Minerals - A Complete Guide


Posted: 22 December 2002

Mineral Function(s) Food Sources Claim(s) of Supplements The Science
Calcium Important for proper bone and teeth structure Milk, cheese and yoghurt; dark green, leafy vegetables; fortified cereals and juices; fortified white flour and bread May help to prevent calcium deficiency and osteoporosis There is no evidence that extra calcium prevents osteoporosis; exercise - with adequate calcium intake - prevents bone loss. Runners who eat few or no dairy products may benefit from supplements to meet their demand; extra calcium may help to reduce the risk of stress fractures in female athletes with menstrual irregularities
Sodium Helps to control body fluid balance; involved in muscle and nerve functions Table salt; tinned vegetables; fish and meat; ready-made sauces and condiments Extra salt is needed if you sweat a lot or exercise in hot, humid conditions Excessive sweating during exercise may cause a marked sodium loss, but as salt is present in most foods, supplements aren't necessary
Potassium Complements the action of sodium Vegetables, fruit (especially bananas), and juices May encourage sodium secretion and help to reduce blood pressure Extra potassium is not known to enhance performance
Zinc Involved in metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins; assists the immune system and helps to heal wounds Meat; eggs; wholegrain cereals; milk and other dairy products Suggests a possible role in high-intensity and strength exercises; may help to boost the immune system Studies have failed to show that extra zinc is of any benefit to performance
Magnesium Involved in skeletal development, nerve and muscle functions; assists with energy production Cereals; vegetables; fruit; potatoes; milk May be related to aerobic capacity Studies have failed to show that supplements are beneficial to performance
Iron Involved in red blood cell formation and oxygen transport and utilisation Red meat and liver; fortified breakfast cereals; shellfish; wholegrain bread; green leafy vegetables Can improve aerobic performance by boosting oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells Requirements of runners may be slightly higher since iron is lost through exercise; iron is lost through menstruation, so supplements may be sensible for female runners
Chromium Helps cells to use carbohydrate for energy Beans and peas; chicken Helps burn fat and build muscle size and strength; may boost sprint performance Studies on cyclists suggest extra chromium may shuttle more carbohydrate into muscle cells for a boost of energy, but further research is still needed


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