ISSA Nutritionist Chapter 8: Minerals 1

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    Chapter Goals:

    • Know the various classifications of the minerals.
    • Be able to discuss the main physiological functions that each mineral has.
    • Be able to discuss the health benefit of each mineral.
    • Know the recommendations for intakes and the favored sources of each mineral.


    Minerals have been considered essential nutrients for proper health and vigor. 

    These are considered inorganic elements that are required for various physiological functions and commonly put in categories as major minerals, minor minerals, and electrolytes. 

    The major minerals are going to be needed in rather large amounts. The minor minerals are usually in trace amounts, and then the electrolytes are a classification of minerals with specific ability for carrying an electric charge. In the grander scale of nutrition, these are all still considered to be micronutrients. 

    Food and supplement sources are supplied as organic, carbon-containing compounds or inorganic compounds.

    Minerals only take up around 4 – 6 percent of tissues.

    The daily needs for minerals are correlated directly with the activity levels and the size of the body, and lean muscle mass. 

    Nutritional sources of minerals and electrolytes are the most effective in order to absorb and digest them effectively. 

    Major Minerals


    An adult body keeps around 1,200 grams of calcium; 99% of this is going to be found in the bones as a calcium phosphate molecule. This mineral is absolutely essential for building bone and strength. It has many other roles as a cofactor and enzyme. 

    The dietary reference intake for calcium is going to be 200 – 1,300 mg per day for children aged 0 – 13, and then 1,000 mg per day for adults. After the age of 50, females should make it a goal to get 1,200 mg every day.

    Deficiency symptoms usually involve muscle cramping and reductions in total energy levels. Some problems like rickets and growth disorders are possible.

    The toxicity level is considered to be 2,500 mg per day or more, and this goes for all ages. It can lead to kidney stones in the long term. 

    Food sources are quite varied. 

    Athletes should ensure that they are getting their adequate intake of calcium so that they can maintain their overall health, the strength of their bones and growth in adolescence. 


    This is found in the bone at a ratio of 1:2 with calcium, and it plays a role in almost all of the same processes. It is the second most abundant mineral found in the body, behind of course calcium. 

    For children under 18 and pregnant female women, the recommendation is 1,200 mg every day. And for the adults over 19, the recommendation moves to 700 mg every day. 

    Deficiency in this mineral is rarely ever seen due to its presence in many plants and animals. 

    The toxic level for phosphorous is going to be 4,000 mg per day in the healthy adults, but it has been observed in cases of malnutrition and some clinical settings. 

    This mineral is in so much, that it is not often needed to find the higher levels in certain foods, but if you did, it would be milk, fish, eggs, and asparagus. 

    Athletes that restrict their diet too much in the short or long term, may struggle to reach their needs for this mineral.


    This mineral is quite important in the body and it is found in the bones, muscles, and the soft tissues. 

    The dietary reference intake for the mineral is around 240 mg every day for male and female people under the age of 13. After that age, it is recommended that females to receive 320 mg per day and for males to receive 420 mg per day. 

    Deficiency is rare for this mineral but can cause some bad muscle-related symptoms that would impair performance. 

    Toxic intake can be as much as 350 mg for some people. 

    Food sources high in magnesium will be things like green veggies, whole grains, nuts, legumes, oats, and fruit. 

    For athlete’s there has been some research showing supplementation of this mineral to lead to greater strength and endurance. 


    Sulfur comes from essential amino acids like cysteine and methionine and is used as a major enzyme cofactor. 

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    The dietary reference intake for sulfur is actually not established, but for the amino acids it comes from, they are 22 mg per day for 2 – 12 year old’s, and then 13 mg per day for adults. 

    Deficiency is often seen with someone lacking the intake of amino acids, or someone that is malnourished or on a plant diet. 

    There is no toxic level found yet, but it is seen as uncommon and unnecessary to supplement this mineral.

    The food sources include the normal sources of protein.

    Athletes will likely already get more than enough due to their higher intake of amino acids from their proteins.

    Minor Minerals


    Iron is a major part of hemoglobin, which is used for carrying oxygen in the body, and it takes the form of myoglobin for storing oxygen. 

    The dietary reference intake for adults of both genders is 8 mg per day, but some females should supplement with 18 mg per day due to counteracting their menstruation. 

    Iron deficiency anemia is common and very curable. This is the result of low iron intake. 

    Toxicity is more common now due to supplementation of the mineral increasing lately. High levels of the mineral has been seen to cause fatigue, restless leg syndrome, and impairments of cognitive function. 

    Toxic levels are considered to be at 45 mg per day in adults and is often due to the over supplementation from multivitamins.

    Foods higher in iron will be red meats, poultry, fish, iron-fortified foods, liver, molasses, nuts, clams, chocolate, and bread. 

    The oxygen carrying role that iron plays will make this critical for athletes to ensure they get.


    This mineral has many important roles in the body for metabolism and it is part of metalloenzymes and their roles in human growth and development. 

    The dietary reference intake for zinc is 11 mg for adult males, and it is 8 mg per day for adult females. Pregnant and lactating females are suggested to take in 11 mg per day, and children younger than 13 will need only 3 – 5 mg of zinc per day.

    Deficiency in this mineral is common in underdeveloped countries, and it is usually a result of malabsorption instead of the lack of intake. 

    The toxic level is seen at 40 mg per day for adults.

    Food sources include meat, whole-grain wheat, liver, eggs, seafood, and some seafood. 

    Zinc is essential for athletes to receive as it is needed for optimal strength and endurance and the immune system and the ability to recover from high-intensity exercise. 


    This mineral is needed in all stages of life, and especially so in stages of fetal development, puberty, and aging in general. 

    Children from 0 – 8 need 90 mcg per day, while adults both male and female will need 150 mcg per day. Pregnant females are recommended to take 220 mcg per day, and then lactating females around 250mcg.

    Toxic levels for iodine is 1,100 mcg every day, but excess levels are usually pretty well tolerated by the body, and actual toxicity is rare to see.

    Food sources are things like iodized salts, eat, cheese, milk, halibut, oysters, and coffee.


    This is a major component of antioxidant enzymes known as glutathione peroxidase. 

    The dietary reference intake for this mineral is 55 mcg per day for adults. 60 mcg per day is needed for pregnant females, and lactating females puts it around 70 mcg.

    Low levels of this mineral have shown widespread adverse effects on the body due to the lowering of the body’s defense against hydroperoxide free radicals. 

    Selenium has a toxic level of around 400 mcg.

    Food sources high in selenium include brazil nuts, meat, seafood, kidney, liver, and some whole-grain products.

    Overall health and performance requires adequate intake of this mineral.


    This is present in many enzymes and plays a role in energy production, melanin pigment synthesis, myelin function, glucose metabolism, and metabolism of cholesterol.

    Dietary reference intake for adults is at 900 mcg every day, and young children under 13 only need half of that. Pregnant women may need an intake of 1,000 mcg per day, and lactating women need 1,300 per day.

    Deficiency symptoms come in the form of anemia, bone abnormalities, defects in skin pigments, failure of reproductive systems, and poor formation of connective tissues. 

    The toxic level is set at 10 mg per day for adults, and it is very rare to see this level achieved. 

    Food sources include organ meats, nuts, seeds, seafood, cocoa, chocolate, and mushrooms. 


    This is needed for production of cellular energy, and it is a big part of enzymes and plays a role in the formation of bone and connective tissue. 

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    The DRI for this mineral is 2.3 mg per day for men and 1.8 mg per day for women. Pregnant and lactating women should intake 2 mg per day and 2.6 mg respectively. 

    Deficiency is rarely seen, but it can have problems with growth and formation in bone and connective tissues. 

    Toxic levels are around 11 mg per day for adults.


    The major role of chromium is in the functioning of insulin, and it is a needed cofactor. There is also a role in metabolism of nucleic acids, and it helps to keep the structure and gene expression.

    The DRI is going to be 20 – 25 mcg per day for women, and 30 – 35 mcg per day for men. Pregnant and lactating women should have 30 and 45 mcg per day, respectively. 

    Toxic levels have not been found yet at the current time, but it may be attributed to renal failure, dermatitis, and other skin problems. 

    Food sources are things like meats, mushrooms, liver, whole-grain bread, black pepper, veggies, and nuts.

    Chromium is not recommended to be supplemented for athletes.


    This is a trace mineral, and its presence is very tiny in the body, but it is needed for good overall health. 

    The DRI for adults is 45 mcg and pregnant and lactating women have a recommendation of 50 mcg.

    The toxic level is considered to be 2,000 mcg per day in adults over 19.

    Food sources are things like grains, nuts, and soy.


    Fluoride has a major role in oral health, primarily the strength of enamel and the prevention of cavities. 

    The DRI is 4 mg per day for adult men, and 3 mg per day for adult women.

    Deficiency in fluoride is linked to tooth decay and even osteoporosis.

    The toxic level is around 7 mg per day, and it is estimated to be out of reach for the average person.

    Food sources are things like fluoridated water, beverages, and tea.


    This is a trace mineral that is found in small amounts and has been established as essential in humans for growth, tissue healing, inflammation, and the body’s sex hormones. 

    The DRI is not established, but a median intake for adult males and females has been found to be 0.75 – 0.96 mg per day on average.

    Deficiency has not been observed.

    Food sources include things like avocado, raisins, grapes, lentils, nuts, nut butter, and kidney beans.


    These substances create either a cation or an anion in the body and regulating fluid balances, blood pressure, blood pH, and muscle contraction.

    Role in the body

    The main function of these three electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium) is to balance the fluids in the body and the bloodstream.


    There are no established DRIs, but a safe minimum has been made for them. A minimum that is good to shoot for with sodium is 500 mg per day, and 2 – 3 thousand mg is high. Chloride has a safe minimum of 42 mg per day. Potassium averages is from 1,000 – 2,500 mg per day.

    Deficiency is not usually seen for electrolytes, except in more severe conditions of dehydration, in prolonged exercise, and in those with renal disease.

    Excessive intake of sodium and chloride can lead to hypertension, fluid balance issues, and edema.

    ISSA Nutritionist Chapter 8: Minerals 2
    ISSA Nutritionist Chapter 8: Minerals 3
    ISSA Nutritionist Chapter 8: Minerals 4

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