Hands up if ‘Minerals’ seems like a topic you should have been paying attention to in seventh grade science but were too busy doodling hearts in your notes to care about. If this sounds familiar, then it’s time to listen up. Minerals are naturally occurring elements that play an important role in life on Earth, including in our health and nutrition. See, minerals are what are known as micronutrients; nutrients that are needed in small amounts within our diet for us to stay healthy. There’s a long list of minerals that our bodies need. Five of these are especially important for us women, so we’ve picked these out, circled and highlighted them for you below. Get your pens ready; it’s time to master your minerals
Iron is a component of haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body and delivers it to our muscles (Gupta 2014). Therefore, it’s essential for giving us energy and helping us perform at our best, including during workouts. Between the ages of 19-50 women are recommended to consume 14.8mg per day to compensate for the loss of iron we experience via menstruation (BNF 2019). Great news is there are both plant and animal based sources of iron. However, the heme iron found in animal-based sources, such as red meat, poultry and seafood, is more bioavailable than the non-heme iron found in plant-based sources, such as green leafy veg, wholegrains and beans. Include a good source of vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and berries, with meals to increase iron absorption and make sure you are consuming enough copper as this mineral assists with iron metabolism. Finally, be sure to avoid drinking tea around mealtimes as tannins interfere with iron absorption (Sizer and Whitney 2017
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant essential mineral in the human body (Wang et al. 2018). As a key player in energy production, magnesium is a mineral that we should all be keeping tabs on, especially if we have high levels of cortisol. This is because it assists in the production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that calms the brain and central nervous system (Möykkynen et al. 2001). When we are stressed and cortisol is high, we utilize higher quantities of magnesium, thus increasing our need. Magnesium supplementation has also been shown to be essential for thyroid health and reducing the risk of hypothyroidism by lowering TSH and improving free T3 (Wang et al. 2018). Consume plenty of green leafy veg, nuts and seeds, which are all fantastic sources of magnesium
Selenium is probably the most underappreciated mineral out there. It’s essential for the synthesis of thyroid hormones and promotes healthy growth and fertility (Combs and Combs 1986). Therefore, for women, it’s essential in helping keep our metabolism in check, reduce oxidative stress, and optimize our chances of conceiving a healthy child. Selenium is also important in the production of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase and therefore can help lower our risk of developing a range of chronic diseases, including cancer (Sizer and Whitney 2017, NIH 2021). The best source of selenium is brazil nuts; just one will meet your recommended daily intake for selenium (BNF 2019, NIH 2021)! Other good sources include fish, eggs and organ meat
Iodine is another key mineral for keeping our thyroid hormones functioning optimally and is found in seafood, seaweed, dairy, and iodized salt (Zimmermann 2011). Between a reduction in dairy consumption and the consumption of large quantities of goitrogens (which are found in cruciferous vegetables), many of us may not be getting enough iodine from our diets. If we don’t consume enough iodine, our body cannot efficiently make thyroid hormones. However, it’s all about balance; iodine is needed in relatively small quantities and it’s important that, especially if you have a thyroid condition, you check your levels. This is because too much iodine can exacerbate any pre-existing thyroid conditions
Meanwhile, zinc has a key role in our reproductive health, helping to produce sex hormones (including testosterone), as well as our immune health (Roohani et al. 2013). But the benefits don’t end there, sister. Zinc also plays a role in collagen formation (link to my article on collagen) and assists with metabolism (Sizer and Whitney 2017). The best sources of zinc are in meat and shellfish, but plant-based sources include nuts and seeds, as well as lentils, peas and beans.
Whilst it may seem straightforward to get all these minerals into your diet, there are some added complications. Nutrients interact with one another; for example, high amounts of iron can inhibit zinc absorption (Roohani et al. 2013); and imbalances in the body can cause deficiencies; a common example being how gut dysbiosis impacts iron absorption (Yilmaz and Li 2018)
The NutrEval micronutrient test (link to product on website) evaluates over 125 biomarkers and assesses the body’s need for 40 antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals as well as essential fatty acids and amino acids. Click here (link to product) to find out more and to get your hands on our bespoke test package, which includes a review session consultation with Lauren, personalized treatment plan and custom supplement recommendations.
BNF (British Nutrition Foundation) (2019) Nutrition Requirements. Available at: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/attachments/article/261/Nutrition%20Requirements_Revised%20August%202019.pdf
Combs Jr, G.F. and Combs, S.B. (1986) The role of selenium in nutrition. Academic Press, Inc.
Gupta, C.P. (2014) Role of iron (Fe) in body. IOSR Journal of Applied Chemistry, 7(11), 38-46.
Möykkynen, T., Uusi-Oukari, M., Heikkilä, J., Lovinger, D.M., Lüddens, H. and Korpi, E.R. (2001) Magnesium potentiation of the function of native and recombinant GABAA receptors. Neuroreport, 12(10), 2175-2179.
NIH (National Institutes of Health) (2021) Selenium. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-Consumer/
NRC (National Research Council) (1989) Diet and Health: implications for reducing chronic disease risk. National Academies Press
Roohani, N., Hurrell, R., Kelishadi, R., and Schulin, R. (2013) Zinc and its importance for human health: An integrative review. Journal of research in medical sciences: the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 18(2), 144–157
Sizer, F.S. and Whitney, E. (2017) Nutrition Concepts and Controversies 15th Edition. Cengage Learning Inc.
Wang, K., Wei, H., Zhang, W., Li, Z., Ding, L., Yu, T., Tan, L., Liu, Y., Liu, T., Wang, H., Fan, Y., Zhang, P., Shan, Z., and Zhu, M. (2018). Severely low serum magnesium is associated with increased risks of positive anti-thyroglobulin antibody and hypothyroidism: A cross-sectional study. Scientific reports, 8(1), 9904.
Yilmaz, B., and Li, H. (2018). Gut Microbiota and Iron: The Crucial Actors in Health and Disease. Pharmaceuticals, 11(4), 98.
Zimmermann, M.B. (2011) The role of iodine in human growth and development. In Seminars in cell & developmental biology, 22(6), 645-652