids, the formation of blood and bone, and the maintenance of healthy nerve function. Minerals are naturally occurring elements found in the earth. Rock formations are made up of mineral salts. As rock and stone are broken down into tiny fragments by millions of years of erosion, dust and sand accumulate, forming the basis of soil. Besides these tiny crystals of mineral salts, the soil is teeming with microbes that utilize them. The minerals are then passed from the soil to plants, which are then eaten by herbivorous animals. Man, in turn, obtains these minerals for use by the body by consuming these plants or herbivorous animals.

Minerals belong to two groups: macro (bulk) minerals and micro (trace) minerals. Bulk minerals include calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus, These are needed in larger amounts than trace minerals. Although only small quantities of trace minerals are needed, they are important for good health. The more common trace minerals include zinc, iron, copper, manganese, chromium, selenium, molybdenum and iodine. Because minerals are stored primarily in the body’s bone and muscle tissue, it is possible to overdose on minerals if an extremely large dose is taken. However, toxic amounts will accumulate only if massive amounts are taken for a prolonged period of time.

Improving Mineral Absorption

Some mineral supplements are available in chelated form, which means that the minerals are attached to a protein molecule that transports them to the bloodstream in order to enhance their absorption. When mineral supplements are taken with a meal, they are usually automatically chelated in the stomach during digestion. There is controversy over which type of mineral to take, but we prefer to use the chelated preparations. Mineral transport carriers work in the same way. Dr. Hans Nieper from the Silbersee Hospital in Hannover, West Germany, has developed a theory related to mineral transportation. He found that orotates (a form of chelates) and arginates are the most effective, since they have an affinity for and travel to the mitochondria within cell plasma.

Our experience with Dr. Nieper’s mineral transporters has shown them to be the most effective. Once a mineral is absorbed, it must be carried by the blood to the cells and then transported across the cell membrane in a form that can be utilized by the cell. After the mineral enters the body, it must compete with other minerals for absorption; therefore, minerals should always be taken in balanced amounts. For example, too much zinc can deplete the body of copper and an excessive calcium intake can affect magnesium absorption. Always use a balanced mineral supplement. Anything else will not be effective at best, and counterproductive more likely. In addition, fiber decreases the body’s absorption of minerals. Be sure to take supplemental fiber and minerals at different times.

Function of Minerals


Boron is needed in trace amounts or calcium uptake and healthy bones. Most people are not deficient in boron. However, the elderly will benefit from 23 milligrams daily because they have a greater problem with calcium absorption. The latest study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicated that within eight days of supplementing the diet with 3 milligrams at boron, a test group of post menopausal women lost 40 percent less calcium, one third less magnesium, and slightly phosphorus through their urine.

Sources: Boron is found in leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, grams.

Warnings: Do not take more than 3 milligrams daily


Calcium is vital in the formation of strong bones and teeth and is also important in the maintenance of regular heartbeat and the transmission of nerve impulses. It is needed for muscle growth and contraction and for the prevention of muscle cramps. This important mineral is also essential in blood clotting and helps prevent bone loss associated with osteoporosis as well. Calcium provides energy and participates in the protein structuring of RNA and DNA. It is also involved in the activation of several enzymes including lipase. The amino acid Lysine is needed for calcium absorption. Calcium protects the bones and teeth from lead by inhibiting absorption of this toxic metal. If there is a calcium deficiency, lead will be absorbed by the body and deposited in the teeth and bones.

This may account for the higher levels of lead in children who have a higher incidence of cavities. A calcium deficiency may result in the following symptoms: muscle cramps, nervousness, heart palpitations, brittle nails, eczema, hypertension, aching joints, increased cholesterol levels, rheumatoid arthritis, tooth decay, insomnia, rickets, and numbness in the arms and/ or legs. Calcium is more effective when taken in smaller doses spread throughout the day and before bedtime. When taken at night, it also promotes a sound sleep. This mineral works less effectively when taken in a single megadose. Female athletes and women experiencing menopause need greater amounts of calcium due to lower estrogen levels. Estrogen protects the skeletal system by promoting the deposit of calcium in bone.

Sources: Sources of calcium include dairy foods, salmon (with bones), sardines, seafood, and green leafy vegetables. It is found in almonds, asparagus, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, broccoli, buttermilk, cabbage, carob, cheese, collards, dandelion greens, pulse, figs, filberts, goat’s milk, kale, kelp, mustard greens, oats, parsley, prunes, sesame seeds, tofu, turnip greens, whey, and yogurt.

Warnings: Oxalic acid (found in soybeans, kale, spinach, rhubarb, beet greens, almonds, cashews, chard, and cocoa) interferes with calcium absorption by binding with calcium in the intestines and producing insoluble salts that cannot be absorbed. Casual consumption of foods with oxalic acid should not pose a problem, however, overindulgence inhibits absorption of calcium. Calcium supplements should not be taken by those suffering from kidney stones or kidney disease. Calcium may interfere with the effects of Verapamil, a calcium channel blocker for the heart.

Tums, as a source of calcium, neutralizes the stomach acid needed for calcium absorption. Calcium taken with iron reduces the effect of both minerals. Too much calcium can interfere with absorption of zinc, just as excess zinc can interfere with calcium absorption. A hair analysis can determine the levels of these two minerals if needed. Insufficient vitamin D intake or excess phosphorus and magnesium hinders the uptake of calcium. Although heavy exercising also hinders calcium uptake, moderate exercising contributes to its uptake. A diet that is high either in protein, fat, or sugar also affects calcium uptake.

The average American diet of meats, refined grains, and soft drinks (high in phosphorus) leads to increased bone loss in adults. Foods such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, which contain significant amounts of calcium but lower amounts of phosphorus, should be consumed. Several vitamin companies use D1-calcium-phosphate, but do not list it on the label. This form of calcium interferes with the absorption of the nutrients in a multi supplement. Test your brand of calcium to assure absorption. Place the calcium pill in a glass of warm water and shake. If the calcium does not dissolve within twenty-four hours, change to another brand or form.

Chromium (GTF)

Because it is involved in the metabolism of glucose, chromium (glucose tolerance factor or (‘.TF) is needed for energy. It is also vital in the synthesis of cholesterol fats, and protein. This essential mineral maintains stable blood sugar levels through proper insulin utilization m both the diabetic and the hypoglycemic. Low plasma chromium levels are an indication of coronary artery disease. The average American diet is chromium deficient. Researchers estimate that two out of every three Americans are either hypoglycemic, prehypoglycemic, or diabetic. The ability to maintain normal blood sugar levels is jeopardized by the lack of chromium in our soil and water supply and by a diet high in refined white sugar, flour, and junk foods.

Sources: Chromium is found in the following food sources: beer, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, cheese, meat, and whole grains. It may also be found in dried beans, cheese, chicken, corn and corn oil, dairy products, calves’ liver, mushrooms, and potatoes.

Warnings: No side effects have been found to date.


Among its many functions, copper aids in the formation of bone, hemoglobin, and red blood cells, and works in balance with zinc and vitamin C to form elastin. It is involved in the healing process, energy production, hair and skin coloring, and taste sensitivity. This mineral is also needed for healthy nerves. One of the early signs of copper deficiency is osteoporosis. Copper is essential for the formation of collagen, which makes up the connective issue of the bone matrix.

Sources: Besides its use in cookware and plumbing, copper is also widely distributed in foods. Its food sources include almonds, avocados, barley, beans, beetroots, blackstrap molasses, broccoli, dandelion greens, garlic, lentils, liver, mushrooms, nuts, oats, oranges, organ meats, pecans, radishes, raisins, salmon, seafood, soybeans and green leafy vegetables.

Warnings: Copper levels in the body are reduced if high amounts of zinc or vitamin C are taken. If copper intake Is too high, the levels of vitamin C and zinc will drop.

Germanium (Ge-132)

This important trace mineral was recently discovered and researched by a Japanese scientist, Kazuhiko Asai. He found that an intake of 100300 milligrams of germanium a day improved many illnesses including then mastoid arthritis, food allergies, elevated cholesterol, candidiasis, chronic viral infections, cancer, and AIDS. Germanium is also a fast-acting painkiller. Germanium works by attaching itself to molecules of oxygen which are carried into the body to improve cellular oxygenation. The body needs oxygen to keep the immune system functioning properly as oxygen helps rid the body of toxins and poisons. Dr. Asai believes all diseases are caused by an insufficient oxygen supply to the area of the body where it is needed.

Researchers have shown that organic germanium is an effective way to increase tissue oxygenation because it acts as a carrier in the same way as hemoglobin. Ge-132 is expensive because the amount found in plants is so minute, and a large number of plants are needed to obtain a small amount of this mineral. At present there is only one factory in Japan that is producing germanium. For more information on germanium (GE-132), contact: Global Marketing, 435 Brannon Street, San Francisco, CA 94107; (415) 459-8524.

Sources: The following foods contain germanium: aloe vera, comfrey, garlic, ginseng, shiitake mushrooms, onions, and the herb suma.

Warnings: No side effects have been found to date.


Needed in only trace amounts, iodine helps to metabolize excess fat and is important in physical and mental development. Iodine is also needed for a healthy thyroid gland and in the prevention of goiter. Mental retardation may result from an iodine deficiency in children. In addition, an iodine deficiency has recently been linked to breast cancer.

Sources: Foods that are high in iodine include iodized salts, seafood, saltwater fish, and kelp. It may also be found in asparagus, pulse, white deepwater fish, garlic, lime beans, mushrooms, sea salt, sesame seeds, soybeans, spinach (see warnings below), summer squash, Swiss chard, and turnip greens.

Warnings: Some foods block the uptake of iodine into the thyroid gland when eaten raw in large amounts. These include Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, peaches, pears, spinach, and turnips. Excess iodine (over thirty times the IDA) produces a metallic taste and sores in the mouth, swollen salivary glands, diarrhea, and vomiting.


Perhaps the most important of its functions is its production of hemoglobin and oxygenation of red blood cells. Iron is the mineral found hi the largest amounts in the blood. This mineral is essential for many enzymes, and is important for growth in children and resistance to disease. Iron is also required for a healthy immune system and for energy production. Vitamin C can increase iron absorption as much as 30 percent. Iron deficiency symptoms include brittle hair, nails that are spoon-shaped or that have ridges running lengthwise, hair loss, fatigue, pallor, dizziness, and anemia. Sufficient hydrochloric acid (HI) must be present in the stomach in order for the iron to be absorbed.

Copper, manganese, molybdenum, vitamin A, and the B-complex vitamins are also needed for complete iron absorption. According to Journal of Orthamolecular Medicine iron utilization is impaired by rheumatoid arthritis and cancer and will result in anemia despite adequate amounts of iron stored in the liver, spleen, and bone marrow. The journal also states that iron deficiency is more prevalent in those suffering from candidiasis and chronic herpes infections. Excess iron buildup in the tissues has been associated with a rare disease know as hemochromatosis, a disorder that causes bronze skin pigmentation, cirrhosis, diabetes, and heart disorders.

Sources: Iron is found in eggs, fish, liver, meat, poultry, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and enriched breads and cereals. Other food sources include almonds, avocados, beets, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, dates, pulse, egg yolks, kelp, kidney and lime beans, lentils, millet, parsley, peaches, pears, dried prunes, pumpkins, raisins, rice and wheat bran, sesame seeds, and soybeans.

Warnings: Excessive amounts of zinc and vitamin E interfere with iron absorption. Those who engage in strenuous exercise and who perspire heavily deplete iron from the body. Because iron is stored in the body, high iron intake can cause problems. Increased iron in the tissues and organs leads to the production of free radicals and increases the need for vitamin L, an important antioxidant (free radical scavenger). An iron deficiency may result from intestinal bleed trig, excessive menstrual bleeding, a diet high in plies photos, poor digestion, a long-term illness, ulcers prolonged use of antacids, excess coffee or tea con gumption, and causes other than a nutrient deficiency. A doctor should investigate these symptoms before pee scribing iron supplements. In some cases, doctors have discovered that a vitamin B or B2 deficiency is the underlying cause of the anemia. According to a 1988 issue of Journal of Orthomolecular medicine, you should not take extra iron if you have a infection. Because bacteria require iron for growth, the body stores iron and does not utilize it when there is a infection.


Magnesium is vital to enzyme activity. It assists in cat clam and potassium uptake. A deficiency interfere with the transmission of nerve and muscle impulses, causing irritability and nervousness. Supplementing the diet with magnesium helps prevent depression, dizziness, muscle weakness, twitching, heart disease, and high blood pressure, and also aids in maintaining the proper pH balance. This essential mineral protects the arterial lining from stress caused by sudden blood pressure changes, and plays a role in the formation of bone and in carbohydrate and mineral metabolism. With vitamin B6, magnesium helps reduce and dissolve calcium phosphate stones.

Sources: Magnesium is found in most foods, especially dairy products, fish, meat, and seafood. Other rich food sources include apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, figs, garlic, kelp, lime beans, millet, nuts, peaches, black eyed peas, salmon, sesame seeds, tofu, tourla, green leafy vegetables, wheat, and whole grains.

Warnings: Consumption of alcohol, use of diuretics, diarrhea, the presence of fluoride, and high amounts of zinc and vitamin D all increase the body’s need for magnesium. Magnesium combined with vitamin Be (pyridoxine) may prevent calcium oxalate kidney stones. Large amounts of fats, cod liver oil, calcium, vitamin D, and protein decrease magnesium absorption. Foods high in oxalic acid, such as almonds, chard, cocoa, rhubarb, spinach, and tea, also inhibit magnesium absorption.


Minute quantities of manganese are needed for protein and fat metabolism, healthy nerves, and a healthy immune system and blood sugar regulation. It is used for energy production and is required for normal bone growth and reproduction. Manganese is essential for iron-deficient enemies and is also needed for the utilization of thiamine (B1) and vitamin E. Manganese works well with the B-complex vitamins to give an overall feeling of well-being. It aids in the formation of mother’s milk and is a key element in the production of enzymes needed to oxidize fats and to metabolize urines.

Sources: The largest quantities of manganese are found in avocados, nuts and seeds, seaweed, and whole grains. This mineral may also be found in blueberries, egg yolks, legumes, dried peas, pineapples, spinach, and green leafy vegetables.

Warnings: No side effects have been found to date.


This essential mineral is needed in extremely small amounts for nitrogen metabolism, which enables the body to use nitrogen. It aids in the final stages of conversion of urines to uric acid. It promotes normal cell function, and is part of the enzyme system of xanthine oxidase. Molybdenum is found in the liver, bones, and kidneys. A low intake is associated with mouth and gum disorders and cancer. Those whose diets are high in refined and processed foods are at risk of having a deficiency. A molybdenum deficiency may cause sexual impotence in older males.

Sources: This trace mineral is found in beans, cereal grains, legumes, peas, and dark green leafy vegetables.

Warnings: Heat and moisture may change the action of the mineral. Massive intake of over 15 milligrams daily may produce gout. High intake of sulfur may decrease molybdenum levels. Excess amounts of molybdenum may interfere with copper metabolism.


Phosphorus is needed for bone and tooth formation, cell growth, contraction of the heart muscle, and honey function. It also assists the body in the utilization of vitamins and the conversion of food to energy. A balance of magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus should always be maintained. If one of these is present in excess or insufficient amounts, it will have adverse effects on the body. Sources A deficiency of phosphorus is rare because it is found in most foods, especially soda. Significant amounts of phosphorus are contained in asparagus, bran; brewer’s yeast; corn; dairy products; eggs; fish; dried fruit; garlic; legumes; nuts; sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds; meats; poultry; salmon; and whole grains. Warnings Excessive amounts of phosphorus interfere with calcium uptake. A diet consisting of junk food is a common culprit.


This mineral is important for a healthy nervous system and a regular heart rhythm. It helps prevent stroke, aids in proper muscle contraction, and works with sodium to control the body’s water balance. Potassium is important for chemical reactions within the cells and aids in maintaining stable blood pressure and in transmitting electrochemical impulses. It also regulates the transfer of nutrients to the cells.

Sources: Food sources of potassium include dairy foods, fish, fruit, legumes, meat, poultry, vegetables, and whole grains. It is specifically found in apricots, avocados, bananas, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, dates, figs, dried fruit, garlic, nuts, potatoes, raisins, winter squash, tourla, wheat bran, and yams.

Warnings: Use of diuretics, kidney disorders, diarrhea, and laxatives all disrupt potassium levels. Although potassium is needed for hormone secretion, hormones secreted as a result of stress cause a decrease in the potassium sodium ratio both inside and outside the cell.


Selenium is a vital antioxidant, especially when combined with vitamin E. As an antioxidant, selenium protects the immune system by preventing the formation of free radicals, which can damage the body. Selenium and vitamin E act synergistically to aid in the production of antibodies and to help maintain a healthy heart, This trace element is needed for pancreatic function and tissue elasticity. A selenium deficiency is linked to cancer and heart disease. Because New Zealand soils are low in selenium, its cattle and sheep have suffered a breakdown of muscles, including the heart muscle. However, human intake of selenium is adequate because of imported Australian wheat.

Sources: Depending on the soil content, selenium can be found in meat and grains. It can also be found in Brazil nuts, brewer’s yeast, broccoli, brown rice, chicken, dairy products, garlic, liver, molasses, onions, salmon, seafood, tourla, tuna, vegetables, wheat germ, and whole grains.

Warnings: No side effects have been found to date.

Silicon (Silica)

Silicon is necessary for bone and connective tissue (collagen) formation, for healthy nails, skin, and hair, and for calcium absorption in the early stages of bone formation. It is needed to maintain flexible arteries, and plays a major role in preventing cardiovascular disease. Silicon counteracts the effects of aluminum on the body and is important in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis. Silicon levels decrease with aging and, therefore, are needed in larger amounts by the elderly. Boron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium aid in efficient utilization of silicon.

Sources: Foods that contain silicon include alfalfa, beets, brown rice, horsetail grass (an herb), mother’s milk, bell peppers, soybeans, leafy green vegetables, and whole grains.

Warnings: No side effects have been found to date.


Sodium is necessary for maintaining the proper water balance and blood pH. It is also needed for stomach, nerve, and muscle function. Sodium deficiency symptoms include confusion, low blood sugar, weakness, dehydration, lethargy, and heart palpitations. Because a balance of potassium and sodium is necessary for good health but most people overindulge in sodium intake, potassium is typically needed in greater amounts.

Sources: Virtually all foods contain some sodium.

Warnings: Excess sodium intake results in edema, high blood pressure, potassium deficiency, and liver and kidney disease. Sodium intake may lead to heart disease when not properly balanced with potassium.


An acid-forming mineral that is part of the chemical structure of methionine, cysteine, taurine, anal gin tathione, sulfur disinfects the blood, resists bacteria and protects the protoplasm of cells It aids in oxidation reactions, stimulates bile secretions in the liver, an protects against toxic substances. Because of its ability to protect against the harmful effects of radiation an, pollution, sulfur slows down the aging process and extends lifespan. It is found in hemoglobin and all blood tissues and is needed for the synthesis of collagen which prevents dryness and maintains elastic in the skin.

Sources: Brussels sprout dried beans, cabbage, eggs, fish, garlic, horsetail (herb) kale, meats, onions, soybeans, turnips, wheat germ, and the amino acids L-cysteine, L-lysine, L-cystine, and L-methionine.

Warnings: Moisture and heat may destroy or change the action of sulfur in the body.


Vanadium is needed for cellular metabolism and in the formation of bones and teeth. It plays a role in growth and reproduction and inhibits cholesterol synthesis. A vanadium deficiency may be linked to cardiovascular and honey disease, impaired reproductive ability, and increased infant mortality. Vanadium is not easily absorbed.

Sources: Vanadium is found in fish, vegetable oils, and olives. It may also be found in snap beans, dill, meat, radishes, and whole grains.

Warnings: There may be an interaction between vanadium and chromium. Take extra chromium at a different time. Tobacco decreases uptake of vanadium.


This essential mineral is important in prostate gland function and the growth of the reproductive organs. It is required for protein synthesis and collagen formation and promotes a healthy immune system and the healing of wounds. Zinc also allows acuity of taste and smell and protects the liver from chemical damage. Sufficient intake and absorption of zinc is needed to maintain the proper concentrations of vitamin E in the blood.

Sources: Zinc is found in the following food sources: fish, legumes, meats, oysters, poultry, seafood, and whole grains. Significant quantities of zinc are found in brewer’s yeast, egg yolks, lamb chops, lime beans, liver, mushrooms, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sardines, seeds, soy lecithin, soybeans, sunflower seeds.

Warnings: Daily dosages of more than 100 milligrams of zinc can depress the immune system while dosages under 100 milligrams can enhance immune response. Zinc levels may be lowered by diarrhea, kidney disease, cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, and fiber. The phylates found in grains and legumes bind with zinc so that it cannot be absorbed The proper copper and sine balance should be maintained. Consumption of hard water can upset zinc levels.

Author: Life Enthusiast Staff