Dr Aidin Rawshani

Minerals: potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron in diet and health


Minerals are needed in small quantities but are vital because we cannot manufacture them ourselves. Minerals are needed to maintain good health and prevent a number of diseases, but do you know which foods are packed with minerals? Too large amounts of minerals can also be harmful, for some minerals a relatively small amount is required and too much of these can lead to negative effects, such as copper, iodine and selenium.

This article examines the importance of various minerals (calcium, iron, selenium, magnesium, potassium and zinc) and how to get more minerals through the diet.

Types of minerals

Essential minerals

RDI 100 mg

• Calcium • Magnesium• Phosphores• Potassium • Sodium • Chloride

RDI 100 mg

• Chromia• Copper• Iodin• Iron • Fluor• Manges• Selenium• Zinc

Essential minerals with a lower recommended daily intake (RDI 100mg) are no less important than those you need more of, everything is needed for good health. However, these minerals are present in different quantities in our foods. Chromium, copper, iodine, manganese and phosphorus are found in a variety of foods, so their lack is rare. Sodium (table salt) is the mineral that we need to reduce in our diet.


Calcium strengthens bones and teeth, it also plays an active role in the body’s immune system. Lack of calcium in the diet is a contributing factor to osteoporosis (osteoporosis) in adults. High levels of calcium are found in dairy products such as milk and yogurt. On average, 250 ml of milk or 150 g of yogurt contains 300 mg of calcium. However, some dairy products have high fat levels, so you should get calcium by combining a diet with dairy and non-dairy products.

According to a study called IRAS (insulin resistance atherosclerosis study), the study authors observed that high concentrations of calcium in the blood are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Several studies have subsequently observed that taking calcium supplements may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. A studio by Lorenzo and colleagues included a total of 863 people between 40-69, and none of them had diabetes at the beginning of the study.

The study showed that there was a relationship between the concentration of calcium in the blood and the development of diabetes or reduced insulin sensitivity (IGT), but this ratio was not linear. This is because the increased risk of diabetes was most seen when patients had the highest levels of serum calcium (2.5 mmol/l). In addition, the study authors noted that a patient’s calcium concentration was not related to glucose and insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity.

In conclusion, the study from Lorenzo and colleagues shows that a high concentration of calcium in the blood does not cause type 2 diabetes, but it can be classified as a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

Foods that include calcium

• Almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts• Broccoli, kale, spinach, watercress • Dried apricot and figs• Mackerel, oysters, salmon, sardines• Seeds such as sesame seeds• Tofu • Calcium enriched soy cheese and milk.


Iron is one of the most abundant minerals on Earth, in the human body, iron is needed for both enzymes and proteins involved in transporting oxygen to cells and to regulate cell growth. Your body also needs iron for hematopoiesis and muscle.

Two-thirds of the iron in our bodies is contained in hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to our tissues. The rest of the iron in our bodies is contained in myoglobin, a protein that supplies oxygen to muscle tissues, as well as in proteins that can store iron for future needs. Lack of iron causes a disease condition called anemia in medical language, and symptoms such as fatigue and irritability.

There are two types of iron

Home iron is a kind of iron that the body can absorb from food.

Heme iron represents about half of the iron content in meat while the other type of iron known as non-heme is all iron in vegetable food. Home iron is bound to hemoglobin and myoglobin. It is found in red meat, offal, chicken, turkey, fish, and to some extent also in seafood.


Make up all the iron in vegetable food. Derived from some plants, grains and nuts. Some varieties of fish and egg yolks are quite rich in iron, but also contain substances that affect the body’s ability to absorb the iron.

The body is able to absorb 20 to 40 percent of the iron contained in meat and 5 to 20 percent of the iron contained in vegetable sources. The amount of iron that the body can absorb is also due to the presence of vitamin C and folic acid, which improves the body’s absorption of this mineral.

The connection between iron and diabetes

You may be wondering what the link is between iron and diabetes. Firstly, there is now evidence that women who consume too much home iron have as much as 28% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This research, based on a study that included over 85,000 middle-aged women. Another study from 2004 showed similar results: about 33,000 healthy women with high iron levels for 10 years had a significant increase in type 2 diabetes. One hypothesis is that high iron levels can cause damage to muscle tissue, which reduces the body’s ability to transport sugar (glucose) from the blood to the cells and may also interfere with insulin production. In addition, there is evidence that 50% to 80% of people with hemochromatosis, a violation of iron absorption, continue to develop type 2 diabetes.)

Secondly, there is new evidence that women with type 2 diabetes who consume a large amount of home iron and red meat have up to 50% increased risk of coronary heart disease. The authors of this study admit that foods rich in home-iron (such as red meat) can also be high in saturated fat, which we already know is connected with heart disease. They also point out that foods with a high content of home-iron do not necessarily “cause” heart disease; they are only “associated” with cardiovascular diseases.

This means that there is no evidence that iron supplements or increased consumption of iron-rich foods directly cause diabetes.

Foods that include iron

Apricots, black currants, figs, prunes, raisins beans, lentilesBroccoli, kale, peas, savoy cabbage, spinach, watercress eggs lean red meat, liver, kidney prunes, oysters, sardines, tuna nutsWhole grain bread and whole grain bread.


Magnesium is an important nutrient for the brain and body. Among other things, it helps to regulate blood sugar. Despite this, magnesium deficiency is often seen in people with diabetes. Deficiency can occur in both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, but appears to occur more in type 2 diabetes. This is due to the fact that low levels of magnesium are associated with insulin resistance.

If you have type 2 diabetes, your body produces insulin, but not enough to meet your needs. This is called insulin resistance. People with reduced insulin sensitivity also lose magnesium via urine, which contributes to lower levels of this nutrient. Some people with type 1 diabetes also develop insulin resistance. This can also expose them to the risk of a magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium helps regulate the levels of potassium and sodium in the body, these minerals (salts) are involved in blood pressure control and several other important functions. Magnesium helps the body absorb and break down other vitamins and minerals, for example, calcium and vitamin C. Magnesium is found in lots of foods, and the following are good sources:

Apricots, bananas, figs, prunes, raisins Brown rice, cereal bread, whole grain bread, pasta, nutszucchini, green leafy vegetables, parsnips, peasLean meatMilk, yogurt

Although supplements can correct a low level of magnesium in your blood, you can also increase your level naturally through your diet. The recommended daily amount of magnesium for adult women is 320 mg to 360 mg and 410 mg to 420 mg for adult males.

Many plants and animal products are an excellent source of magnesium. Tap water, mineral water and bottled water are also sources of magnesium, although magnesium levels may vary depending on the water source. A total serum magnesium blood test can diagnose a magnesium deficiency. Signs of lack include loss of appetite, nausea, muscle cramps and fatigue.

Risks and side effects with magnesium supplements

Taking too much magnesium means certain health risks. It can have a laxative effect in some people, resulting in diarrhea and stomach cramps. So, it is important to take magnesium supplements according to the instructions.

The ingestion of large amounts of magnesium can also lead to magnesium toxicity. This condition can be fatal. Symptoms of toxicity include nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, irregular heart rate and cardiac arrest. Poor kidney function is a risk factor for magnesium toxicity due to the inability of the kidneys to remove excess magnesium from the body.

Side effects do not occur when consuming a large amount of magnesium through food. The body is able to eliminate excess natural magnesium by urination. Consult your doctor before taking a supplement if you are also taking a prescription medicine. This can prevent possible drug interactions.


Zinc is an antioxidant and essential for the maintenance of a healthy immune system.it’snd in water, meat and cereal products so deficiency is rare. Lack of zinc can be associated with skin problems, slow healing of wounds and low sexual libido.

Foods with zinc include

Brown rice and whole grain bread.Cheese crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, sardineranka, goose, kidney, lean red meat, turkey, game.

Zinc and blood sugar control

Zinc is well known for its role in blood sugar control and insulin secretion. Insulin is the hormone responsible for transporting sugar from the blood to the tissues. Some studies suggest that zinc can help keep blood sugar levels steady and improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin.

One study reported that zinc supplements were effective in improving both short-term and long-term blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Other research shows that zinc can help reduce insulin resistance, which can improve the body’s ability to effectively use insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels.

Zinc and heart function

Heart disease is a serious problem that accounts for about 33% of deaths in the world. Some studies show that taking zinc can improve several risk factors for heart disease and may even lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (blood lipids).

A review of 24 studies showed that zinc supplements helped reduce levels of total and “bad” LDL cholesterol, as well as triglycerides in the blood, which can potentially help prevent heart disease.

In addition, a study in 40 young women showed that higher intake of zinc was linked to lower levels of systolic blood pressure (upper blood pressure). However, research evaluating the effects of dietary supplements on blood pressure is limited. Other research suggests that low serum zinc levels may be associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease, but the results remain incomplete.

For adults, the recommended daily dose is usually 15—30 mg of elemental zinc. Higher dosages have been used to treat certain conditions, including acne, diarrhoea and respiratory infections. However, due to the potential side effects associated with excessive zinc consumption, it is best not to exceed the upper limit of 40 mg per day, unless it is under medical supervision.

Safety and side effects

When used as directed, zinc supplements can be a safe and effective way to increase your zinc intake and improve several aspects of your health. However, they have been associated with adverse side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach pain. If the intake exceeds 40 mg of elemental zinc per day, it can cause flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, headache and fatigue.

Zinc can also disrupt the body’s ability to absorb copper, potentially leading to a shortage of this important mineral over time. In addition, zinc supplements have been shown to interfere with the absorption of certain antibiotics, which reduces their effectiveness if taken at the same time.

To reduce the risk of side effects, stick to the recommended dose and avoid exceeding the tolerable upper limit of 40 mg per day, unless it is under medical supervision. If you experience any negative side effects after taking zinc supplements, reduce the dose and consider consulting your healthcare professional if symptoms persist.


We need small but regular amounts of this nutrient to make the liver feel good and function normally. It is also one of the body’s antioxidants. Selenium is found in soil, so the amount contained in food depends on the agricultural methods used. Overgrowing of the soil results in a depletion of its selenium levels and a decrease in the selenium content in the crop.A diet containing a combination of meat, fish and nuts will ensure adequate intake of selenium.

Foods with selenium include

Brazil nuts, cashew nutcheese, eggs, milk chicken, lean meat, liver garlic, onion green vegetablesMackerel, salmon, tuna sunflower seedsfull wheat bread


Along with sodium, this mineral is active in regulating the body’s fluid levels. Potassium is also important in the transmission of nerve impulses, heart rhythm and muscle function.

It is found in most foods except oils, fats and sugars, but can be lost if the food is overcooked. Most fruits and vegetables contain potassium, with bananas, strawberries, fresh orange juice, apricots, prunes, potatoes and green leafy vegetables that provide the best sources. Other sources include almonds, barley, brown rice, chickpeas, corn, garlic, ginger, kidney beans and tofu.

Vitamin B6

Neuropathy, the serious damage caused by high blood sugar levels, may be associated with vitamin B6 deficiency, also known as pyridoxine. Pyridoxine supplements may improve glucose tolerance, especially for people suffering from gestational diabetes, or reduced glucose tolerance caused by oral contraceptives.

Vitamin B6 also has a strong role to play in preventing diabetic complications.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 can have a strong role to play in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy. The presence of vitamin B12 is necessary for the proper functioning of nerve cells, and therefore, as an addition, it can help reduce nerve damage. In extreme cases, the additional effect of intramuscular B12 may be necessary.

Vitamin C

Type 1 diabetics generally have low vitamin C levels. By increasing the amount of vitamin C in the blood, the amount of sorbitol can be lowered. Sorbitol is a residual product of sugar metabolism and is harmful when it accumulates, and its presence can lead to an increased risk of diabetic complications such as retinopathy, neuropathy and kidney damage. In type 2 diabetes, vitamin C can improve glucose tolerance.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D has a number of benefits for your health. The body produces vitamin D in response to sun exposure, which is believed to help increase insulin sensitivity, which in turn is crucial for blood sugar regulation.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is able to oxygenate the blood, fight toxins and improve the activity of insulin in the body. When the body has an insufficient amount of vitamin E, internal structures can be damaged by free oxygen radicals. Increased vitamin E in the blood can reduce the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, and in type 2 diabetics it can improve glucose tolerance. Some studies suggest that the antioxidant effect of vitamin E can reduce the risk of diabetic complications.

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