Serving roles as varied as regulating enzyme activity and maintaining acid-base balance to assisting with strength and growth, minerals are critical for human life. Unlike vitamins, many minerals are found in the body as well as food. The body’s ability to use the minerals is dependant on their bioavailability. Nearly all minerals, with exception of iron, are absorbed in their free form – that is, in their ionic state unbound to organic molecules and complexes. When bound to a complex, the mineral is considered not to be bioavailable and it will be excreted in feces. Typically, minerals with high bioavailability include sodium, potassium, chloride, iodide and fluoride. Minerals with low bioavailability include iron, chromium and manganese. All other minerals, including calcium and magnesium, are of medium bioavailability.
An important consideration when consuming minerals, and particularly when people take mineral supplements is the possibility of mineral to mineral interactions. Minerals can interfere with the absorption of other minerals. For example, zinc absorption may be decreased through iron supplementation. Zinc excesses can decrease copper absorption. Too much calcium limits the absorption of manganese, zinc and iron. When a mineral is not absorbed properly, deficiency may develop.
Serving a variety of functions in the body, minerals are typically categorised as macro minerals (bulk elements) and micro-minerals (trace elements). Micro-minerals include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, sodium, chloride and potassium. Micro-minerals include iron, iodine, selenium, zinc, and various other minerals.
Click here for a table of minerals and common foods and functions.