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Articles Fitness Nutrition

Trace Minerals: What They Are and Their Importance

Trace minerals are a group of minerals that the body needs in very small amounts. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for most vitamins and minerals is 800 to 1,200 milligrams per day. For trace minerals, the RDA averages between 0.2 milligrams and 15 milligrams per day, depending on the mineral.

Types of Trace Minerals

Trace minerals include:

  • iron
  • zinc
  • manganese
  • copper
  • fluoride
  • molybdenum iodine
  • chromium
  • selenium

Of the trace minerals, iron, copper, zinc and selenium are the most important.

Trace Mineral Supplements

Trace minerals can be found in a wide variety of foods, so supplements are rarely necessary. Trace mineral supplements should only be taken if recommended by a physician. A physician may recommend trace mineral supplements under certain conditions such as an abnormally heavy menstrual flow, pregnancy or recuperation after a surgical procedure. If trace mineral supplements are taken outside of a doctor’s care, individuals should not take more than 150% of the RDA, as trace minerals can be hazardous to your health in large amounts. An overabundance of trace minerals in the system can interfere with how well the body utilizes other important vitamins and minerals.

Iron

The trace mineral iron is critical to blood formation and function. It can be found in:

  • whole grain products
  • enriched breads and cereals
  • meats (specifically organ meats)
  • fish and seafood
  • poultry
  • vegetables
  • legumes

Iron intake needs are especially important during infancy, early childhood, during a woman’s child bearing years, during pregnancy and up to three months after. The body needs 10.0-18.0 milligrams if iron per day.

Copper

Copper is important to bone and cartilage development, and it helps the body use the trace mineral iron in forming blood. Copper also enables body cells to use the energy present in fat, carbohydrates and protein. Copper can be found in:

  • beef and organ meats
  • nuts
  • fruits and vegetables
  • legumes
  • whole grain products

Copper trace mineral deficiency is rare. If a deficiency occurs, it is usually the result of genetic disease, a limited diet or if the body consumes too much zinc. The body needs 2.0-3.0 milligrams of copper a day for proper functioning.

Zinc

The trace mineral zinc is essential for body growth and maturation and development, as well as tissue repair and resistance to disease. Zinc is an important mineral for children and the elderly, and it can be found in meats, specifically organ meats, poultry, and seafood. Although rare, trace mineral deficiencies related to zinc can result in reduced growth in children, reduced resistance to infection in adults and delayed wound healing in people of all ages. The body needs 15.0 milligrams of zinc per day.

Selenium

The trace mineral selenium helps protect body cell membranes from deterioration. It is also believed that selenium possesses protective properties against cancer. The human body only needs 0.02-0.2 milligrams of selenium per day. Whole grains, meats, poultry and fish are all excellent sources of selenium. Because the RDA for trace minerals is so miniscule, a balanced diet of ordinary  foods, fruits and vegetables is all that is needed to consume the necessary amounts daily. 

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