“Your body will work, if you take the minerals it requires to function.“
– Dr. Carolyn Dean MD, author, “Magnesium Miracle“
”You can trace every sickness, every disease and every ailment to a mineral deficiency.”
– Dr. Linus Pauling PhD, two-time Nobel Prize winner, author, “How to Live Longer and Feel Better.“
Minerals make up about four percent of your body. They weigh about two and seven tenths kilograms (six pounds). A healthy body requires a variety of minerals and vitamins. Recommended dietary intakes and guidelines are a political matter. They vary from country, and they overlook biochemical individuality.
You are what you eat, but most of all you are what you absorb, including necessary minerals and vitamins. There can be wide individual variations in requirements for minerals and vitamins. You may be deficient in one or more minerals or vitamins, while someone else is not deficient, even consuming the same amounts in food.
Signs of nutrient deficiencies are individual and not specific. For example, a magnesium deficiency may cause insomnia, constipation, or loss of memory in one person but irregular heartbeats in another. Common signs of magnesium deficiency may include muscle tension, leg cramps, back pain, frequent headaches, and insomnia.
A vitamin B12 deficiency may cause fatigue in one person, but mental problems in another, and so on.
- preliminary, a reduction of tissue stores and urinary excretion,
- biochemical, a reduction of enzyme activity due to insufficient nutrients,
- physiological, behavioral effects and reduced immunity,
- clinical, classic nutrition deficiency signs as outlined in nutrition textbooks,
- terminal, severe tissue pathology eventually ending in death.
Note that I do not sell supplements. You can obtain minerals from foods, if the soil contained the minerals. If the soil lacks certain minerals, then foods grown in that soil lack these minerals. Tilling the soil depletes the soil of minerals, but not all soils are depleted of minerals.
Health via food is about how to find healthy eating habits for you, the individual. This is an art, not a science, because of biochemical individuality.
- Hard tissue problems can indicate deficiencies of magnesium and calcium, among others.
- Soft tissue problems can indicate deficiencies of essential fatty acids and selenium,
- Blood sugar problems can indicate deficiencies of chromium and vanadium.
- Digestion problems can indicate deficiencies in digestive enzymes and gut flora.
Note that Dr. Wallach also promotes supplements. I do not sell supplements. I suggest finding a healthy set of eating habits for the individual first. It is possible to learn from Wallach without buying his supplements.
Many minerals are necessary for health, such as iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, and others, but some minerals, even in trace amounts, such as arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, barium, strontium, and aluminum, can be toxic. Again, the required minimum consumption and and toxic quantities of minerals vary from person to person.
Minerals and vitamins are micro-nutrients. They interact. You require both minerals and vitamins for healthy digestion. Unlike vitamins, minerals come only from the soil. Most mammals make their own vitamin C, while the human being does not. You can make some vitamins internally, but you cannot make minerals. For example, depending on your individual digestive system, you can produce some B vitamins, but you cannot produce the magnesium and potassium required for various digestive processes.
Some mineral deficiencies in the soil are known to create conditions that either prevent growth of these plants or are favorable to fungus and ill health of the plants. Some blighted orchards can be remediated with a mixture of minerals applied to the soil.
In many places, according to modern agricultural methods, the soil is tilled. This often disrupts the healthy bacteria in the soil. These bacteria fix the nutrients in the plants. Also under conventional agriculture, the soil is often treated with artificial fertilizers to try to increase the phosphorous and potassium in the soil. Fertilizers are often denominated with a specific NPK content. “N” stands for nitrogen. “P” stands for phosphorus. “K” stands for potassium. Unfortunately, this nomenclature overlooks the many other minerals often required for the health of the soil and also for our health. In this sense, the plants are a conduit for our health.
Similarly, the controversial herbicide glyphosate can prevent absorption of certain minerals by plants, according to some research. This use was even noted in a 1964 patent. A 2015 report (final addendum, page 37 of the pdf file and page 28 of the printed report) by EFSA (European Food Safety Agency) contains a short section on the chelating properties of glyphosate: “Glyphosate can be transferred from the roots of target plants to the rhizosphere (surrounding roots) and non-target plants can also be influenced. This can reduce absorption of micronutrients (creating manganese and iron deficiency). Glyphosate is a strong chelator to various divalent cations such as calcium, iron, copper, and manganese. Glyphosate binds micronutrients in the soil and can cause micronutrient deficiencies in plants that increase their susceptibility to disease.” (Parentheses are mine.) This is the subject of much controversy, so read the research and think for yourself.
Other methods of agriculture are possible, organic farming or its cousin, permaculture. I was born in a city, so I have no knowledge nor practical experience of these methods. My friends who know conventional farming methods tell me that organic methods are ancient, including:
- not tilling the soil in order to cultivate the soil microbiome, such as the bacteria to fix nitrogen in the roots,
- planting synergistically and on smaller plots of land than for monoculture,
- cultivating diverse crops, for example alternating in time or space at least root vegetables, leafy vegetables, and flowering vegetables (fruits),
- integrating plant cultivation (for animal feed) and animal husbandry (for compost),
- rotating crops, and
- leaving the soil fallow now and then.
The real advantage of organic produce is that it tends to contain more minerals and vitamins than conventional produce. This is often overlooked in the fear of artificial pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers. Some conventional produce is sprayed more than others. For details, see the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists of the Environmental Working Group. Organic produce currently makes up about ten to fifteen percent of the market in Belgium and Europe. This market share is increasing. If it continues to increase, then prices will fall, or else relative prices will fall. Organic carrots, beets, spinach, celery, cucumber, apples, pears, bananas, onions, cauliflower, and cabbage are cheap, compared with the price of ill health.
Many people have mineral deficiencies that they do not recognize. The most common deficiency is of iron, although some people can have an iron excess. Other common mineral deficiencies are magnesium, iodine, zinc, selenium, and others. There are different opinions about the most common mineral and vitamin deficiencies. You are concerned about what you and your loved ones may be deficient in, regardless of the statistics.
Nota bene. I am not promoting food supplements. Beware of cheap food supplements. Many are low-quality, inorganic, and made of ground, powdered rock, not whole plants nor even bones of healthy animals. Commercially, they are rarely controlled for their content in heavy metals, such as cadmium, lead, mercury, and arsenic. Many of the formulations are not absorbed well into the blood, tissues, and bones. Powdered rocks nobody absorbs well. There can be some truth to the stale criticism that mineral and vitamin supplements simply make your urine more expensive. I suggest trying to obtain your minerals from the food that you eat. Why are there fewer nutrients in our food? Let your food nourish you. As Hippocrates said, “let your food be your medicine“.
Regarding health via food, minerals can be sorted into two groups:
- macro-minerals and
The difference has to do with the quantities required for healthy digestion and other functions. Macro-minerals are required in hundred of milligrams or thousands of grams per day. Micro-minerals are required in milligrams per person per day. These quantities can vary from person to person. Some people were born with mineral deficiencies from one or another of their parents. Intensive exercise can require more minerals.
Suppliers of tests of nutrient deficiencies include SpectraCell, Genova Diagnostics, and OligoScan (sample test results). This is not to endorse any of these firms. Do your own research, and find a doctor competent to read their reports. Some tests are more reliable than others. For example, magnesium is found mostly inside red blood cells (and not by conventional blood tests). So, unless the test measures the magnesium inside your red blood cells, called a red blood cell (rbc) test, the test is meaningless, regarding magnesium deficiencies.
Again, on account of biochemical individuality, there are wide variations in requirements for minerals and vitamins. What quantities are required, even with individual variations? What are they used for? What foods have them? These questions cannot be answered with precision. The body is not a machine. The body is a garden, but your garden is not my garden. Also, the mineral content of a specific food depends on the soil it was grown in and the specific batch. Commercial fertilizers include nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (NPK), but they rarely include other nutrients.
Macro-minerals, also known as abundant elements, make up about ninety-six percent of the minerals in your body. The following are macro-minerals, their symbols for shorthand, where they are concentrated, and what you use them for:
- calcium – Ca+ – concentrated in the bones and teeth, and required for blood clotting and muscle contraction, as described by Merck,
- magnesium – Mg+ – concentrated in the bones, heart, and inside red blood cells, and required for many physiological processes (physical functions), as described by Merck and the Functional Nutrition Alliance,
- potassium – K+ – concentrated in the pancreas, but also found in bones and teeth, and required by the nervous system and the muscles, as described by Merck,
- sodium – Na+ – concentrated in the blood, the fluid outside your cells, and the kidneys, and required for many physiological processes, in balance with potassium, as described by Merck,
- phosphorous – P– – found in all cells in the body, mostly in bones and teeth, as described by Merck,
- chloride – Cl– – not strictly a mineral, but found in blood, lymph, and all cells in the body, and necessary to regulate the acid-alkaline balance. Note that this refers to the organic chloride found in nature, such as mountain salt (sodium chloride – NaCl), sea salt, or celery, and not to the synthetic chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite – NaClO) added to some urban water supplies and swimming pools for disinfection. (An inexpensive alternative to disinfect drinking water is a chlorine dioxide solution made of sodium chlorite [NaClO2] mixed with an acid, such as hydrochloric acid or ascorbic acid. You can add drops of this mix to a liter of water to disinfect it by oxidation.)
Calcium receives the most publicity, but magnesium is perhaps the most overlooked mineral necessary for health. According to Dr. Klaus Kisters and others, there are various possible signs of magnesium deficiency. According to Dr. David Jockers, the specific signs of magnesium deficiency depend on the person.
Most minerals from food leave an alkaline reside in the blood, including calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, zinc, manganese, chromium, selenium, iron, and copper. Other minerals leave an acidic residue in the blood, including phosphorous, sulfur, iodine, and chloride (found in salt). Proteins, dairy, most grains, most beans, and toxic metals form acids in the blood. Phytic acid in grains and beans contains phosphorous. Health depends on consuming more alkaline- than acid-forming foods. This is known as the acid-alkaline balance, which is an art, not a precise science.
Note that citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes, and grapefruit taste sour and acidic, but they are in fact alkaline-forming due to their content of minerals.
What foods have them? What are they used for in the body? What quantities of minerals do you require? Where are they concentrated in the body? On account of biochemical individuality and the variability of nature, these questions cannot be answered with precision. From my reading of the books on this subject, the following table lists the macro-minerals, how much you may require, what you use them for, and what foods have them. Do your own research, and listen to your body. Beware that:
- Your individual mineral requirements for health may vary widely from the statistical average.
- You require a mix of minerals, not one or another isolated mineral.
- An excess of one mineral can cause excretion or deficiency of another. For example, an excess of sodium (in salt) prompts you to excrete calcium and potassium.
There can be a healthy or unhealthy individual balance between specific minerals. An excess of calcium can cause a deficiency of magnesium, iron, or zinc. An excess of zinc can cause a deficiency of copper. The more vitamin C you consume, the more iron you absorb. An excess of iron can cause a deficiency of zinc. A perceived deficiency of iron may be in fact a deficiency of copper. Copper can stimulate the absorption of iron and the formation of red blood cells. Calcium and sodium are mostly extracellular, while magnesium and potassium are mostly intracellular. Zinc reduces manganese in the blood. According to Max Gerson, the consumption of sodium, for example from salt, is only unhealthy, if it is not greatly offset by the consumption of potassium, for example from apple cider vinegar, bananas, or avocados.
The body is a garden, but your garden is not my garden. Finding an optimal balance of nutrients depends on listening to your body. Minerals from food are usually better absorbed than minerals from supplements.
Table of macro-minerals and possible food sources
The official references and recommended dietary intakes vary from country to country. Some are only enough to prevent a deficiency disease. The official recommendations overlook the fact even a healthy individual may have requirements that exceed the recommendations. They also overlook therapeutic amounts. You are not a statistic.
|Mineral and symbol||Daily requirements?||Where found and used?||What foods have it?|
|Calcium – Ca||1 – 2 grams||bones, teeth, muscles, extracellular fluid||parsley, fenugreek, rosemary, almonds, carob, sesame seeds, tahini, broccoli, kale, millet, bone broth, tofu|
|Magnesium – Mg||420 – 1000 milligrams||nerves, bones, teeth, heart, muscles, intracellular||green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and parsley, chlorophyll, chlorella, dark chocolate, cumin|
|Potassium – K||4 – 5 grams||nervous system, heart, bones, pancreas, intracellular||bananas, plums, prunes, carrots, spinach, coriander (cilantro), sweet potatoes, peas, sardines, mangos, dates, avocado, raisins, papaya, apricots|
|Sodium – Na||?||nervous system, bones, extracellular||salt, celery|
|Phosphorous – P||?||bones, blood, muscles, nerves, teeth, and adenosine triphosphate (atp), which is cellular energy||meats, poultry, fish, almonds, broccoli, quinoa, amaranth, grains, fibrous vegetables, lentils, beans, legumes, soybeans, natto, tempeh, fruits|
|Chloride – Cl||?||digestion in the stomach by hydrochloric acid||salt, celery|
Most people have a kilo (two pounds) or more of calcium. There is more calcium in your body than any other mineral. Your bones and teeth have ninety-nine percent of your calcium (and eight-five percent of your phosphorous). You use calcium to contract your muscles. Calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous are all required for healthy bones. Vitamin D is required to absorb the calcium. A balance between magnesium and calcium is required for a healthy heart. Phytic acid in grains can slow down or prevent calcium absorption. Beware of calcium supplements. Also, be aware that calcium absorption reduces iron absorption.
Besides calcium, sodium, and potassium, magnesium is an “electrolyte” needed for energy production, protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, regulation of blood sugar levels, and the formation of bones and DNA. Magnesium is also necessary for maintaining a steady heartbeat and supporting the immune system. Most deficiencies come from a poor diet or gut problems that interfere with magnesium absorption.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral found in the body. It is especially necessary for your heart, kidneys, muscles, and nervous system. Magnesium enhances absorption of vitamin D. You have about twenty-five to thirty grams (one ounce) of magnesium in your body, mostly in your bones and teeth, in your heart, and in your red blood cells.
Many people are deficient in magnesium, which is often overlooked in the publicity about calcium and dairy. If you are chronically deficient in magnesium, you put your health at risk, according to Dr. Carolyn Dean in her book “The Magnesium Miracle“. According to Dr. Dean, the signs of magnesium deficiency vary from person to person, but include cramps, muscle pain, insomnia, fatigue, heart disease, diabetes, migraine headaches, osteoporosis, and dementia. Do your own research. She writes about magnesium deficiency or her one hour and fifty-two minute video about magnesium and minerals. Dr. Peter Osborne also describes signs of magnesium deficiency. Further, Dr. Josh Axe describes warning signs of magnesium deficiency in this video.
You require magnesium for at least three hundred physiological processes. Routine blood tests do not measure magnesium inside cells, where most magnesium is stored. To test for a possible magnesium deficiency, order a magnesium red blood cell test. Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, chard, kale, or broccoli have much magnesium. Chlorophyll is the constituent of the plant that makes it green. Structurally similar to hemoglobin in the blood, chlorophyll transports nutrients in the veins of the plants. At the center of the chlorophyll molecule is an atom of magnesium, which makes the chlorophyll green, while an atom of iron makes the blood red. Irena Macri describes Asian greens and vegetables.
Dr. Steven Lin, a dentist, describes the health benefits of magnesium. Dr. Mark Sircus describes why eighty percent of us are deficient in magnesium. To supplement or not to supplement? How much to supplement? Do your own research, think for yourself, and make your own decision. I suggest getting nutrients from food first. Dr. Josh Axe gets specific about magnesium deficiency and possible supplements in a series of articles here. Dr. Bassem El-Khodor, PhD, discusses magnesium, “the forgotten nutrient”, subclinical magnesium deficiency, and brain health in his video.
For breakfast, I often prepare myself a smoothie with spinach (or kale), a peeled lemon, a cooked red beet, an apple, a carrot, a half teaspoon of chlorella or chlorophyll (for magnesium), a pinch of ginger or clove, stevia, bee pollen, and pumpkin seeds. This nourishes me. It tastes delicious to me. It is cheap, and it is quick to prepare in a blender. Dark green leafy vegetables have magnesium. To repeat, the green color of chlorophyll indicates magnesium. For a second course, I often make a sauté of onion, salt, hamburger (or turkey liver, or eggs), garlic, with herbs and spices. The body is a garden, not a machine, and my garden is not your garden, so this is healthy for me, but it may not be healthy for you.
Dr. Pierre Delbet MD (1861-1957) was a French surgeon who used a magnesium chloride solution to disinfect external wounds without damaging the exposed tissue. He also found that magnesium chloride was a therapy for a long list of diseases. Dr. Auguste Neveu MD was another French doctor who published his booklet in 1958, “Therapeutic Treatment of Infectious Diseases by Magnesium Chloride–Poliomyelitis” (Traitement cytophylactique des maladies infectieuses par le chlorure de magnésium, la poliomyélite. 3e édition).
Both Delbet and Neveu used a 2.5% dilution (25 grams of magnesium chloride in one liter of water) and 125 mL of this solution one to three times a day for adults. Grapefruit juice masks the bitter taste very well, especially if cold.
To get more magnesium, you can also apply magnesium oil (magnesium chloride) to your skin. This is not food, but it can be a quick, cheap remedy for muscle cramps. You can even make your own topical magnesium oil from magnesium chloride flakes and distilled water. Magnesium oil applied to the skin can relieve the pain of muscle cramps. Beware that if you take too much magnesium oil, then it can have a laxative effect. This is a natural safety valve.
Absorbing magnesium can depend on selenium, iodine, and vitamins B6 and D. Excess alcohol, salt, coffee, and phosphoric acid in soda hinder absorption of magnesium. Certain drugs, such as diuretics, cardio tonics, and antibiotics, can cause magnesium loss or inactivation.
According to Dr. Christiane Northrup MD, “the only contraindications to magnesium are outright kidney failure, bowel obstruction, myasthenia gravis, or heart block”.
Dr. Will Cole DC describes the top 10 benefits of magnesium – improved sleep, fewer headaches, relief from cramps, better digestion, enhanced cognitive function, more energy, less anxiety, strengthened bones, and more heart health.
Calcium gets all the publicity, but potassium is equally necessary for your health. Potassium is required by cells to regulate the electric charge and flow of water through cell membranes. You require potassium for your nervous system, heart, and muscles. It is also essential for healthy teeth and bones.
Requirements vary, but the recommended daily consumption of potassium in many places is almost five grams per day. It may be useful to regulate blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, you may lack potassium. According to Dr. Joe Mercola, DC, signs of potassium deficiency include fatigue, muscle weakness, abdominal pain and cramps, and in severe cases abnormal heart rhythms and muscular paralysis.
Potassium is called an “electrolyte“. The body is electric, according to Dr. Robert Becker MD in his aptly named book, “The Body Electric“. Electrolytes transmit faint electric signals in your heart and brain. These signals are measured in the form of electrocardiograms (ECG) and electroencephalograms (EEG), which are beyond the scope of this site. There is a balance between potassium and sodium, which is also an electrolyte. For good health, it is desirable to consume as much as five times as much potassium as sodium, according to Dr. Max Gerson MD.
Instead of eliminating salt, which contains sodium, one option is to try to eat more foods high in potassium, such as chard, spinach, sweet potatoes, broccoli, celery, apricots, sardines, peas, and beets. In fact, potassium is found in all fruits and vegetables. This is why the soil is often treated with fertilizer denominated by its content of “NPK”. “K” stands for potassium. (Kalium in German means potassium.). Avocados, bananas, apricots, mangoes, and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of potassium. Perhaps this has to do with their orange color. On the other hand, beets are red because of their iron content, while dark, leafy greens are green because of their magnesium content.
The content of potassium in the specific fruit or vegetable depends as much on the soil where it was grown as it does on the specific fruit or vegetable. Dr. Axe lists foods high in potassium in this article, including bananas, apricots, beets, Swiss chard, spinach, sweet potatoes, peas, and sardines, among others.
Dr. Alex Moreira, with the Budwig Center in Malaga, Spain, points out that cancer patients usually have severe potassium deficiencies.
Like calcium, sodium is found mostly in the fluid outside your cells, while magnesium and potassium are found mostly inside your cells. Salt and celery contain sodium, which is necessary to retain water and for your nerves. When you sweat, you excrete sodium.
According to Dr. Max Gerson, good health depends on an optimal balance between sodium and potassium. The common advice to avoid salt is oversimplified and often unnecessary. It is better to avoid excess sodium and to balance sodium consumption with potassium consumption. Refined table salt has sodium, but is devoid of other minerals. Uncontaminated sea salt and mountain salt contain these other, trace minerals. Sea salt may be contaminated with micro-plastics.
Is salt bad for you? Dr. Ken Berry MD gives his opinion. Others have different opinions about how much salt is healthy or unhealthy. Due to biochemical individuality, salt in greater or lesser amounts may be healthy for some people, but not for others. Dr. James DiNicolantonio describes his point of view in his book, “The Salt Fix” and in his interview with Dr. Mark Hyman. How much sodium do you need?
Phosphorous is essential for healthy bones. You also require phosphorous to remove waste and to repair tissue. Foods high in phosphorous include meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, garlic, beans, and grains, among others. You can consume too much phosphorous, which tends to make your blood and tissues more acidic. This acidity requires alkaline minerals to restore a balance. Sweetened soft drinks contain phosphoric acid, another reason to avoid them.
To build and repair bones and teeth, your body needs more than just calcium. Phosphorus, the second most abundant mineral in your body, combines with calcium to keep your bones healthy. Phosphorus is also part of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a molecule your body uses to store energy. Phosphorous activates many enzymes and B vitamins by binding to them. It is part of cell membranes and transport of molecules in and out of your cells.
Nota bene. This refers to organic chloride found in salt and celery, among other foods. It tends to make the body acidic, depending on other minerals in the salt or celery. Some acidity is required to absorb minerals and to digest protein.
Note that the chemical name of salt is sodium chloride. This is different from sodium chlorite, which is used as a disinfectant and for food safety. In very small amounts, acidified sodium chlorite (and its byproduct chlorine dioxide) has also been used therapeutically against autism, cancer, and malaria. The biological effect is of the oxidation not of chlorination, though the chlorine also breaks the lipid membrane of pathogens selectively. This use is controversial and beyond the scope of this website. Andreas Kalcker, Kerri Rivera, and Jim Humble are reliable references who present evidence. Do your own research. clo2.tv has relevant videos.
Dr. Mark Sircus recommends combining chlorine dioxide with magnesium bicarbonate to control cancer.
The following is a list of micro-minerals, also known as trace elements, their symbols for shorthand, where they are concentrated, and what you use them for:
- iron – Fe – concentrated in your blood, required to transport oxygen (via hemoglobin in red blood cells) internally, absorbed more in combination with vitamin C,
- zinc – Zn – concentrated in skin, nails, and hair, but required for many physiological processes, such as fertility, protein synthesis, cell division, the senses of smell and taste, and your immune, reproductive, and nervous systems,
- sulfur – S – found in tissues, hair, and nails, for detoxification and protein synthesis,
- chromium – Cr – trace mineral necessary to metabolize sugar, to maintain or improve insulin sensitivity, and to enhance protein, carbohydrate, and lipid metabolism,
- selenium – Se – trace mineral found in thyroid, liver, and kidneys, useful for reproduction, thyroid gland function, immune system,
- iodine – I – concentrated in the thyroid, required for metabolism,
- silicon – Si – found mainly in connective tissues skin, bones, hair, fingernails, necessary to grow and maintain strong bones,
- copper – Cu – found in muscle and the liver, together with iron, copper enables the body to form red blood cells and to absorb more iron,
- manganese – Mn – found in bones, liver, kidney, and pancreas, promotes the formation of connective tissue, bones, blood-clotting factors, and sex hormones,
- boron – B – found in bones and widely distributed, maintain a balance of sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone, promotes magnesium absorption, has other health benefits,
- molybdenum – Mo – used to detoxify sulfites and to reduce copper levels, found in nuts, legumes, grains, fish, organ meats (liver and kidney), vegetables,
- lithium – Li – trace mineral possibly useful to reverse aging and for mental health.
What quantities are required, even with individual variations? Where are they found in the body? What are they used for? What foods have them? These questions cannot be answered with precision. From my reading of the books on this subject, the following table lists the micro-minerals, how much you may require, what you use them for, and what foods have them. How much of each mineral is found in which food depends most of all on the topsoil where the food was grown. If the soil is depleted of one or more minerals, you cannot expect to find much of those minerals in food grown in that soil. Do your own research, and listen to your body. Beware that:
- Your individual requirements can vary widely from the average and from recommended daily allowances.
- Required is a mix of minerals, not one or another isolated mineral, from natural, uncontaminated sources,
- An excess of one can cause excretion or deficiency of another. For example, excess zinc depletes copper, and vice versa.
Table of micro-minerals and possible food sources
|Mineral and symbol||Daily requirements||Where found and used||What foods have it|
|Iron – Fe||?||blood, hemoglobin, oxygen transport||spinach, beef, other red meat, chickpeas, lentils, prunes, mushrooms, amaranth, spelt,|
|Zinc – Zn||5 – 20 milligrams||fertility, digestion, hair, brain, may strengthen natural immunity||beef, liver, oysters, mushrooms, guava leaves, spinach, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, lima beans, chickpeas, raw cashews, raw pecans, raw almonds, avocados, green peas, ginger, he shou wu (fo ti)|
|Sulfur – S||?||detox||onions, garlic, leek, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, radish, bok choy|
|Iodine – I||150 – 800 micrograms||nervous system, hormones, bones, thyroid||seaweed, sea vegetables, kelp, bladderwrack, saltwater fish|
|Silicon – Si||21 – 46 milligrams||bones, skin, hair, nails, may remove aluminum||horsetail, bamboo, pears|
|Copper – Cu||1 – 2 milligrams||blood, respiratory system, digestion, detox||ginger, pecans, bee pollen, raw cashews, raw sunflower seeds, raw hazelnuts, raw almonds, organic peanut butter, mushrooms, lentils, whole oats, liver, mushrooms, peas|
|Manganese – Mn||.2 – 2 milligrams||bones||clove, raw almonds, raw pecans, pineapple, spinach, sweet potatoes, brown rice, lima beans|
|Selenium – Se||> 20 – 80 micrograms||metabolism, thyroid, immunity; synergy with zinc||Brazil nuts, mustard seeds, turkey, mushrooms, eggs, sardines, certain nutritional yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), foods from soil with selenium|
|Chromium – Cr||> .2 milligrams||hypothalamus, control blood sugar, body heat, hormones||certain nutritional yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), broccoli, turkey, sweet potato, apples, oats, garlic, basil, beef, eggs, green beans, grapes, parsley, beet root|
|Boron – B||?||bones||apples, pears, beets, almonds, chickpeas, seafood, prune, avocado, raisins, others|
|Molybdenum – Mo||?||detoxify sulfites, reduce excess copper||legumes, nuts, grains, fish, vegetables|
|Lithium – Li||?||nervous system||coriander, cumin, green tea, rooibos tea, others|
|Cobalt – Co||?||forms part of vitamin B12, deficiency can cause anemia||liver, meat, fish, leafy vegetables, grains, legumes|
|Silver||?||immune system||breast milk, can be useful as an antibiotic in small amounts of colloidal form (nanoparticles)|
The daily requirements depend on the person and the condition. We are all human beings, but each of us is unique. Because of biochemical individuality, your nutrient profile and possible deficiencies are unique to you. In other words, minerals that you may be deficient in are not what I may be deficient in. On the other hand, patterns of nutrient deficiencies have been reported.
Iron is necessary for healthy blood. Most iron is found in hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen in the body. Part of each of us dies every day, including some red blood cells. This is a healthy process called apoptosis. You replace all the cells in your body every seven to ten years. You replace the cells lining the inside of your stomach every four to five days.
To process of making new red blood cells requires iron, copper, magnesium, and vitamin A. Iron deficiency is known as anemia, the most common mineral deficiency. Copper, found in ginger, may enhance absorption of iron. Also, the more vitamin C you consume, the more iron you absorb. In some people, an excess of vitamin C can reduce absorption of copper. Beets, figs, blackstrap molasses, nettle, and good-quality meat have iron, while lemons, limes, grapefruit, and other citrus fruit have vitamin C. If you are deficient in iron, it may be possible to increase your iron levels naturally. For details, read this overview of iron for health.
It is also possible to have too much iron. According to Robert Scott Bell and Morley Robbins, “excess iron may be linked to health problems such as diabetes, liver disease, and heart problems.” Their point of view is that what is called a anemia (a deficiency of iron) is actually either a malabsorption of iron in the whole body, a deficiency of copper, a deficiency of magnesium, or a combination of these. Robbins asks the provocative question, “does iron deficiency anemia really exist?“. Doctors have used iron and copper together for many years to treat children with anemia, according to Dr. Milton Smith Lewis in his 1931 publication.
If you are not healthy, or if you have a diagnosis of anemia, do you have a deficiency of iron or copper? This can be confusing. The key concept that is often overlooked is biochemical individuality. In other words, you are not a statistic, a statistical average, nor a biochemical model. I suggest that you do your own gentle experiments, and listen to your body.
Be aware that iron absorption can be reduced by calcium absorption, tea, coffee, and chocolate. Selenium, which is found in Brazil nuts, can increase the absorption of iron. BioHeal Ottawa describes how to meet the body’s needs for iron.
For my own health, I often make a smoothie, including spinach (for magnesium), a lemon (for vitamin C), a red beet (for iron), an apple (for fiber), a carrot (for vitamin A), ginger (for copper), stevia, nuts, and other things. This may or may not work for you.
According to Dr. Joe Mercola, after iron, zinc is the second most common micro-mineral in the body. The body contains on average two grams of zinc. It is concentrated in the brain. Required for the healthy functioning of all your cells, tissues, organs, and bones, zinc can also strengthen your immune system. Zinc is not stored in the body, so it is desirable to get some now and then via food.
Zinc can increase fertility in some people. You require zinc for the reproductive system and also for your immune system. Infertility can result from a deficiency in zinc and folate (vitamin B9 found in green, leafy vegetables).
Zinc is water-soluble, so if you drink alcohol, you excrete more zinc. Vegans can obtain zinc from pumpkin seeds. Oysters have a lot of zinc, if they are not contaminated with heavy metals. Carnivores can get zinc from good-quality meat, such as lamb, beef, and turkey.
Zinc and selenium are synergistic. In other words, they enhance the absorption of each other. Brazil nuts have selenium, so if you eat pumpkin seeds, you might also one or two Brazil nuts to absorb the zinc and the selenium better. Dr. Josh Axe describes warning signs of zinc deficiency.
On the other hand, zinc can be antagonistic with copper and iron. They can hinder the absorption of each other. Dr. Dale Bredesen describes zinc deficiency and his opinion of the possible link between a high copper-zinc ratio and the risk of dementia. Zinc and iron also compete for absorption. An excess of one can cause a deficiency of the other. Phytates, also known as phytic acid, found in grains and beans, such as wheat, corn, oats, spelt, barley, and rice, can also inhibit absorption of zinc.
The signs of zinc (or any other deficiency) are not specific and individual. Some of the more common signs of zinc deficiency include lack of appetite, depression, frequent colds or infections, loss of or diminished smell and taste, poor wound healing, hair loss, roughening of skin or rashes, low libido (men), canker sores, lethargy, and deformed fingernails or white spots on fingernails. Food cravings during pregnancy can indicate a deficiency of zinc.
Are you severely deficient in zinc? You can test yourself, using a zinc taste test or “zinc tally test”. This is a liquid. Two teaspoons (ten milliliters) have two milligrams of zinc sulfate. If this has a bitter or strong taste to you, then you are not deficient. If you cannot taste it, then you may be severely deficient. The Merck manual of medical information recognizes zinc deficiency.
Dr. Ken Berry MD gives his opinion of foods rich in zinc. Dr. Sam Bailey MD describes zinc, why you need zinc, signs of zinc deficiency, and what you can do about it. Bill Sardi refers to what he calls the “modern zinc deficiency epidemic“. Dr. Eddy Betterman MD describes how zinc can boost your natural immunity. Dr. Sherry Rogers MD describes signs of zinc deficiency from her point of view in this forty-four minute interview. It is possible that children and the elderly may be more susceptible to zinc deficiency.
The prostate has a concentration of zinc. Low testosterone or an enlarged prostate can indicate a zinc deficiency.
Quercetin is a polyphenol (nutrient) found in onions, garlic, apples, red grapes, broccoli, paprika, blueberries, blackberries, honey, and citrus fruits. It can increase the absorption of zinc, according to the late Dr. Vladimir Zelenko MD.
According to the late Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez, zinc and selenium are tonics that strengthen the pancreas.
Sulfur is the third or fourth most abundant mineral found in the human body after calcium, phosphorous, and potassium. Your muscles, skin, and bones contain about half of the sulfur in your body. You have about one point six grams of sulfur per kilogram of body weight (about two and a half ounces per one hundred pounds). You need sulfur to hold proteins, to maintain connective tissue, and to produce energy. Most of all, you use sulfur for detoxification. Sulfur is also part of methionine and cysteine, two amino acids that your body uses to make proteins.
Certain vegetables have sulfur in the form of sulfurophane or sulfate. For example, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, garlic and onions all have sulfur. Garlic can be very healthy for many people, though maybe not for everybody. Look for good-quality organic garlic. Chop a clove of fresh chopped garlic before you start to cook, and then add it to your dish after it is cooked and ready to eat. In many ancient cultures and even in some modern ones, garlic was and is thought to be a medicine. Why eat sulfur-rich vegetables?
Stephanie Seneff, PhD, describes sulfur deficiency and obesity.
Sulfur from food is optimal, but if you are deficient in sulfur, then cautiously using small quantities of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) or dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) externally may possibly be useful. What is DMSO? Dr. Mercola describes the benefits of sulfur.
Iodine is essential for keeping hair, skin, and nails healthy. According to Dr. Marc Sircus, MD, “With magnesium and selenium, iodine is one of the most deficient minerals in many people.”
Your body has about fifteen to twenty milligrams of iodine, seventy percent of which is stored in the thyroid. Iodine is essential to your thyroid function. Your thyroid gland regulates your metabolism. In this eleven-minute video, Dr. David Brownstein talks about iodine and the thyroid, confronting the controversy. You can find iodine in good-quality saltwater seafood, kelp, and bladderwrack. Certain research shows the use of iodine to control infections by virus.
If you live near the sea, you may gradually absorb more iodine from the air than inland dwellers. If you live far from the sea and eat little seafood, you may be more susceptible to iodine deficiency. Signs of low iodine are cold hands and feet, sluggish digestion, and thinning hair, among others. Dr. Sircus describes the use of iodine as medicine. Iodine can prevent radiation poisoning, even in very small amounts.
Dr. Wojciech Rychlik, PhD describes the need for iodine supplementation. “For best results, iodine/iodide should be supplemented with selenium, magnesium, copper, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin). Ask your doctor before taking any iodine supplements, especially if you are on medications.“
Note that almost all tincture of iodine found in pharmacies are poisoned, so that it cannot be used internally. Various food-grade iodine supplements are available, such as Lugol’s iodine or nascent iodine. Beware that you can have too much iodine. How much is enough for your health but not too much? Because of biochemical individuality, the answer depends on the person.
Note that the authorities in some countries routinely treat the drinking water with fluoride. They add chemicals such as hydrofluorosilicic acid, sodium fluoride, sodium silicofluoride, or others containing fluoride to the water. They believe that this prevents tooth decay, although there is no scientific evidence for this belief. Other countries’ authorities use fluoride as rat poison. This controversy is beyond the scope of this website. Nevertheless, if you are concerned about the fluoridation of your water supply, you can detoxify yourself from fluoride, using very small amounts of food-grade iodine. Cofactors of iodine may include selenium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, and vitamin C. Do your own research, and think for yourself.
Note that there is controversy about iodine supplementation and thyroid health. Dr. Eric Osansky describes his insights into iodine and thyroid health. Iodine may require selenium and zinc for optimal absorption. On the other hand, an excess of iodine can cause a deficiency of calcium in some people.
Dr. Ken Berry MD also describes signs of iodine deficiency that he has observed, such as weight gain and fatigue. Dr. Berry also answers the question, is iodine safe? He also describes foods high in iodine, including ocean fish, shellfish, seaweed, meat and organs, and eggs.
Dr. Marc Sircus describes his views about dosages, forms, benefits, warnings and uses of iodine.
Dr. Edward Group DC, ND cites various often overlooked facts about iodine.
The Merck manual of medical information recognizes iodine deficiency. They say that the symptoms are not specific, except for an enlarged thyroid. Coastal areas have iodine in the air. Some soil has little or no iodine in it. In South Carolina, the soil is high in iodine, so fruits and vegetables grown in that soil tend to have more iodine than others grown elsewhere.
According to Dr. Christopher Exley PhD, aluminum toxicity is a possible cause of senility. He says that silicon can be used to remove aluminum from the body in the urine. An overlooked source of silicon is the herb horsetail (Equisetum arvense). You can make tea of horsetail or add it your cooked dishes.
Copper, the third most abundant dietary trace mineral after iron and zinc, is needed for the production of red and white blood cells. The body also needs copper to utilize iron efficiently. Copper can strengthen the respiratory system and be useful for detox.
Copper is found in ginger, bee pollen, and beef liver, among other foods. Other foods high in copper include dark green leafy vegetables, almonds, sesame seeds, and pecans. Ginger can stimulate peristalsis, the movement of waste through the intestins and the digestive system.
According to Dr. Carl Pfeiffer MD, there is a healthy balance between copper and zinc. An excess of one may cause a deficiency of the other, at least in some people. What is a healthy balance? It depends on biochemical individuality. Dr. Dale Bredesen MD also advocates a healthy zinc-copper balance.
You need copper to make new red blood cells. The complete process to make new red blood cells requires iron (found in red beets and red meat, such as beef or liver), copper (found in ginger and bee pollen), magnesium (found in spinach and other green vegetables), and vitamin A (found in carrots and beef liver).
Morley Robbins is a retired hospital administrator who has researched copper and copper deficiencies. According to him, what is often called anemia, an alleged iron deficiency, is in fact a dysregulation of iron caused by a copper deficiency. Briefly, Robbins advocates a healthy balance between magnesium and copper on one hand and iron on the other hand. More controversially, Dr. Joe Mercola asks, Is Too Much Iron in the Brain Causing Alzheimer’s?
Dr. Joel Wallach ND, veterinarian and naturopath, claims that a copper deficiency can cause aneurysms, abnormal swellings in the walls of blood vessels. According to him, the most common sign of a copper deficiency is white, silver, or gray hair.
Even the Merck manual of medical information recognizes a copper deficiency.
Manganese is a trace mineral found in the spice clove and also on the beaches of the Nicoya peninsula of Costa Rica. It may balance or antagonize zinc and copper. In other words, if you have an excess of copper or zinc, you may have a deficiency of manganese. Manganese supports collagen formation and the internal linings of many organs.
In many regions on earth, the soil lacks selenium, so food grown in that soil also lacks selenium. If you have reason to believe that you lack selenium, one to four fresh, organic Brazil nuts a day may be the answer for you. Garlic and onions also have selenium, depending on the soil where they were grown. Certain strains of high-quality baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is also an excellent source of selenium, depending on how it was cultivated.
Selenium can detoxify mercury. Too much selenium can be toxic. Gerhard Schrauzer researched selenium and other trace elements for many years as a professor of the University of California at San Diego. Among others, Dr. Joel Wallach ND advocates the therapeutic use of selenium and other trace elements.
Sulfur and selenium may be antagonistic, possibly reducing the absorption of each other. I suggest that you do your own research, compare, and listen to your body. Even the Merck manual of medical information recognizes a selenium deficiency. Can Brazil nuts protect against cancer?
To maintain healthy blood sugar levels, chromium works closely with insulin, the hormone that enables cells to absorb glucose from the blood. Chromium is also involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
Foods high in chromium include broccoli, turkey, garlic, oats, beef, apples, bananas, pears, green beans, and grapes. Be aware that eating and drinking sweets, such as soda, juice, candy, and other sweets, prompts you to eliminate chromium in the urine.
According to Dr. Wallach, diabetes is caused by a deficiency of chromium and vanadium.
Even the Merck manual of medical information recognizes chromium deficiency. They also claim that “chromium is absorbed better when eaten with foods that contain vitamin C or niacin.”
Healthy bones and joints require boron. Boron supports brain function, awareness, hormones like testosterone and bone health via appropriate use of magnesium, calcium and phosphorous. Boron is found in beets, which cannot grow well in soil deficient in boron.
Beets are also an excellent source of iron, particularly for vegans. Other foods high in boron include almonds, chickpeas, and seafood. Boron may have other possible health benefits, such as being a natural aphrodisiac.
Beets may have other advantages for health, such as strengthening bones and the thyroid, according to Dr. Eric Bakker ND
Many other minerals and nutrients are required for chronic health, according to Dr. Joel Wallach ND. He treated many animals and human beings with minerals. He claims that each of us needs ninety essential nutrients, including sixty minerals, sixteen vitamins, twelve amino acids, and two or three essential fatty acids. Wallach further claims that mineral and nutrient deficiencies are the cause of many health problems, which he puts into four categories. Note that Dr. Wallach also promotes certain supplements of these essential nutrients. You are not obliged to buy supplements in order to consider the idea of deficiencies. This does not exclude the possibility that he is telling the truth from his point of view about the utility of minerals and vitamins for maintaining health. Others have reported on the use and effects of trace minerals.
Be aware that alcohol and pharmaceutical products can deplete you of nutrients.
By the way, my doctor advises me to take supplements of vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, and selenium – to prevent infections and to keep my immune system strong. I tell my doctor that I can get vitamin D from sunshine, mushrooms, and cod liver oil, vitamin C from citrus fruit and other fruit and vegetables, zinc from half a handful of pumpkin seeds, and selenium from Brazil nuts, but only or two at a time.
The concept of the conscious consumption of micro-nutrients, such as minerals and vitamins, has many critics and skeptics. They claim that you can get enough nutrients by eating a “balanced diet”, but a balance between what and what? They overlook the possibility that an optimal balance for you may not be optimal for someone else. The body is not a machine. The body is a garden, but your garden is not my garden. One possibility may be to grow your own food or to look for local vegetable and fruit suppliers and ask them.
The critics also overlook the fact that the soil in many places has been depleted of many nutrients for a long time. This depletion was reported by Rex Beach to the US Senate in 1936. Some farmers, particularly organic farmers, use natural methods, such as permaculture or regenerative agriculture, to rebuild their soil. Again, I suggest obtaining nutrients from local, good-quality, genuine organic, natural food, if practical. If the soil were depleted of nutrients, then the foods grown in this soil are also depleted.
Dr. James DiNicolantonio and Dr. Mark Hyman MD discuss in this forty-minute podcast how monoculture and phosphorous in fertilizers have reduced the content of magnesium, calcium, copper, iron, boron, manganese, potassium, zinc, and selenium in many real foods. These results of these practices create deficiencies in many people. Offsetting these deficiencies begins with awareness.
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