Expert Nutrition

Minerals (Essential Elements)

Minerals are essential components of our diet that serve as cofactors in the thousands of enzyme-controlled reactions that power the machinery of the cell. Throughout the body, minerals form critical structural elements, control the action of nerves and muscles, help maintain the body's water balance, and buffer the pH (acidity) of the cell and extracellular fluids. Although minerals only make up a small percentage (5%) of body weight, their role in the body is significant and life would not be possible without them.

There are 22 minerals that have been identified to be necessary for specific metabolic functions or whose absence would result in physiological impairment. These minerals which are also referred to as essential 'elements' or essential 'mineral elements' must be obtained through consumption in our diet and then through the absorption process which takes place in our gut.

Minerals in our diet are often broken down into two categories by health professionals, 'major minerals' which are required in the largest quantities (eg calcium, magnesium ) and 'micro minerals' or 'trace elements' which are required in smaller quantities (eg copper, selenium).

It is important to realise that the physiological role, digestion, absorption, interaction with other nutrients and metabolism of each mineral varies. For more information on the role of each individual mineral including good food sources of each and recommended dietary intakes please review the links listed below.

Major Minerals:

Micro Minerals (trace elements)

It was originally thought that because minerals are so widely distributed in food and that the physiological requirements for minerals is only small that it was easy to obtain adequate mineral quantities in our diet, however deficiencies are far more common than toxic overloads. There are a number of factors that could contribute to this including specific forms of the mineral, bioavailability and alterations to the absorption process which may result from competing nutrients or disease.

A full chapter of this webpage has been dedicated to help educate people in the roles of nutritional supplements and whether we need to be taking them. For more information please refer to that chapter.

Minerals back to Homepage

1. MacWilliam, L.D. Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements. Northern Dimensions Publishing, 2005 pp 31-32
2. Wahlqvist, M.L., et al. Australia and New Zealand: Food and Nutrition. 2nd Ed. Allen and Unwin, Sydney 2002 pp 271-281

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