Never heard of trace minerals before? You’re probably not alone. These essential nutrients are chemical elements that are vital for living. Trace minerals are called such because your body only really needs a trace of them to do their job. They produce reactions in your body at every single moment of the day, but how do you know if you’re getting enough, and what exactly do they do?
What are Trace Minerals?
A mineral is an inorganic compound that occurs naturally in rocks, metals and soils. Plants or other organisms break these minerals down and convert them into an organic form, this is mainly where we get our minerals from; in the form of food.
Trace minerals are found in microscopic amounts in a well-balanced diet and there are 103 known types of minerals; of these, at least 18 are categorized. They are zero calorie chemical compounds and aren’t responsible for supplying the body with energy. You’ll probably recognise some of the names from the packaging and nutritional labelling on much of your food.
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Sometimes trace minerals are known as macro-minerals, the following minerals are required in a slightly higher quantity than other minerals, but still at such a small degree that they are considered just a trace in comparison to other nutrients. Macro minerals include potassium, chlorine, sodium, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
Trace minerals might only be needed in microscopic amounts, but the work they do and the role they play in our health and wellbeing far exceeds how small they are. The following minerals are micro-minerals, vital for your health and without which you’ll be at risk of mineral deficiencies and health concerns: iron, zinc, manganese, copper, iodine, chromium, molybdenum, selenium, cobalt, bromine, nickel, boron, silicon and vanadium.
Why are Trace Minerals Important?
Trace minerals cause chemical reactions in your body, without this happening your cells wouldn’t be able to function at all. These tiny energetic minerals take on some incredible responsibilities: they keep your bones, muscles, heart, and brain working properly and help produce enzymes and hormones.
There are some warning signs and symptoms that you’ll experience if you’re not getting enough trace minerals. The most common symptoms linked to mineral deficiencies are:
- Anaemia- caused by a lack of iron
- Poor digestion, brain fog, poor appetite, and chronic fatigue; resulting from a mineral deficiency of magnesium
- A lack of potassium might see you experience excessive fluid loss, abdominal pain, and bloating
- A mineral deficiency in zinc causes a loss of libido, poor immunity and an inability to fully digest protein
- Muscle cramping, tingling in the extremities, and irregular heartbeat could be the sign of a calcium deficiency
Are you Getting Enough Trace Minerals?
These minerals are vital to your health. They are required in such small amounts that surely, you might think, it’s difficult to not be getting enough. However, there are a number of reasons you might have a mineral deficiency; due to your diet and also where your food is sourced from.
Three factors that impact if and how trace minerals make their way from source to diet include heavy food processing, the origin of food and poor diets.
Why are Minerals Decreasing?
The changing makeup of the soil that our food grows in, means there aren’t as many rich minerals and nutrients as there used to be. Factors like poor quality of soils, overexposure to heavy metals and pollution have decreased the richness of our soils. In 1992, a study found that U.S. soils contain 86% fewer minerals today than they did 100 years ago.
Over the years heavy food processing and poor diets have lead to a decrease in how much of these minerals are actually being absorbed through diet
Lifestyle factors might limit your bodies ability to access and absorb these minerals. The norms of modern day life like stress is one of the main culprits.
Some diets make you more at risk of not getting enough of certain trace minerals; vegan and vegetarians are more likely to have vitamin B12 deficiencies, which can be related to a lack of cobalt, as it’s main food source is dairy products, eggs and red meat.
Ways to Improve Your Intake of Trace Minerals
Your body doesn’t make trace minerals on its own. The only way to get them is via your diet. Generally, small lifestyle and diet changes can impact your access and absorption of trace minerals, Below we’ve highlighted six ways that you might want to consider to improve your trace mineral access and absorption.
Buy Local Produce
One way to avoid mineral deficiency is to consume plenty of natural, organic foods that are produced in harmony with nature. Being aware of where and how your food is grown is important; buy produce grown organically, using biodynamic farming methods that help enrich the soil with beneficial bacteria and, of course, trace minerals.
Avoid consuming mass produced food as they are typically grown in overworked or “dead” soils, that are heavily exposed to pesticides and herbicides that negatively impact our food’s mineral content.
Over-cooking foods can decrease their nutritional value and their trace mineral content. Balancing raw foods like salads, whole fruits, smoothies, sprouted nuts and seeds with cooked proportions of food can help boost your trace mineral count.
If you’re a slow eater and take more time to chew your foods you’ll extract more nutrients and minerals from your meals than speedy eaters. Sitting and enjoying your food, giving it you’re full focus is favored over a quick meal, as your body pays attention to the eating process and signals for more stomach acids to be released to digest tougher foods.
If your diet is restricted the supplements might be your best option. The possible side effects mean that trace mineral supplements should only be taken if prescribed by your doctor; an adapted well-balanced diet is advised before relying on supplements.