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What is a mineral

There are 3 main types of minerals. Firstly there's the dietary mineral which are inorganic elements that are essential to humans and animals for normal body function. Dietary minerals are derived from the earth's crust. Plants absorb the minerals from the soil, and humans and animals, in turn, consume the plants.

Next we have biochemic minerals. These are commonly referred to as 'Tissue Salts' or 'Cell Salts' and were discovered by Dr Wilhem Schüessler in the late 1880's. The Biochemic System states that the body is merely a collection of cells, and that medicinal treatment should be directed towards the individual cell. In this respect, tissue salts are mineral complexes formulated to rectify cellular mineral imbalances. More information on Tissue Salts

And lastly we have geological minerals such as 'crystals' and rocks which are elements or chemical compounds that normally crystalline and that have been formed as a result of geological processes. Minerals range in composition from pure elements and simple salts to very complex silicates with thousands of known forms. Chemistry and crystal structure together define a mineral and there are currently more than 4,000 known minerals. To name a few: Quartz, Topaz, Diamonds, Calcite, Flourite, Citrine, Opal, Graphite etc etc. Although I love crystals, these are not the minerals we'll be looking at on this page.

Dietary Minerals

Minerals by themselves are inactive chemical elements, like the iron in a pan or calcium in a rock. But in the body, mineral nutrients are required to build tissues. They are important for muscle contractions, nerve reactions, and blood clotting. Minerals help maintain acid-base balance, to keep the body pH neutral and they help regulate body processes, such as in enzyme systems. Minerals function in nerve impulse transmission and muscle contraction. They help release energy from food. For instance, calcium and phosphorous are important in bone structure and growth; potassium and sodium for electrolyte balance; and iron for oxygen transport. Some enzymes need metal ions obtained from minerals to aid chemical reactions in the body.

Importance of adequate intake

Appropriate intake levels of each dietary mineral must be sustained to maintain physical health. Hypocalcaemia is an abnormally low level of blood calcium. Osteoporosis is influenced by hormonal levels and may be ameliorated by adequate calcium intake. Chromium deficiencies can affect the potency of insulin in regulating sugar balance. Chromium deficiency may be seen as impaired glucose tolerance. Deficiency of iodine and other micronutrients and may be a possible factor in observed differences in IQ between ethnic groups. Lack of iron may lead to unusual tiredness, shortness of breath, a decrease in physical performance, and learning problems in children and adults. Severe magnesium deficiency can result in low levels of calcium in the blood (hypocalcemia). Low dietary manganese or low levels of manganese in blood or tissue have been associated with several chronic diseases. Inadequate phosphorus intake results in abnormally low serum phosphate levels (hypophosphatemia). Potassium deficiency can cause problems with the formation of connective tissue, and can render normally strong body tissue vulnerable to all kinds of problems. Zinc deficiency can lead to immune dysfunction and impairments in growth, cognitive function, and hormonal function.

Excessive intake is dangerous

Excessive intake of a dietary mineral may either lead to illness directly or indirectly because of the competitive nature between mineral levels in the body. Excessive amounts of calcium in the blood may cause nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, increased urination, kidney toxicity, confusion, and irregular heart rhythm. Excessive iodine intake may be associated with an increased incidence of thyroid papillary cancer. Excessive dietary iron is toxic, because excess ferrous iron reacts with peroxides in the body, producing free radicals. Very high levels of magnesium in the blood can lead to heart problems or an inability to breathe. high intake of molybdenum can alter the activity of alkaline phosphatase. Too much phosphate can lead to diarrhea and calcification (hardening) of organs and soft tissue, and can interfere with the body's ability to use iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Increased level of potassium in the blood is known as hyperkalemia. High blood levels of selenium can result in a condition called selenosis. Excessive absorption of zinc into the human body can lead to reduced iron function, and impair the immune system.

Dietary Minerals can be divided into three groups: the macrominerals (bulk elements), microminerals (trace elements) and ultratrace elements (elements that are consumed in microgram quantities). Dietary minerals classified as "macromineral" are required in relatively large amounts. Conversely "microminerals" or "trace minerals" are required in relatively minute amounts. There is no universally accepted definition of the difference between "large" and "small" amounts however the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of macro and micro minerals has been established.


Macrominerals are present in virtually all cells of the body, maintaining general homeostasis and required for normal functioning. Acute imbalances of these minerals can be potentially fatal, although nutrition is rarely the cause in these cases. There are 7 macrominerals namely Calcium, Chloride, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium and Sulphur.

Trace minerals

Boron, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Fluorine, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Selenium, Silicon, Zinc

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BORON: The Bone Boy

Essential for strong bones – helps prevent calcium loss in menopause. Helps with bone demineralisation - excellent for sufferers of osteoporosis. Taken by body builders and athletes to help build muscle. Increases testosterone levels.
Adults: 1 – 3 mg
Children: Not necessary due to toxicity ! ! !
Sources: Prunes, dates, raisins, honey, nuts, fresh fruit such as grapes and pears, green leafy vegetables and legumes.
CAUTION: Can be toxic – red rash, vomiting, diarrhoea, reduced circulation, shock and then coma.

CALCIUM: The Bone Builder

Besides being necessary for our SKIN, BONES and TEETH, calcium is an excellent NERVE TONIC. It helps your muscles contract and your blood clot. It restores the BODY'S PH to an alkaline state therefore beneficial in treating CANCER and inflammatory diseases such as GOUT & ARTHRITIS. Excellent in treating PMS and CRAMPS.
Adults: 800 – 1200 mg (Ca : 1200 mg – Mg : 600 mg)
Children: 600 – 800 mg
Sources: Swiss & cheddar cheese, diary, broccoli, green leafy veg, salmon, tinned fish, nuts, eggs
CAUTION: Never take calcium without magnesium. Magnesium helps prevent calcium deposits by keeping calcium in the bloodstream for longer. Ratio = 3:2 or 2:1 2000 mg + excess Vit D can lead to Hypercalcemia (calcium deposits in kidneys)
Notes: When Oestrogen + Magnesium are present, calcium is retained in the bloodstream for longer. It is VERY important to supplement during menopause, pregnancy & if breast-feeding. BEST ABSORBED AT NIGHT

MAGNESIUM: Calcium's Buddy

Magnesium is essential for every biochemical process within the body including METABOLISM, ENERGY PRODUCTION and CELL REPLICATION. Known as the ANTI-STRESS mineral.
Adults: 375 – 500 mg
Children: 200 – 375 mg
Sources: Figs, lemons, grapefruit, brown rice, yellow corn, nuts, seeds, apples, dark green veg.
CAUTION: Magnesium is toxic to people with renal problems or atrioventricular blocks
Notes: The elderly, heavy drinkers, pregnant woman and those doing strenuous exercise should supplement with magnesium.
Hiccups = magnesium deficiency. Spasm of the diaphragm.

POTASSIUM: Sodium's Partner

Probably the most important mineral in our body. It works with sodium and chloride to maintain water balance in the body (forms electrolytes = essential body salts that make up our body fluids). It plays a role in nerve conduction, heartbeat, energy production, synthesis of nucleic acids and proteins, and the contraction of muscles. The more salt you eat the more potassium you need. Laxatives remove potassium to deficiency is likely. Low blood sugar also causes potassium loss
Adults: 1 – 3g
Children: 900mg
Sources: Dried fruits esp. prunes, fruit & veg esp. banana

CHROMIUM: The Energy Factor

Chromium is essential for SUGAR METABOLISM therefore it is beneficial for DIABETICS. It is essential for HEART FUNCTION and helps with transportation of PROTEINS in the body.
Adults: 100 mcg Diabetics: 600 – 1000 mcg
Children: 35 – 50 mcg
Sources: Wholemeal & rye bread, meat, shellfish, chicken, brewer's yeast, peanuts
Notes: Chelated zinc may substitute well for deficient chromium. Low blood sugars = 'nervous pancreas'

COPPER: Anti-Oxidant Mineral

Copper is an essential trace mineral and is necessary for respiration. Iron and copper are required for O2 to be synthesised in red blood cells. Important in the production of collagen – bones, cartilage and skin. May reduce pain and inflammation (Copper bracelets) therefore helpful in treating arthritis.
Adults: 1 – 3 mg
Children: 1 mg
Sources: Animal liver, shellfish, nuts, fruit, oysters, kidney, legumes
CAUTION: Excess can lead to vomiting, diarrhoea, muscular pain and dementia.

IRON: The Oxygen Carrier

Iron is necessary for production of HAEMOGLOBIN (red blood corpuscles), MYOGLOBIN (red pigment in muscles) and certain ENZYMES.
Adults: 10 – 15 mg
Children: 7 – 10 mg *Not recommended unless under MD supervision
Sources: Pumpkin seeds, almonds, dried fruit, egg yolk, oysters, asparagus, red meat, pork liver, beef kidney, heart & liver, nuts, beans, molasses, oatmeal.
CAUTION: *Even small doses can cause death in children.
Max daily dose for adults = 15 mg.
NEVER take iron supplements with Ceylon Tea!!
Notes: Iron is necessary for proper metabolism of B Vitamins. Copper, cobalt, manganese and Vit C are necessary to assimilate iron.

MANGANESE: The Forgotten Mineral

Necessary for the normal functioning of the brain and treating nervous disorders, therefore helpful in treating Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia. Deficiency frequent in diabetics therefore could play a role in maintaining blood sugar balance. Also involved in the formation of cartilage (forms mucopolysaccharides).
Adults: 3 – 6 mg
Children: 1 – 3 mg
Sources: Tropical fruit, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

SELENIUM: The Anti-Cancer Mineral

Selenium is an ANTI – OXIDANT and is vital in METABOLISM. It is essential in the body's manufacture of PROTEINS. It also forms part of male sperm and deficiency in this mineral can lead to INFERTILITY IN MALES. Essential for the HEART.
Adults: 50 – 200 mcg
Children: 50 mcg
Sources: Brazil nuts, tuna, oysters, wheat germ, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, kidney, whole wheat bread.
CAUTION: Can be toxic in small doses. Blackened fingernails & garlic odour on breath. Max daily dose = 500 mcg
Notes: Selenium should be taken with Vitamin E = synergenic blend

ZINC: The Role Player

Zinc is required for more than 200 ENZYME ACTIVITIES within the body. It is the PRINCIPAL PROTECTOR of the IMMUNE SYSTEM. It is crucial or REGULATING OUR GENETIC INFO. Zinc is an ANTI – OXIDANT that can help to detoxify the body and is essential for GROWTH.
Adults: 10 – 15 mg
Children: 5 – 7 mg
Sources: Round steak, lamb chops, pork loin, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, eggs, oysters, pecans
CAUTION: Very high doses can lead to vomiting, nausea & diarrhoea (150 mg)
Notes: The soil in SA is severely deficient in magnesium and Zinc. Taken with Vitamin C to improves healing.

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