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Harvard Medical School
Chrome 2001
Chrome 2001


Vitamins And Minerals: A to Z Glossary
Johns Hopkins
InteliHealth Medical Content

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

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Vitamin Glossary | Calcium | Chloride | Chromium | Copper | Floride Acid | Iodine | Iron | Magnesium | Manganese | Molybdenum | Phosphorus | Potassium | Selenium | Sodium | Zinc

Good to know: Adequate calcium intake helps prevent thin bones (osteoporosis) and fractures related to thin bones.
Recommendations: Recommended adequate intake by the Institute of Medicine for calcium
  • 1-3 years, 500 milligrams/day (mg/day)
  • 4-8 years, 800 mg/day
  • 9-13 years, 1,300 mg/day
  • 14-18 years, 1,300 mg/day
  • 19-50 years, 1,000 mg/day
  • 51+ years, 1,200 mg/day

There is no recommendation for infants younger than 12 months. However, they should not get more than 1,000 mg/day.

Benefits: Critical for strengthening bones and teeth. Necessary for proper nervous system and immune function, assists in muscle contraction, blood clotting and blood pressure.
Food sources: Dairy products, including milk, yogurt, and cheese, fish with bones (such as sardines or salmon), tofu, legumes, broccoli, kale, cabbage, calcium-fortified orange juice.
Day's supply in: 1 cup of milk (300 mg) PLUS 1 cup chopped broccoli (72 mg) PLUS 1 cup navy beans (127 mg) PLUS 1 cup plain yogurt (447 mg) PLUS 4 ounces canned pink salmon (242 mg)
Watch out: Recent evidence suggests that too much calcium might increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer and heart disease.
Good to know: The greatest source of chloride in the diet is table salt, or sodium chloride.
Recommendations: Adult minimum: 750 milligrams/day.
Benefits: Important for fluid balance in the body. Also important for digestion, since it is a component of hydrochloric acid found in the stomach.
Food sources: Table salt, soy sauce, processed foods.
Day's supply in: The recommended minimum amount is satisfied by a mere quarter-teaspoon of table salt.
Watch out: No supplementation is necessary unless recommended by a physician. Too much table salt increases the risk of hypertension in susceptible individuals.
Good to know: The dietary supplement chromium picolinate has been suggested to help burn fat and build muscle, but no scientific research has supported these claims.
Recommendations: Safe and adequate amounts for everyone over age 7, 50-200 micrograms (mcg) per day.
Benefits: Works with insulin to help cells use glucose.
Food sources: Unrefined whole grain products, liver, brewer's yeast, nuts, cheese, meats.
Day's supply in: 1 ounce American cheese (48 mcg) OR 1 cup cooked peas (60 mcg) OR 2 eggs (26 mcg each)
Watch out: Because most people in the U.S. eat a diet of refined foods, many people don't get even the minimal amount of chromium in their diets. Deficiency symptoms resemble diabetes because the body is unable to use insulin normally. Symptoms may include fatigue, increased thirst and urination, and extreme hunger.
Good to know: Chocolate contains moderate amounts of copper. People with copper pipes get significant amounts of copper in their drinking water.
Recommendations: Safe and adequate amounts for adults: 1.5-3.0 milligrams (mg) per day.
Benefits: Helps make red blood cells, is part of several body enzymes, and is important for the absorption of iron.
Food sources: Shellfish, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grain products, liver, meats.
Day's supply in: 1 Alaska King crab leg (1.57 mg) OR ½ cup lentils (0.25 mg) PLUS 1 cup raisin bran (0.25 mg) PLUS ½ cup roasted almonds (0.96 mg)
Watch out: Copper can be depleted if too much zinc (supplements of 50 milligrams per day for a long period of time) is taken.
Good to know: About half of all U.S. residents drink fluoridated water.
Recommendations: Safe and adequate amounts for children ages 7-18: 1.5-2.5 milligrams/day.

Safe and adequate amounts for adults: 1.5-4.0 milligrams/day.

Benefits: Helps form bones and teeth, and helps make teeth decay-resistant.
Food sources: Fluoridated drinking water, seafood, tea.
Day's supply in: Usually attained in drinking water or through supplements.
Watch out: Fluoridated water has helped reduce the amount of tooth decay among children in the U.S. But more is not necessarily better. People who get too much fluoride from a variety of sources can have permanently discolored teeth. Don't take fluoride supplements without consulting a local physician or dentist.
Good to know: Iodine is found in the soil near coastal areas, so vegetables grown near salt water will also contain iodine.
Recommendations: Ages 11-51+, 150 micrograms/day
Benefits: Regulates growth and metabolic rate as a component of thyroid hormones.
Food sources: Iodized table salt, salt water fish.
Day's supply in: Normally attained through iodized salt or vegetables grown in iodine-rich soil.
Watch out: Iodine deficiency can result in goiter, the enlargement of the thyroid gland. Goiter is rare in the U.S.
Good to know: Iron from foods is absorbed better if you also eat foods rich in vitamin C.
Recommendations: Men ages 11-18, 12 milligrams/day (mg/day)

Men ages 19-51+, 10 mg/day

Women ages 11-50, 15 mg/day

Women ages 51+, 10 mg/day

Benefits: Important part of red blood cells.
Food sources: Red meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, fortified cereals.
Day's supply in: 1 small extra-lean hamburger (3.14 mg) PLUS 1 cup dry roasted mixed nuts (5.07 mg) PLUS 1 egg (0.72 mg) PLUS ½ cup tofu (6.65 mg) OR 1 cup Kellogg's raisin bran (22.2 mg)
Watch out: Iron deficiency is common throughout the world. Women are especially at risk, since they lose iron in menstrual blood. Deficiency can lead anemia, with symptoms of fatigue, weakness and ill health. Too much iron may increase the risk of heart disease in men.
Good to know: Chocolate and cocoa are good source of magnesium.
Recommendations: Men ages 14-18, 410 milligrams/day (mg/day)

Men ages 19-30, 400 mg/day

Men ages 31-70+, 420 mg/day

Women ages 14-18, 360 mg/day

Women ages 19-30, 310 mg/day

Women ages 31-70+, 320 mg/day

Benefits: Part of enzymes in the body, helps build bones, teeth and proteins, important for proper function of nerves, muscles and immune system.
Food sources: Legumes, nuts, whole grain foods, green vegetables, seafood.
Day's supply in: 1 cup navy beans (107 mg) PLUS 4 ounces halibut (121 mg) PLUS 1 cup brown rice (84 mg) PLUS 1 cup raisins (48 mg) PLUS ½ cup cooked spinach (65 mg)
Watch out: Magnesium deficiency is rare, but people with diabetes, people who take diuretics and alcoholics are at much greater risk. Symptoms may include weakness, confusion and muscle spasms.
Good to know: Deficiency and toxicity are rare in the U.S.
Recommendations: Safe and adequate amounts, ages 11-51+: 2-5 milligrams/day.
Benefits: Part of many body enzymes.
Food sources: Widely available in foods, especially nuts, leafy green vegetables, tea and unrefined cereals and grain products.
Day's supply in: Any combination of healthy foods.
Watch out: No Warnings
Good to know: Deficiency and toxicity are rare in the U.S.
Recommendations: Safe and adequate amounts for ages 11-51+: 75-250 micrograms/day.
Benefits: Part of many body enzymes
Food sources: Milk, legumes, liver, unrefined cereals and grain products.
Day's supply in: Usually attained in the course of a healthy diet.
Watch out: No Warnings
Good to know: The second most abundant mineral in the body, after calcium.
Recommendations: Ages 9-18, 1,250 milligrams/day (mg/day)

Ages 19-70, 700 mg/day

Benefits: Works with calcium to form bones and teeth, helps create energy in the body, is part of cell membranes. Phosphorus is present in DNA and RNA, the body's genetic material.
Food sources: Most prevalent in protein-rich foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and milk.
Day's supply in: 1 chicken breast (392 mg) PLUS 1 cup skim milk (247 mg) PLUS 1 egg (89 mg)
Watch out: Very low blood phosphate levels cause muscle weakness and decrease the ability of white blood cells to fight infection.
Good to know: People who eat the recommended five servings a day of fruits and vegetables usually get enough potassium in their diets.
Recommendations: Adult minimum: 2,000 milligrams/day (mg/day)
Benefits: Important for nerve transmission, muscle contraction, and balance of fluids in the body.
Food sources: Many types of fresh foods, including meat, milk, whole grain products, fruits, legumes, potatoes.
Day's supply in: 4 ounce sirloin steak (400 mg) PLUS 1 cup milk (400 mg) PLUS ½ cup kidney beans (329 mg) PLUS 1 baked potato with skin (844 mg) PLUS 1 slice whole wheat bread (70 mg)
Watch out: Excessive vomiting or diarrhea, and certain drugs, such as diuretics, may deplete the body of potassium. Potassium supplements may be prescribed along with certain types of diuretics. Symptoms of potassium deficiency include muscle weakness and fatigue. People with advanced kidney disease can develop high blood potassium levels. Potassium supplements should only be taken when prescribed by your doctor.
Good to know: Selenium is currently being investigated for its potential to prevent cancer.
Recommendations: Ages 15-18, 50 micrograms/day

Men ages 19-51+, 70 micrograms/day (mcg/day)

Women ages 19-51+, 55 mcg/day

Benefits: Powerful antioxidant that works to protect cells from damage, important for cell growth.
Food sources: Seafood, meats, grain products, seeds.
Day's supply in: 1 chicken breast (47 mcg) PLUS 1 egg (15 mcg) PLUS 1 slice whole wheat bread (10 mcg)
Watch out: Taking high doses, 1 milligram or higher, can cause toxicity symptoms, including nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, nerve damage, hair loss and nail changes.
Good to know: Sodium supplementation is rarely necessary, even under normal conditions of exercise and sweating.
Recommendations: Adult minimum: 500 milligrams/day (mg/day)
Benefits: Important for nerve transmission, muscle contraction, and balance of fluids in the body.
Food sources: Table salt, soy sauce, processed foods.
Day's supply in: The recommended minimum amount is satisfied in daily diet.
Watch out: Too much sodium in the diet has been linked to hypertension in some people who have a genetic sensitivity. Most people get far too much sodium in their diets, due mainly to over-use of table salt. It is recommended that adults aim to keep their total sodium intake below 1,500 mg/day, less than 1 teaspoon of table salt.
Good to know: Although some people suggest using zinc supplements to fight the common cold, results of scientific studies have been contradictory.
Recommendations: Men ages 11-51+, 15 milligrams/day (mg/day)

Women ages 11-51+, 12 mg/day

Benefits: Part of many enzymes in the body, helps with tissue growth and wound healing, important for taste perception.
Food sources: Protein-rich foods, including meat, poultry, fish.
Day's supply in: 1 small extra-lean hamburger (7.29 mg) PLUS 1 cup chickpeas (2.51 mg) PLUS 1 cup milk (0.98 mg) PLUS 2 slices whole wheat bread (1.1 mg) PLUS 1 cup plain yogurt (2.18 mg) PLUS 2 eggs (1.0 mg)
Watch out: Zinc supplements may be required to treat zinc deficiency. Symptoms include loss of appetite, impaired sense of taste and slow wound healing.


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Last updated June 23, 2014

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