Minerals come from the earth. In contrast to macro-minerals, your body only needs trace amounts of micro-minerals. Some micro-minerals are essential, meaning that your body requires them for normal function. Essential micro-minerals play life-sustaining roles in your body and include chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc. Fluoride is a non-essential micro-mineral, according to the Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals, even with its role in dental health.
While micro-minerals do not directly provide your body with energy, they are critical to normal metabolism. For instance, your body's metabolic rate and thyroid hormone production largely depend on the micro-mineral iodine. Chromium, another micro-mineral, helps your body metabolize carbohydrates, fats and protein for energy production. It also enhances the function of insulin, the hormone that enables cells throughout your body to pick up blood sugar for energy production. Molybdenum helps with the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, as well as that of iron. Zinc, on the other hand, specifically assists with protein metabolism and is especially important for normal child development from the womb to teenage years.
Hemoglobin and Melanin Production
Iron gives structure to the blood protein hemoglobin and plays the dual role of storing and carrying oxygen to body tissues for energy. Other micro-minerals that are involved in hemoglobin production include manganese and copper. Deficiency in any of these micro-minerals often leads to anemia and loss of energy. Copper is also responsible for the production of melanin, the major pigment-producing protein in your skin.
Nerve Function and Enzyme Structure
While they are technically macro-minerals, sodium and potassium work along with the micro-mineral copper to ensure normal nerve transmission. Micro-minerals can also be components of enzymes, the class of proteins that accelerate metabolic processes throughout your body. For instance, molybdenum, selenium and zinc help give structure to many enzymes. Manganese, on the other hand, activates several enzymes.
Bone Structure and Other Functions
Your bones and teeth need more than just calcium in order to be strong and healthy. They also need copper, manganese and some fluoride, according to Age-well.org. Molybdenum also plays a protective role against tooth decay. Deficiencies in micro-minerals that maintain healthy bones and teeth can lead to weak bones and dental cavities. Lastly, zinc and copper are essential to your body's ability to fight off disease. Treatments for cuts and wounds, for instance, often contain zinc.
Because minerals come exclusively from the earth, you can only obtain them from foods or water. Plant foods are direct sources of minerals, directly drawing minerals from the soil in which they grow. Micro-minerals therefore abound in vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains. Animal products, on the other hand, are indirect mineral sources, since animals feed on plants or other mineral-containing living organisms. Micro-minerals you can obtain from meats and derived products include iron, zinc, chromium and copper.