For many weeks now, the focus here has been on minerals.

The minerals discussed – such as calcium and sodium – actually make up a measurable percentage of overall body weight: two and 0.15 percent, respectively. These minerals are the macrominerals – the minerals found in relative abundance in the body and requiring significant daily intake to maintain healthy levels. Also required for health are a range of microminerals – minerals needed in only tiny amounts, but just as essential for normal function.

Selenium: The Mineral That Packs a Punch

Selenium is a mineral with so many potential benefits, it is a wonder we do not hear about it more. It works together with vitamin E to produce many antioxidant and immune effects. Deficiency in selenium is linked to increased rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, thyroid problems and autoimmune diseases. Adequate selenium levels appear to enhance the effect of vaccines on the immune system, protect the body against the effects of heavy metals, tobacco smoke and alcohol and reduce skin issues such as acne and dandruff.

Selenium is found in both whole plant and animal foods. Brazil nuts are a particularly good source. Many other vegetables contain selenium, as well as fish and shellfish, liver, lamb and butter. It can also be found in brewer’s yeast and wheat germ. Your best bet is to eat a wide variety of whole, fresh foods, as selenium is usually absent in processed foods. If deficiency is a concern, it is available in supplemental form. There is a concern of toxicity with high doses, so adhering to recommended intake values is important. 

Chromium: Not Just for Shiny Car Parts

While this mineral is needed in only tiny amounts, research is showing that its impact on health is immense. It is a building block of what is known as glucose tolerance factor, which enhances the action of insulin in the body. Potential impacts of chromium deficiency may be higher risks for blood sugar dysregulation, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis.

Americans are particularly at risk for chromium deficiency. Much of the mineral has been flushed from topsoil which reduces its availability to be taken up into crops. Additionally, chromium is depleted from foods when they are processed, particularly in foods made from white flours and sugars. Chromium supplements are available, but body levels can also be raised through whole food selection. The best food source of chromium is brewer’s yeast, but a wide range of plant and animal foods also contain the mineral. Responsibly produced beef, chicken and butter, as well as whole wheat and rye and fresh onions, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes can all serve as sources.

Cobalt: Best Supporting Actor

Cobalt is a micromineral that is part of vitamin B12.

B12 is essential in the production of red blood cells and the formation of the myelin sheath which protects nerve cells. Deficiencies can lead to anemia and nerve damage. Plants are not a good source, which is why vegetarians are at particular risk for deficiency. Only a tiny amount is needed to maintain health and it can be found in muscle and organ meats, fish and some sea vegetables.

Molybdenum: Difficult to Say, But Good to Have

The importance of molybdenum has garnered some attention in recent decades. Once unrecognized as having any nutritional significance, it is now known to be indispensable in several enzymatic processes. Among these are enzymes that break down and detoxify alcohol and sulfites. Deficiencies in molybdenum can be the cause of adverse reactions to the consumption of wine and alcohol, as well as sulfites found in pharmaceuticals and food preservatives. If even a responsibly-sized serving of wine makes you feel sick or stuffy and wheezy, you may have a deficiency in this small but mighty mineral.

Molybdenum can be found in liver and organ meats, as well as properly prepared whole grain and legumes. It is also available in supplement form. Since it is a trace mineral, it is needed in only very small amounts. There are several potential side effects from levels that are too high, so it should not be supplemented with reckless abandon. More than 500mcg (micrograms) per day are unnecessary and potentially toxic.

Up next week: Copper, Iodine, Iron and Manganese

This information is for educational purposes only and should not be used as medical advice.

Sources:

Weatherby, D. (2004). Signs and Symptoms Analysis from a Functional Perspective. Bear Mountain Publishing, Jacksonville.

Haas, E. M. (2006). Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Celestial Arts, Berkeley.

Editor’s Note: Sara Kennedy is a certified nutritional therapy consultant. She is the owner of Renegade Wellness found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/paleoalaska. Reach her online at www.thriveak.com