Minerals are important nutrients in your diet that help the body maintain good health and resist infection—including the mouth and teeth. Minerals are inorganic elements that come from the earth, soil, and water and are absorbed by plants. Animals and humans absorb minerals from the plants they eat.
There are two kinds of minerals—macrominerals and trace minerals—that your body uses within its cells for many different jobs. Macrominerals are required in larger amounts and are necessary for processes such as building bones, making hormones, contracting muscles, and regulating your heartbeat. They also play a role in brain function. Macrominerals include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur. Trace minerals, including iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, and selenium, are needed in much smaller quantities.
Consuming too much or too little of any mineral can have negative effects on health. For most people in good health, a safe range for consumption of minerals has been established (see Resources). Personal variation comes into play depending on one’s region, history of illness, and dietary restrictions.
Conventional wisdom dictates that the best way to get the minerals (and vitamins) your body needs is to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of foods. However, recent research shows that while the vitamin content of food remains relatively stable over time, mineral content is becoming depleted. There are many reasons for this; erosion, farming practices, pollution, and even the way we cook can affect the nutrient density of both conventionally and organically harvested foods. Consequently, holistic health practitioners may recommend trace mineral supplementation even for someone eating the healthiest diet possible.