From calcium, which helps build strong bones, to iron, which helps carry oxygen in the blood, minerals are essential for our bodies to function optimally. They are key ingredients to living a long and energized life. Oftentimes, they are overlooked by the newest and coolest supplements that are hitting the market, but we must not overlook these key staples.
Unfortunately, there are many factors that disrupt your mineral absorption such as soil depletion, agricultural practices, and modern ultra-processed diets. But knowing the tips and tricks on how to take these will help optimize your absorption.
Major Factors That Affect Mineral Absorption:
Firstly, soil depletion is one of the major reasons why minerals are becoming harder to get. Modern agricultural practices have resulted in soil being stripped of essential minerals, which in turn leads to a decrease in the mineral content of the plants grown in that soil. The use of fertilizers and pesticides further exacerbates the problem, leading to a reduction of essential minerals in the food we eat.(1)
Another factor contributing to the difficulty of adequate mineral intake is our modern diet. Our diets have changed dramatically over the past few decades, with a shift towards ultra-processed and convenience foods. These foods are often high in calories and low in nutrients, making it challenging to consume adequate amounts of essential minerals. (1)
Despite these challenges, getting adequate amounts of minerals is still possible by paying attention to what you eat and taking mineral supplements as needed.
Here are some tips on how to best absorb each mineral:
Vitamin A, D, E, and K: These fat-soluble vitamins are best absorbed with a meal containing some fat. Here are the benefits of these key vitamins:
- Vitamin A is important for vision, skin health, and the immune system. It also helps the body produce healthy tissues, including the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes.
- Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is necessary for strong bones. It also helps regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation.
- Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. It also plays a role in maintaining healthy skin and eyes and supporting the immune system.
- Vitamin K is important for blood clotting and supporting healthy bones. It helps the body produce clotting factors and maintain strong bones.(2)(3)
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is best absorbed on an empty stomach and in amounts of up to 500 mg at a time. To avoid any interactions with other supplements, it is best to take Vitamin C at a different time from your B vitamins and calcium supplements. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in maintaining good health. Here are some of the key benefits of Vitamin C:
- Antioxidant: Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.
- Immune system support: Vitamin C helps support the immune system by promoting the production of white blood cells, which help fight off infections.
- Collagen synthesis: Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen, a protein that helps form skin, tendons, ligaments, and other tissues.
- Iron absorption: Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron from plant-based foods, making it easier for the body to use this important mineral.
- Mood and energy: Vitamin C helps the body produce neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which regulate mood and energy levels.(2)(3)
B-Complex Vitamins: B-complex vitamins are a group of essential water-soluble vitamins that play important roles in maintaining good health. To make the most of your B-complex vitamins, split your dose into two: one in the morning and one in the early afternoon on an empty stomach. Avoid taking your second dose at night, as B vitamins provide energy and could keep you awake. Here’s a brief overview of what each B vitamin does for the body:
- B1 (thiamin): This vitamin helps the body convert carbohydrates into energy and is essential for the functioning of the heart, muscles, and nervous system.
- B2 (riboflavin): This vitamin is important for red blood cell production and helps to maintain healthy skin, eyes, and nerves.
- B3 (niacin): This vitamin helps the body convert food into energy, and also helps to maintain healthy skin and nerves.
- B5 (pantothenic acid): This vitamin is important for the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and also helps to produce hormones and neurotransmitters.
- B6 (pyridoxine): This vitamin helps the body produce hormones and neurotransmitters, and is also involved in red blood cell production and the maintenance of a healthy nervous system.
- B7 (biotin): This vitamin is important for healthy skin, hair, and nails, and also helps the body metabolize carbohydrates and fats.
- B9 (folate): This vitamin is important for cell growth and the production of DNA, and is also involved in the production of red blood cells.
- B12 (cobalamin): This vitamin is important for red blood cell production, the proper functioning of the nervous system, and the maintenance of DNA.(2)(3)
Calcium: For maximum absorption, take one dose of calcium in the morning and one with lunch, in amounts of up to 500 mg at a time. Here are some of the key roles that calcium plays in the body:
- Bone and dental health: Calcium is the main building block for bones and teeth, and it helps to keep them strong and healthy.
- Muscle function: Calcium is needed for muscle contraction, and a lack of calcium can cause muscle cramps, twitching, and spasms.
- Blood clotting: Calcium is involved in blood clotting, and a deficiency can increase the risk of bleeding and bruising.
- Nerve function: Calcium helps to transmit nerve impulses, and a lack of calcium can affect the nervous system.
- Hormone regulation: Calcium helps regulate hormones, and a lack of calcium can disrupt the balance of hormones in the body.
- Enzyme function: Calcium is involved in many enzymatic reactions in the body, and a lack of calcium can affect the efficiency of these reactions.(2)(3)
Iron: For optimal absorption, take iron on an empty stomach. If you experience stomach pain, take it with food. Consider taking it with Vitamin C. Do not take it with magnesium, multivitamin, calcium, milk, or caffeine.
- Oxygen transport: Iron is a component of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
- Energy production: Iron helps produce energy in cells, by carrying oxygen to the mitochondria where energy is generated.
- Immune system function: Iron is involved in the production of white blood cells, which play a key role in the immune system’s defense against infections.
- Brain function: Iron is essential for normal brain function, as it is involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that transmit signals in the brain.(2)(3)
Magnesium: Can be taken with or without food. Do not take it with very high doses of zinc.
- Muscle and nerve function: Magnesium is essential for normal muscle and nerve function. It helps regulate muscle contractions and relaxation, and also helps transmit nerve impulses.
- Heart health: Magnesium helps regulate heart rhythm and is also involved in the regulation of blood pressure.
- Bone health: Magnesium is involved in the formation and maintenance of strong bones and helps regulate calcium levels in the body.
- Energy production: Magnesium plays a role in the production of energy in cells, and is also involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins.
- Mood regulation: Magnesium is involved in the regulation of neurotransmitters, which can affect mood and mental health.(2)(3)
Minerals are involved in various processes in the body, including building and repairing tissues, supporting the immune system, producing energy, and controlling chemical reactions. Adequate mineral intake is important for maintaining good health and preventing chronic diseases.
Unfortunately, our modern diet, soil depletion, and agricultural practices have made it increasingly difficult to get adequate amounts of minerals.
However, with a little bit of knowledge and effort, we can still ensure that our bodies receive the essential minerals they need to function properly. By choosing a balanced diet that includes a variety of fresh foods, taking mineral supplements when necessary, and following the best practices for absorption, we can ensure that our bodies are getting the minerals they need to thrive. So don’t forget the importance of minerals, and make sure to take care of your mineral intake to enjoy a long and energized life.
Disclaimer: Please consult with a doctor being starting any supplements as supplements are known to have contraindications with certain medications. Keep in mind, supplements are not regulated by the FDA and its important that you find high quality supplements. Click here for a guide on how to differentiate between high and low quality supplements.
- MD, Vincent Giampapa. “Absorbing Vitamins Better: The Complete Guide to Increasing Vitamin and Mineral Absorption.” Healthycell, HealthyCell, 24 Dec. 2021, https://www.healthycell.com/blogs/articles/increase-vitamin-and-mineral-absorption.
- “Minerals.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://medlineplus.gov/minerals.html.
- “Minerals: The Overlooked Necessity.” Down to Earth Organic and Natural, https://www.downtoearth.org/articles/2009-03/55/minerals-overlooked-necessity.