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Trace Minerals: What They Are and Their Importance

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Five percent of your diet typically includes macro minerals and trace minerals. Macro minerals are minerals that you need in quantities greater than 100mg/day and make up about 1 percent of your total body weight. These include sodium, chloride, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium. Trace minerals are elements that are needed is smaller amounts, 1-100mg/day by adults and are less than .01 percent of total body weight. These include Copper, Chromium, Fluoride, Iodine, Iron, Molybdenum, Manganese, Selenium, and Zinc. Trace Minerals are inorganic matter that cannot be destroyed by cooking or heat and are essential to the body for a variety of processes.

The daily needs for minerals are labeled with either Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) or Adequate Intake (AIs).

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) are the recommended daily needs of nutrients for most healthy adults of specific age and gender groups, this is chosen when there is firm scientific nutrient intake consensus.

Adequate Intake (AIs) are very similar to the RDAs, but this label is used when there is not enough evidence to determine firm RDAs.


Copper serves as a part of many enzymes, helps your body make hemoglobin and connective tissues, as well as plays a part in producing energy in your cells. Deficiency or excess intake is rare in the U.S.

Sources of copper include nuts, seeds, organ meats, and seafood.


  • M/F 14-18: 890 mcg/day
  • M/F 19+: 900 mcg/day


Chromium helps insulin in your body to use glucose. You are unlikely to consume excess from dietary sources but a deficiency could appear to look like diabetes.

Sources of chromium include whole-gains, cheese, peas, eggs and meats.


  • Males 14-50: 35 mcg/ day
  • Males 51+: 30 mcg/ day
  • Females 14-18: 24 mcg/day
  • Females 19-50: 25 mcg/ day
  • Females 51+: 20 mcg/day


Fluoride protects your teeth from decay, hardens tooth enamel and strengthens bones. Inadequate fluoride can result in weak tooth enamel but an excess can cause tooth mottling, or stains.

Sources of fluoride include tea, fish, and drinking water.


  • M/F 14-18: 3 mg/ day
  • Females 19+: 3 mg/day
  • Adult 19+: 4 mg/day


Iodine works as part of your thyroid hormones to regulate how your body uses energy. It also has an impact on the regulation of body temperature. People who are iodine deficient may experience weight gain or develop goiters. Goiters are enlarged thyroid glands and are frequently still seen in developing countries where the salt has not been iodized. Excess iodine can result in irregular heartbeat.

Sources of iodine include saltwater fish, potatoes, cooked navy beans and iodized salt.


  • Adults M/F: 150 mg/day


Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, needed to transport oxygen to every body cell and enzymes. It is needed for healthy brain development and immune function. A deficiency can lead to anemia, fatigue and infections. Excess amount can cause an enlarged liver, skin coloring, diabetes and internal damage.

Sources of iron include meats, beans, spinach, seeds and whole wheat foods.


  • Males 14-18: 11 mg/day
  • Males 19+: 8 mg/day
  • Females 14-18: 15 mg/day
  • Females 19-50: 18 mg/day
  • Females 51+: 8 mg/day


Manganese helps in bone formation, metabolism of energy from foods, and is a part of many enzymes. It works to help build cartilage and improve immune system response. It is rare to have a deficiency or consume excess from dietary sources.

Sources of manganese include whole-grain products, lentils, fruits (pineapple and strawberries) and vegetables (kale).


  • Males 14-18: 2.2 mg/day
  • Females 14-18: 1.6 mg/day
  • Males 19+: 2.3 mg/day
  • Females 19+: 1.8 mg/day


Molybdenum is a part of enzymes and works with riboflavin to help use iron to make red blood cells. Deficiency and excess consumption in a normal diet is rare.

Sources of molybdenum include liver, grain products, beans and dairy.


  • M/F 14-18: 43 mcg/day
  • M/F 19+: 45 mcg/day


Selenium works with Vitamin E as an antioxidant, both protecting cells and supporting immune function. Deficiency and overconsumption is rare in a normal diet.

Sources of selenium include seeds, whole-grains, seafood, organ meats and eggs.


  • M/F 14+: 55 mcg/ day


Zinc helps your body utilize food, supports enzymatic reactions and promotes cell reproduction and tissue growth and repair. It is needed for a healthy immune systems and skin integrity, and helps better utilize vitamin A. If there is inadequate amounts in the diet, zinc deficiency can impair growth in children and birth defects during pregnancy. Avoid excess zinc supplementation.

Sources of zinc include whole-grain products, meats, eggs, peas, nuts and seeds.


  • Males 14+: 11 mg/day
  • Females 14-18: 9 mg/day
  • Females 19+: 8 mg/day

To know more about the daily recommendations for children and pregnant or lactating women, refer to the USDA chart.

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Emily DeLacey MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and currently working in Jamaica as a HIV/ AIDS Prevention Specialist. She attended Central Washington University for her Bachelor's Degree in Science and Dietetics and continued on after her internship to Kent State University for her Master's Degree in Science and Nutrition, with a focus on public health and advocacy. She served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi 2012-2014 working as a Community Health Advisor in a rural village, immersing in the joys of life without electricity or running water. She has been to 20+ countries and 47 of the 50 states in the US. Traveling, adventuring and experiencing new cultures has made her a passionate advocate for the equality of nutrition and wellness for all people.

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