The Importance of Minerals and Why Supplementation Might be Good for You
Mineral supplementation can be a relatively easy way to help improve your overall health. As minerals are critical in the everyday functioning of your body, it’s important to get the balance of them just right.
Mineral supplements explained
Minerals are essential nutrients responsible for performing hundreds of functions within the body. As humans are not able to produce minerals, we obtain from our diet through food or supplementation.
Mineral supplement vs vitamins – what is the difference?
Minerals and vitamins, often called micronutrients, are essential components that enable the proper functioning of hundreds of chemical reactions in the body. While minerals are inorganic and hold onto their chemical structure, vitamins are organic (meaning they can be broken down by heat, acid or air).
The role they play
Vitamins and minerals ensure that hundreds of healthy processes occur in the body. The right level of minerals helps to:
- Heal wounds
- Support the immune system
- Repair cellular damage
- Ensure proper functioning of the heart, brain, and muscles
- Strengthen bones
- Make enzymes and hormones
- Convert food into energy
Before we understood the importance of vitamins and minerals, people suffered from conditions caused as a result of deficiencies. Scurvy was a result of a vitamin C deficiency, rickets resulted from a vitamin D deficiency and blindness is still caused today in some developing countries by a vitamin A deficiency.
Do you need them in your diet?
While it is best to get your mineral intake through food sources, sometimes you may need to supplement a particular vitamin or mineral. Vegetarians and vegans often need to supplement with vitamin B12, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D, as not enough is obtained through diet alone. Pregnant women need to supplement with folic acid/folate to help prevent birth defects like neural tube defects and spina bifida.
What are the most common mineral supplements and why they are needed?
Although there are 13 essential minerals, these are the most common mineral supplements:
- Calcium, the most abundant mineral in your body, helps support thyroid gland function, brain function, healthy teeth and bones, and normal growth of the body.
- Iron is essential for red blood cell function, assists with transporting oxygen around the body, energy production, and storing oxygen in the muscles. Vitamin C can increase the absorption of iron.
- Zinc is needed for wound healing and tissue repair and also helps boost immunity.
- Magnesium, the fourth most abundant mineral in your body, is needed for nervous system regulation, energy creation, protein formation, and muscle movements.
- Fluoride is a mineral often supplemented passively, as it’s commonly added to toothpaste and/or the water supply, to help prevent tooth decay.
Mineral supplements helping Athletes
Athletes tend to have higher micronutrient needs than the average person and there are certain minerals that are particularly effective for athletes.
- Calcium is extremely important for bone health as well as blood clotting, nerve conduction, and muscle contraction.
- Iron deficiency is common in athletes, as they often use substantially more iron per day than a non-athlete.
- Magnesium is critical for allowing muscles to contract and relax, regulating heart rhythm, and producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary source of energy in cells.
- Zinc aids in the growth and repair of muscle tissue, energy production, and immune strength.
Mineral supplements for older people
The elderly are at increased risk of mineral deficiencies as they tend to not obtain enough through their diet, stay indoors, take more medications and absorb fewer nutrients as a result of ageing. As we age there are also certain minerals that become more important.
- Calcium works together with vitamin D to help maintain bone health and prevent osteoporosis.
- Magnesium absorption decreases with age. Certain medications such as diuretics can also deplete magnesium from the body.
Supplements do not replace but add to a healthy diet
It's important to remember that nothing replaces a healthy diet and products like multivitamins, antioxidants, and mineral supplements are intended to supplement a balanced diet. A diet composed of all the food groups and rich in green vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, legumes, leafy vegetables, and dairy products should form a healthy base. Adding fortified foods like dairy and breakfast cereals (often fortified with thiamine, iodine, riboflavin, iron, zinc, and vitamin B6), is another easy way to add minerals to your diet.
How to know which supplements to take
Without a blood test and speaking with a doctor, dietitian, or other healthcare professionals, you won't know for sure which, if any, mineral supplements will be beneficial. As there are certain minerals like iron and zinc that, if taken in high doses, can cause toxicity, it is important you seek advice before starting supplements.
Speaking to a health professional
It’s best to speak to a healthcare professional before adding any dietary supplement.
How Amcal can help
Amcal stocks a wide selection of Australian brands to help you find the best supplements for you and your family.
Frequently Asked Questions about mineral supplements:
What is in a good mineral supplement?
When selecting a mineral supplement, not all supplements are created equal. Some supplements aren’t vegetarian or vegan or contain common allergens like wheat, corn, eggs, or gelatin. Be sure to look at the ingredients to ensure there are no issues with taking a particular product. When shopping for a good mineral supplement, pick a brand name you trust, check the dosage and ingredients and look for any contraindications. Always ask your Amcal pharmacist if you are unsure.
What are the 13 essential minerals?
The 13 essential minerals are calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, sulphur, chloride, iodine, sodium, copper, and selenium. To view our entire range of vitamins and minerals, visit our Vitamins A-Z page.
Is it good to take mineral supplements?
Mineral supplements can be beneficial if your diet alone does not meet all your mineral needs. That said, not everyone needs supplementation. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have any pre-existing conditions or health concerns, please consult one of our Amcal pharmacists in-store before taking a mineral supplement.
When should mineral supplements be taken?
Mineral supplements should be taken if you have a mineral deficiency. View our entire range of supplements for more products designed to keep you and your family healthy.