Medically reviewed on January 24, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Ever wonder what's contained in your dietary supplements? You may have heard of trace elements, but what are they for? The body requires minerals to carry out essential functions, but to obtain these vital nutrients, we must consume them through our diets. While we require macro minerals in large quantities, our bodies only require trace quantities of micro minerals like iodine, zinc, and iron .
More than likely, we can obtain enough trace minerals through our diets; although your healthcare provider may recommend a mineral supplement for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or those with unhealthy or restricted lifestyles .
What are trace minerals? Found in both foods and supplements, and frequently referred to as micronutrients, trace minerals help support everything from immune power to cognitive development .
Since these trace minerals are not naturally produced by the body, you ought to take an active approach to ensure you receive adequate but proper amounts of each. If taken in large amounts, you may experience adverse effects of heavy metals in the body.
Conflicting information about salt—a form of iodine—may abound, but the fact is, you need iodine for a bevy of reasons. Specifically, iodine is critical to :
Adults—those 18 years and older—require 150 mcg of iodine daily . Pregnant women require a slightly higher amount, or 220 mcg per day .
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that most people can obtain the iodine they need from their diet . However, pregnant women, vegans, and those who do not consume iodized salt may be at risk of an iodine deficiency, which can have a dramatic effect on one’s thyroid function .
Iodine is present in a wide variety of foods, including:
…and, of course, iodized salt.
Zinc is often associated with combating winter colds—and for a good reason: The trace mineral organically fosters appropriate immune responses and helps your body fight off infections .
Additionally, zinc is necessary for :
Like iodine, several foods are rich in this crucial trace mineral—and we’ll go over these foods in just a moment. In the meantime, though, it’s important to note that a handful of people may be susceptible to zinc deficiency. These include :
That said, it’s believed that 15% to 40% of those with gastrointestinal or digestive disorders experience zinc deficiency, while 11% of pregnant people experience low zinc levels .
Generally, adult men and males assigned at birth (AMAB) need 11 mg of zinc per day, while women and females assigned at birth (AFAB) require 8 mg.
Fortunately, a number of foods brim with zinc, particularly:
Happen to be a vegan or a vegetarian? Fortified breakfast cereals, whole grains, beans, nuts, and legumes all boast a wealth of zinc.
Iron is another trace mineral that’s imperative to several central physiological behaviors .
Its primary role is to help the body manufacture hemoglobin, a critical protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen from your lungs throughout your body .
Further, iron is vital for the synthesis of myoglobin, which carries oxygen to your muscles, as well as the production of certain hormones .
Women and AFAB require higher amounts of iron than men and AMAB (or 18 mg compared to 8 mg daily, to be precise), in large part because of menstruation. Indeed, individuals who are at the greatest risk of falling low on the iron spectrum include:
Certain health conditions, such as cancer, heart failure, and GI disorders, can also leave some people prone to iron deficiency—a complication we know more commonly as anemia.
The World Health Organization estimates that of the 1.62 billion cases of anemia worldwide, half are caused by an iron deficiency .
A number of foods have sufficient levels of iron, particularly :
The human body is a complex and beautiful machine, and the vitamins and trace minerals we need to perform at our peak is a testament to its intricacies. Even slight dips in the trace minerals we consume can impact our well-being.
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