Minerals are inorganic substances (ie. not vegetable or animal in origin) that are necessary for the normal functioning of the body. The common ones found in the body are calcium, sodium, fluoride, iodine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, but many others are also present in extraordinarily tiny quantities (eg. aluminium, copper). Like vitamins, minerals are needed in minute quantities and can be obtained from a reasonably well-balanced diet.
In the case of salt, it has been found in recent times that too much can be bad for you and that adding salt to meals is not only unnecessary but may have a harmful effect, especially if you have high blood pressure.
Iron is a particularly essential mineral, since it is the core element in the manufacture of haemoglobin, the compound found in red blood cells that transports the oxygen from the lungs to the organs. If the iron levels are low, haemoglobin levels drop and the body becomes starved of oxygen, making you feel tired and weak. Iron is found naturally in many foods, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cereals and vegetables. Red meat, oysters, liver, beans, nuts and wheat contain particularly high levels of iron. Stomach upsets may be a side effect, and it should not be used in haemochromatosis.
Calcium is used to treat and prevent osteoporosis and rarely osteomalacia. Side effects include constipation, flushing and sweats. It should not be used in kidney disease.
Fluoride is used to prevent tooth decay, and treat osteoporosis, Paget’s disease and multiple myeloma. Side effects are minimal, but it should not be used in kidney disease.
Iodine is used to treat goitre, and specific iodine deficiency. Side effects are minimal.
Magnesium can be used to replace specific deficiencies. Side effects are minimal.
Phosphorus is used in hyperparathyroidism, bone cancer, rickets and multiple myeloma. Diarrhoea is the usual side effect.
Potassium is used to replace electrolyte deficiencies, particularly in patients using diuretics. It should be used with care in kidney and liver disease.