Think of your body as a house. Vitamins (all about them in Chapter 10) are like tiny little maids and butlers, scurrying about to turn on the lights and make sure that the windows are closed to keep the heat from escaping. Minerals are more sturdy stuff, the mortar and bricks that strengthen the frame of the house and the current that keeps the lights running.
Nutritionists classify the minerals essential for human life as either major minerals (including the principal electrolytes — see Chapter 13) or trace elements. Major minerals and trace elements are both minerals. The difference between them, nutritionally speaking, is how much you have in your body and how much you need to take in to maintain a steady supply.
Your body stores varying amounts of minerals but keeps more than 5 grams (about >6 of an ounce) of each of the major minerals and principal electrolytes on hand; you need to consume more than 100 milligrams a day of each major mineral to maintain a steady supply and to make up for losses. You store less than 5 grams of each trace element and need to take in less than 100 milligrams a day to stay even.
Some minerals interact with other minerals or with medical drugs. For example, calcium binds tetracycline antibiotics into compounds your body can't break apart so that the antibiotic moves out of your digestive tract, unab-sorbed and unused. That's why your doctor warns you off milk and dairy products when you're taking this medicine. For more about interactions between minerals and medicines, turn to Chapter 25.
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