Television and health advertisements constantly tell us to eat foods that contain common nutrients such as calcium and protein, but less advertised are trace minerals that can give the body just as many benefits. Often, because of a lack of proper information, people make faulty assumptions about trace minerals, such as how much of them to take and how to get them.
According to the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, trace minerals are nutrients that are needed by the body, but only in very small amounts. No specific amount differentiates a trace nutrient from a macro-nutrient, but comparisons to nutrients we need abundant amounts of---such as calcium at 800 to 1,200 milligrams a day---can give you an idea of which are trace nutrients.
There are many different trace minerals in the food that people eat, but only a handful are considered necessary for good health, reports the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Hospital. Useful trace minerals include iron, zinc, copper, manganese, fluoride, chromium and selenium.
While the exact benefits of trace minerals depend on the specific kind, they all help the body perform essential functions. The body requires iron to form new blood cells, which is needed during periods of growth, especially during the infant years, according to the Texas Heart Institute. Zinc is essential for the body's immune system and general body growth.
According to the Texas Heart Institute, it's not difficult for most people to get adequate trace minerals if they eat a variety of healthful foods. Special situations, such as breastfeeding and digestive conditions that prevent nutrient uptake, may result in different dietary needs, reports the Mayo Clinic.
The reference manual "Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc" warns against taking vitamin supplements that offer more than the recommended daily allowance of any trace mineral. The body can safely absorb only so much of any mineral; too much in the diet confers no added benefit and can actually cause harm.