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To achieve optimum health and nutrition, we all know we need to supplement our diet with vitamins. But what you may not know is that it is essential to take mineral supplements as the mineral content of our food is easily depleted through refinement processes and cooking methods.

Now that you’ve learnt the ABCs of vitamins, here’s what you need to know about minerals.

Iron is known as the oxygen carrier as it transports oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from cells. Iron is antagonistic to zinc and so shouldn’t be supplemented without ensuring adequate supplementation of zinc.

Zinc deficiency plays a role in nearly every major disease, including diabetes and cancer and few people get enough of it in their diet, especially if vegetarian. Zinc helps to balance hormones and to control inflammation but it’s main role is the protection and repair of DNA. It is also essential to healthy fertility levels. Stress, smoking and alcohol can all lead to the depletion of Zinc.

Magnesium has a direct and immediate blood-pressure lowering effect, also helps lower cholesterol and blood fats and is consistently associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular deaths and heart attacks. It also relieves insomnia, muscle tension and helps stabilise blood sugar levels.

Chromium is a mineral used to help create energy by transporting glucose from the blood to the cells. Continued stress or frequent sugar consumption as well as a diet high in refined foods can deplete this mineral. Chromium supplements have been used successfully in the treatment of diabetes and glucose intolerance.

Selenium is an immune-boosting mineral that reduces inflammation, helps fight infections and promotes a healthy heart.

As with vitamins, most minerals are water soluble so, if you take too much you will simply excrete any excess in your urine. That’s not to say that if you take way too much of any single mineral you won’t have a toxic reaction but this is extremely unlikely unless you take considerably more of a supplement than advised.

Always check the labels for dosage advice and be mindful that the optimal intake of a nutrient varies considerably for each individual, depending on age, gender, health and numerous other factors. The safety of minerals depends on three things – the amount, the form and the balance with other minerals in the diet.

Find out more about the wide-range of vitamin and mineral supplements by Patrick Holford here.