Minerals are inorganic substances required by body for a variety of functions such as formation of bones and teeth, essential constituents of body fluids and tissues, components of enzyme systems, nerve function.
Minerals are required in small quantities, but they are important to our general health.
The most important ingredient for the bones and the overall development of the brain. This mineral helps us to stand upright and makes the outset of bone related diseases a challenge if taken in adequate quantities.
Our need for minerals in our diet, even though in the most tiny amounts, reflects our link with our ancient heritage of the sea. The major salts from seawater in various combinations are the same as the salts in our cells and body fluids. This is why some of the mineral supplements sold today are taken from dry seabeds.
What are benefits of Minerals?
In general, the minerals have the following functions in the body:
- elements of bone structure;
- they aid in various metabolic reactions;
- they help in moving substances across body cell membranes;
- they assist in the movement of muscles; and
- they are needed as part of compounds that contain organic matter (vitamins, hormones, certain elements of the blood, and enzymes).
How much of each mineral do we need?
The body requires different amounts of each mineral. Each person has different requirements too, according to their age, sex and state of health. The Department of Health has drawn up Dietary Reference Values (DRVs) for minerals for different groups of healthy people.
The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) is the amount of a nutrient that will satisfy the needs of practically all the population.
Certain groups of people may have higher requirements for specific minerals, eg those suffering from certain medical conditions, those recovering from illness and some athletes. These people need to ensure they obtain adequate intakes by eating foods rich in the mineral concerned; sometimes supplements may be useful.
Are mineral supplements necessary?
Mineral supplements are generally unnecessary since most people should be able to satisfy their requirements by eating a varied diet. People who have higher than normal requirements, eg the sick, those taking certain drugs and women with high menstrual losses, should ensure they eat foods rich in that mineral. If necessary, supplements may be prescribed by their doctor. Iron supplements are sometimes given to pregnant women, but supplements may cause mineral imbalances or have other side-effects.