Trace Minerals vs. Macro Minerals: Understand The Difference

Minerals fall into two categories: Macro Minerals and Trace Minerals (also referred to as Micro Minerals). Most of us are very aware of the need for adequate vitamins and minerals in our diet. Dietary minerals are considered inorganic substances that our bodies are unable to produce themselves. They are found in the food and drink we enjoy everyday. Therefore, it’s important to eat a diet rich in foods that contain a variety of those essential vitamins and minerals. So what are the mineral classifications and how do we know which ones are more important than others?

The Difference Between Trace Minerals and Macro Minerals

Simply put, Trace Minerals are the ones that you need in small amounts, usually less than 100 milligrams a day, for healthy living.

Macro Minerals are their opposite, needed in much larger quantities to sustain normal, healthy cell function.

Trace Minerals include:

  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Iodine 
  • Selenium

All are needed in doses lower than 12 mg per day, according the the FDA’s Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).

The three main Macro Minerals are Calcium and Phosphorous, both found in our teeth and bones, and Magnesium found in our bodies’ enzyme reactions. Potassium, Sodium and Chloride are also considered by many to fall into the Macro Mineral category.


Trace Mineral deficiencies have been known to occur most often in countries where the food sources have soil deficiencies in the same minerals. It can be as simple as differences in a country’s terrain. Countries and populations with mountains and lush greenery will have different soil components than an island that has had volcanic activity, for example. In all cases, it’s important to note that mineral deficiencies are more critical than most vitamin deficiencies and should receive the attention of a medical professional. Since different minerals are stored in different organs and tissues of the body, signs of deficiencies will vary greatly.

Since Trace minerals can be toxic to the body when taken in higher dosages, mineral supplements should be prescribed by your personal physician. For a number of years the popular theory has been that a broad spectrum diet of healthy fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, fish, and whole grains would prevent mineral deficiencies. However, with the recognition that not all food “is created equal” because of terrain issues and also environmental issues, this discussion has come under much debate.


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