Are You Getting Enough of 5 Essential Trace Minerals?

By Lisa Richards
Lisa Richards
Lisa Richards
September 16, 2019 Updated: September 16, 2019

Most of the discussion about minerals these days tend to revolve around magnesium. But while magnesium is indeed a very necessary part of your dietary intake, there are trace minerals that you also should be getting every day.

You’ve probably heard of the macro minerals: sodium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, and calcium. But trace minerals are also vital. Even though you need far less of them each day, it’s important that you eat a wholesome diet and obtain enough of them.

Trace minerals are essential for helping your body carry out its daily functions in the most efficient way possible. Minerals are considered trace minerals or trace elements if you require less than 100 mg a day. Even these small doses are important though and trace minerals are considered essential trace minerals if deficiency can lead to disorders or even prove fatal. Such minerals are required for healthy blood pressure regulation, weight management, mood regulation, digestion, and more.

Six of the most important trace minerals that you should be including in your diet every day are iron, chromium, molybdenum, manganese, zinc, and iodine.


Although it’s one of the most important trace elements, iron is often lacking in the Western diet. Iron is vital for the healthy formation of red blood cells and lean muscle.

Iron is a major component of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen through your body. In fact, hemoglobin represents about two-thirds of the body’s iron.

If you’re low in iron, your body can’t make enough of these oxygen-carrying red blood cells. This can lead to a condition called iron-deficiency anemia, in which your body quickly becomes fatigued.

This fatigue can affect everything from brain function to your immune system.

Pregnant women with low iron levels may be at a higher risk of having a premature baby or a baby of low weight. Iron deficiencies are most common in children, women of childbearing age, and pregnant women. However, low iron levels can also occur in people with medical conditions such as gastroenteritis and dysbiosis, or those who don’t eat animal products.

Good sources of iron include red meat, poultry, seafood, and dark leafy vegetables. In some cases, however, supplementation may be necessary.


Chromium is needed for both glucose metabolism and the proper function of insulin in the body. Low levels of chromium can lead to symptoms that are similar to diabetes, such as low blood sugar or impaired glucose tolerance.

Chromium is essential for the healthy metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. It also supports brain function and other body processes by stimulating fatty acid and cholesterol synthesis.

Supplementing with chromium picolinate may be helpful in treating chromium deficiency or controlling blood sugar. Some studies suggest that additional chromium can improve depression in people with polycystic ovary syndrome and may even lower cholesterol, or assist with weight loss. There are some reports that chromium picolinate may treat acne by helping to regulate blood sugar levels.

Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to maintain good levels of chromium by eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and grains.


Although your body doesn’t absorb molybdenum well from certain foods, we only need a small amount—and there are plenty of foods that contain it.

Molybdenum acts as a cofactor for four important enzymes required by the body. These enzymes (sulfite oxidase, aldehyde oxidase, xanthine oxidase, and mitochondrial amidoxime reducing component) are involved in processing sulfites and breaking down other toxins in the body.

Low levels of molybdenum can mean that oxidase is less able to convert sulfite to sulfate, resulting in a build-up of sulfite. This, in turn, can lead to sulfite sensitivity.

Molybdenum has been shown to prevent liver damage from acetaminophen and helps the liver to break down toxic aldehydes like acetaldehyde. Studies have also shown that it reduces heart damage from an antibiotic named doxorubicin.

Molybdenum plays an important role in supporting circulation. It helps to maintain normal nitric oxide levels. It’s also a vital component of nitrate reductase, the enzyme required for breaking down nitrate. This is crucial for healthy nitric oxide production in the body. When broken down, nitrate creates nitrogen dioxide, a direct precursor to nitric oxide.


Zinc is one of the most necessary minerals for healthy growth and development, proper functioning of the immune system, reproduction and a number of neurological functions. It also plays a role in protein synthesis, DNA synthesis, cell division, and healthy wound healing.

Your immune system is particularly dependent on zinc. Zinc helps your body to develop and activate T-lymphocytes, some of your most important immune cells. Those with low zinc levels are often found to have poor immune responses to pathogens, which can mean they are more prone to infections.

Zinc is also required for maintaining the health of skin and mucosal membranes and can help to prevent the development of leg ulcers.

Deficiency in zinc can lead to impaired development, anemia, skin rashes, neurologic abnormalities, and poor immune function. Zinc deficiency can occur in the case of digestive disorders such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease which result in reduced zinc absorption.

Foods rich in zinc include oysters, beef, crab meat, poultry (such as dark-meat chicken turkey), pork, yogurt, milk, and cheese. It is also found in smaller amounts in nuts such as cashews, chickpeas, almonds, peanuts.


Iodine is best known for its role in supporting the thyroid hormone. Low levels of iodine have been linked to a sluggish metabolism, weight gain, abnormal lipid profile, and poor cognitive function. This is because these hormones control your body’s metabolism, as well as many other important functions.

Those who regularly miss out on their iodine requirements are often unable to make enough thyroid hormone. This can lead to numerous health problems. Infants whose mothers have severe iodine deficiency are at risk of stunted growth, mental retardation, and delayed sexual development.

Long term iodine deficiency can have detrimental effects on the developing brain, leading to impaired mental development. Iodine is also essential for healthy bone development during pregnancy and infancy.

Although iodine is found naturally in many foods, most people get it from iodized salt. Foods containing iodine include seafood such as fish (especially cod and tuna), kelp, and shrimp. Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, as well as grain-based foods, such as bread and cereals, are also good sources.

Lisa Richards is a nutritionist and the creator of the Candida Diet. She has been featured on Today, Women’s Health magazine, Reader’s Digest, and Shape, among others. Through her website,, she explains the benefits of a low-sugar, anti-inflammatory diet.

Lisa Richards
Lisa Richards