At SmartyPants, we love vitamins. But minerals are just as important to our overall health. Unlike vitamins, though, there are thousands of minerals in existence – approximately 3,800 known. While all of these minerals serve a purpose, there are some that play larger roles in our day-to-day health. So, in the spirit of making life a little simpler, we narrowed these 3,800 down to nine minerals that make a major difference.
Here is our quick-and-dirty guide to nine minerals you oughta know….
What it does:
- Works with vitamin D and K2 to help build strong bones and teeth.
- Balances magnesium, helping muscles contract (magnesium helps muscles relax).
- Helps regulate blood pressure and blood clotting.
Best food sources: Dairy products, sardines, salmon, sesame seeds, dark leafy greens, and bone broth.
- Research shows that calcium citrate can be easier to digest. You can also take it at any time – with or without food.
- Magnesium and vitamins D and K are essential for calcium to be absorbed and delivered to the right places in our bodies.
- You can get too much calcium. The RDA for most adults is 1000 mg, which includes food as well as supplements.
What it does: Works with insulin to get glucose (sugar) out of our blood and into our cells, where it can be used for energy.
Best food sources: Oats, barley, broccoli, beef liver, and brewer’s yeast.
Supplement facts: Niacin and vitamin C help our bodies absorb chromium.
What it does:
- Plays a key role regulating our thyroid gland and metabolism.
- Needed for proper gene expression, growth, development, and reproductive function.
Best food sources: Food sources of iodine include iodized salt, seaweed, seafood, dairy products, and eggs.
Supplement Facts: Many people are taking in a lot less iodine today as compared to a century ago. This is partly due to health recommendations that people add less salt to their food and cooking. Others have switched from using iodized table salt to sea salts, which don’t all contain iodine, and the salt used in packaged foods is typically not iodized salt. Lastly, iodine is a difficult mineral to absorb, and certain modern environmental pollutants make it even harder.
What it does: Helps carry oxygen throughout the body, supporting energy production and brain function.
Best food sources: Hemp seeds, clams, liver, sunflower seeds, beef, lamb, beans, dark leafy greens, and tofu.
Supplement facts: According to the FDA, iron is one of the leading causes of accidental overdose, it can also interfere with the absorption of other key nutrients. For this reason, we don’t include iron in any of our SmartyPants gummies or chews. We didn’t feel comfortable including something that could be harmful if accidentally taken in large amounts. If your dietary choices or life stage indicate that you could need more iron, we recommend that you work with your healthcare practitioner to determine if supplementing is right for you.
What it does:
- Needed for over 350 chemical reactions in the body.
- Provides energy by helping create ATP (adenosine triphosphate) – our master energy molecule.
- Known as the “anti-stress” mineral because it helps muscles relax and has a calming effect on the nervous system.
- Works with calcium and potassium to regulate blood pressure.
- Essential for proper absorption and metabolism of calcium.
- Needed to convert vitamin D into its active form.
Best food sources: Spinach, hemp and pumpkin seeds, almonds, black beans, dark chocolate, and avocado.
- One of the most easily absorbable forms of magnesium is magnesium citrate.
- Magnesium is also absorbed well through the skin, so Epsom salt baths and magnesium creams, gels, or oils can also be a great way to increase your body stores.
- Calcium is required for magnesium to function properly and vice versa. Most experts recommend a 1 to 1 ratio.
- B vitamins help our bodies use magnesium, especially vitamin B6.
- It’s estimated that 70% of US diets do not meet the RDA for magnesium (~400 mg).
What it does:
- Responsible for helping to keep blood acidity levels stable throughout the body.
- Helps the heart contract and balances sodium to regulate blood pressure.
- Helps promote kidney health.
- Helps promote bone health by protecting our body’s calcium stores.
- Helps bring water and other water-soluble nutrients into the cells.
Best food sources: Avocado, leafy greens, sweet potato, coconut water, white beans, banana, acorn squash.
Supplement facts: Potassium intake is critical for better health, but taking potassium in supplement form, beyond the small amount typically found in multivitamins, is considered risky for kidney and heart health. We recommend working with your healthcare provider to assess your needs and how best to meet them. You can also review Ashley Koff’s Better Potassium Menu to get a week’s worth of menu items that meet the RDA for potassium, deliciously.
What it does:
- Selenium is both a mineral and a powerful antioxidant.
- Needed for proper thyroid and immune system function.
- Helps protect our bodies from free radical damage.
Best food sources: Brazil nuts, crimini mushrooms, cod, shrimp, tuna, halibut, salmon, scallops, chicken, eggs, shiitake mushrooms, lamb, and turkey.
What it does: Sodium balances potassium, helping control muscle contractions and regulating water content in the body.
Best food sources: Beets, carrots, spinach, celery, pasture-raised meat and poultry, canned fish, cheese, sea salt.
Supplement facts: You’re probably not going to be supplementing with sodium, as it’s found in nearly every packaged, processed, and prepared food. If you eat these kinds of food regularly, then you’ll want to focus on incorporating potassium-rich foods into your diet. Sodium intake can affect potassium excretion and vice versa, so, ideally, you want to have a balance of both.
What it does:
- Involved in more enzymatic reactions than any other mineral.
- Critical for keeping our immune system strong and helping the body heal, especially the skin.
- Supports both male and female fertility, healthy pregnancies, and development during childhood and adolescence.
- Helps the nervous system and brain function optimally.
- Keeps our sense of taste and smell sharp.*
Best food sources: Oysters, crab, beef, lamb, and pork.
Supplement facts: Supplemental iron can inhibit the absorption of zinc when taken at the same time.
A PROBIOTIC BOOST
The process of absorbing minerals occurs mainly in the digestive tract. Research shows that having a healthy microbiome – or a gut full of good gut bacteria – is critical for proper nutrient digestion and absorption. Consuming a diet rich in probiotics, or taking a probiotic supplement like our SmartyPants Probiotic Complete, could help maximize the vitamins and minerals you get from your food. For more about probiotics and how to pick the best ones, check out our interview with Dr. Pamela Peeke.
DO I NEED TO SUPPLEMENT?
When it comes to vitamins and minerals, we at SmartyPants take a food-first approach. The nutrients present in food are already in the forms and combinations that our bodies have learned to use over millions of years.
What’s more is that the amounts of minerals in our produce can vary widely, depending on local soil conditions and farming methods. In fact, some research estimates that the vitamin and mineral content of our fruits and vegetables has dropped over 20% since the 1950s.
Due to questionable soil quality, food refinement processes, and other facts of modern life including no parking spots at the farmers’ market, we understand that getting All of The Nutrients, every day, can be a little unrealistic. This is where a high-quality vitamin or mineral supplement may come in handy. Not to take the place of a healthy diet, but to act as a nutritional safety net – for days when reality bites.
FORM DETERMINES FUNCTION
Vitamins and minerals come in many different forms and some are more bioavailable, or, easily absorbed and used by the body, than others. If you and your healthcare practitioner decide that supplementing is a good idea, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with these different forms.
At SmartyPants, we’re committed to always including the most research-backed, bioavailable forms of nutrients whenever possible.
But science is constantly evolving. We’re learning more and more every day, and it is our promise to you that if we discover a better way to do something, you’ll be the first to know.