Trace Minerals

Trace Minerals

Are you exhausted yet from the major minerals, the vitamins, and the macronutrients? Bad news, I’ve got eight more trace minerals to cover here! But I’ll keep these a bit more concise, because I’m eager to get to some good stuff here at Salt and Skillet!! If it’s all right with you, I’m going to just jump right in.

Learn about the trace minerals iron, copper, selenium, zinc, iodine, fluoride, chromium, and manganese in this "Nutrition in a Nutshell!"

Trace Minerals


What does iron do for my body?

Iron has several functions, including acting as a cofactor to certain enzymes (translation: they help chemicals interact with other chemicals). These enzymes are involved in making amino acids, collagen, hormones, and neurotransmitters, and all require iron.

Iron also helps to transport oxygen through our body as part of the protein hemoglobin (in our blood) and myoglobin (in our muscles). Our bodies try to store as much iron as possible so that there’s a healthy supply ready to make new red blood cells (which only live about 4 months, and are made in the marrow of your bones!)

The recommendations for iron differ between men and women because of a woman’s menstrual cycle, where iron is lost from the body. The RDA for men is 8 mg/day, but for women it’s 18 mg/day. There is an upper limit of 45 mg/day.

deficiency of iron can lead to a condition called pica. Someone with pica has a strong craving for nonfood substances like clay, paper, or baby powder.


Where can I find iron in my diet?

Meat, poultry, and fish all contain iron, as well as eggs, legumes,broccoli, parsley, and other dark greens. Vitamin C, citric and lactic acids, and sugars all help iron to be absorbed. However, phytates (in legumes and grains), vegetable proteins (in soybeans, legumes, and nuts), calcium, and tannic acid (in tea and coffees) hinder the absorption of iron. Either way, a balanced meal is never a bad choice!

Interestingly, if you cook with a cast iron skillet, it’ll transfer a bit of iron into your food!


What does zinc do for my body?

Zinc supports many proteins in the body to help them carry out metabolic processes, including gene expression. It stabilized cell membranes and DNA, strengthening antioxidants. Zinc also plays a large role in growth and reproductive development. It plays a role in blood clotting, thyroid hormone function, and even influences behavior and learning performance! Zinc is no joke.

The daily recommendation for zinc is 11 mg/day for men and 8 mg/day for women. There’s an upper limit of 40 mg/day.

A deficiency of zinc can cause severe growth retardation and sexual immaturity. It hinders digestion and absorption and impairs immunity, and can even damage the central nervous system, leading to poor motor development.

Where can I find zinc in my diet?

Zinc is highest in protein-rich foods like meat, shellfish, poultry, eggs, legumes, and nuts. Oysters are ridiculously high in zinc, and can meat your daily needs in less than 3oz!


What does iodine do for my body?

Iodine (which becomes iodide once inside the body, but don’t worry about that) is integral in the function of the thyroid hormones. These hormones regulate growth, blood cell production, body temperature, reproduction, nerve and muscle function, and more!

The RDA for adults is 150 micrograms/day, with an upper limit of 1100 micrograms/day (1.1 mg).

deficiency of iodine results in a goiter – an enlargement of the thyroid gland. Interestingly, toxicity has the same effect! Deficiency during pregnancy and childhood can lead to severe mental retardation.

Where can I find iodine in my diet?

Ever heard of iodized salt? Iodine was introduced to table salt to help distribute the mineral to ensure everyone was meeting their needs. Seafood is a great source, as well as vegetables that have been grown in iodine-rich soil (but, really, how can we know that?) Dairy and bread products may also have iodine in them!


What does selenium do for my body?

Selenium acts as an antioxidant for our bodies!

The recommended daily allowance for selenium is 55 micrograms/day, with an upper limit of 400 micrograms/day.

deficiency of selenium predisposes people to Keshan disease – a heart disease characterized by a fibrous and enlarged heart.

toxicity results in brittle hair and nails, a garlic breath odor, and nervous system abnormalities.

Where can I find selenium in my diet?

Meats, milk, eggs, nuts, and fruits and vegetables are good sources of selenium. The produce does depend on the soil it’s grown in, like iodine.


What does copper do for my body?

Copper is a constituent for several enzymes, and is used for energy metabolism, collagen synthesis, and protecting against oxidative damage of free radicals. It is necessary for the absorption and use of iron in the formation of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells.

The RDA for copper is 900 micrograms/day, with an upper limit of 10 mg/day.

deficiency of copper could cause anemia and bone abnormalities. A toxicity can lead to liver damage.

Where can I find copper in my diet?

Legumes, whole grains, nuts, shellfish, and seeds are the best sources of copper. The mineral can also leach into your food when cooking with a copper pot or pan.


What does manganese do for my body?

Manganese (not to be confused with magnesium) facilitates the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. Manganese also assists in bone formation.

2.3 mg/day and 1.8 mg/day are adequate amounts of manganese for men and women, respectively. Consumption shouldn’t exceed 11 mg/day, as a toxicity can result in nervous system disorders.

Where can I find manganese in my diet?

Nuts, whole grains, leafy vegetables, and tea are the best sources of manganese.


What does fluoride do for my body?

When building bones and teeth, calcium and phosphorus form crystals. Then, fluoride comes in and finishes the job by hardening and strengthening them! Fluoride is integral to dental health.

An adequate amount of fluoride is a mere 4 mg/day for men and 3 mg/day for women. An upper limit of 10 mg/day has been set.

deficiency of fluoride can cause tooth decay, where toxicity results in pitting and discoloration of teeth.

Where can I find fluoride in my diet?

The good news is, fluoride is in your drinking water! Seafood and tea also serve as great sources to keep your teeth strong.


What does chromium do for my body?

Chromium participates in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism and helps to maintain glucose homeostasis. It enhances the activity of insulin.

Intake is adequate at 35 micrograms/day for men and 25 micrograms/day for women. A deficiency results in a diabetes-like condition with raise glucose levels and glucose intolerance.

Where can I find chromium in my diet?

Meats, whole grains, and brewer’s yeast are your best sources of chromium.

Even though those descriptions were brief, that was a TON of information. Especially if you’re following the Nutrition in a Nutshell page alllll the way from top to bottom.

Minerals are probably the nutrient that gets overlooked the most, but as you can see, they are so important for so many of our bodies’ functions! While no one expects you to count the little micrograms of trace minerals, it’s still good to know what they do for you and where you can get them.

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