The best way to meet your mineral needs is through food. Eating a variety of foods from all the major food groups will help you achieve this goal. If you use supplements, be careful to stay within the recommended limits to avoid overconsumption problems. Here are some common questions about minerals.
Because minerals are widely dispersed throughout the body, there is really no simple test that will give you this information. (Scientific studies do not support the accuracy of hair analysis.) The best way to be sure that you are getting adequate amounts of minerals is to consume a wide variety of healthful foods. Use the chart on the opposite page to guide you in selecting foods that are good sources of the different minerals.
While experts prefer people to get their calcium from foods, supplements are sometimes necessary due to an increased need for calcium or specific food preferences. Supplemental calcium is always combined with another substance: calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, calcium phosphate, calcium lactate, and calcium gluconate.
Calcium carbonate is the most common and least expensive form. It is found in at least 90 percent of calcium pills as well as in antacids such as Rolaids and Tums. A variety of factors affect how well calcium from a supplement is absorbed including age, other foods in the diet, the amount of calcium in the diet, vitamin D intake, estrogen levels and the non-calcium compound in the pill. The decision to choose one supplement over another should be based on cost, how easy the pills are to swallow, and how well you tolerate them. Supplements made from coral, dolomite, bone meal and oyster shell may contain traces of lead and are not recommended. For the best results, take a calcium supplement with or shortly after a meal and take no more than 500 milligrams at one time.
Yes. Although lean red meat is an excellent source of iron, there are other iron-containing foods you can include in your diet (refer to chart for other food sources) and still get the recommended 8 to 18 mg you need each day. Iron from animal sources is usually used best by the body. However, eating a food high in vitamin C at the same meal will increase iron absorption from both plant and animal foods. Good sources of vitamin C include oranges, grapefruit, peppers, peaches, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes, and potatoes.
The amount of iron found in one-a-day type of vitamin-mineral supplements (including children’s chewables) is usually well tolerated by most people. However, if you have been diagnosed with iron deficiency, you may need to take an iron supplement in a higher dose. This should be directed and supervised by your doctor.
Fluoride is important for the optimal health of our bones and teeth, and its major dietary source is fluoridated water. In Nevada, Clark County is the only county that has added fluoride to the public water supply. While most of the other water sources in Nevada do not contain adequate fluoride, private wells should be checked to be sure that they do not contain too much fluoride. If your child does not drink fluoridated water, you should talk with your dentist about prescribing supplement fluoride.
Extension's Communication Team
Wilson, W., Scott, B., 2004, Minding Your Minerals, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-04-52
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