Trace Elements in Food - how much you have to eat in order to get your RDA

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Trace element deficiencies are common partly as a result of Western style agriculture, food processing and food choices. They can be corrected by taking the appropriate supplements, but also by eating the right foods. (RDA = recommended daily amount.) This differs widely from one person to another - for example, illness increases requirements. The figure after each food is how much of that food one would have to eat if the daily requirement came solely from that food.

This list illustrates the point that it is virtually impossible to eat the RDAs of vitamins and minerals living a Western lifestyle. One would have to eat large amounts of food and take large amounts of exercise to keep a balance. This of course is what primitive man would have done! As we age and become biochemically less efficient, these amounts all increase.

One also needs efficient digestion to absorb these micronutrients. See

  • Magnesium - 350mgs
kelp 2oz
almonds 5oz
cashews 5oz
brazil nuts 6oz
brown rice 14oz
soybeans 16oz
green leafy vegetables 25oz
  • Calcium - 800mgs. Calcium is all about vitamin D. There is plenty of calcium in food, it is the absorption that is the problem. This is dependent on vitamin D and the only real source of that is sunshine. In the winter especially we should all be taking a vitamin D supplement, at least 1,000iu and day and arguably 5,000iu!
kelp 3oz
almonds 8oz
corn tortillas 16oz
brazil nuts 16oz
tofu 14oz
dried figs 14oz
sunflower seeds 14oz
  • Potassium - 2,000-6,000mg (figures for 4,000mg)
kelp one teaspoonful
rice bran 8oz
nuts 10oz
parsnip 20oz, potato 20oz
banana 30oz (that's a lot of bananas and represents a high glycaemic load, so banana is not a good way to get potassium!)
leafy green vegetables 30oz
  • Zinc - 15mgs. Zinc is often low in vegetarians or people on low protein diets.
oysters half an ounce
steak/chops 9oz
pecans 11oz
brazils 12oz
egg yolk 12oz
  • Copper - 2mgs
  • Rich in nuts, split peas, liver, meat, butter. Deficiency uncommon except junk food diets.
  • Manganese - 5mgs
pecans 5oz
brazils 8oz
oatmeal 24oz
rhubarb 30oz
  • Iodine - 75mcgms
any seafoods 4oz, otherwise very dependent on soil iodine levels. If soil levels O.K, then eggs, nuts.
Use iodised salt.
  • Chromium - 200mcgms
meat/liver 16oz
potato 30oz
Chromium is poorly absorbed - it is best absorbed from yeast, black pepper, liver, cheese and wholemeal bread.
  • Selenium - 200mcgms. Levels in food very dependent on soil selenium. Since changing from Canadian to European wheat, U.K selenium intakes have halved in the last 10 years (another reason for the anti-Europe lobby!).
herring 5oz
brazil nuts 8oz
any seafoods 10oz
milk 16oz
brown rice 16oz
meats 30oz.
  • Molybdenum - 500mcgms
lentils 9oz
liver 10oz
split peas 10oz
green leafy vegetables 12oz
brown rice 20oz
oats 24oz.

Recent research has shown that micronutrient content of food is declining, so these amounts may already be out of date! See LifeExtension — Vegetables Without Vitamins.

Goodies and baddies

  • Use Solo sodium reduced sea salt to get the trace minerals.
  • Vitamin C improves absorption and tea/coffee blocks absortion. So, drink fruit juice with meals, and tea/coffee between meals.
  • Trace element content depends very much on soil levels.
  • Organic foods will have lower water content and better trace element content than chemical foods.
  • Sugar, alcohol, caffeine are "anti-nutrients". They require trace elements for their metabolism in the body and increase requirements.
  • Wheat bran is rich in many trace elements but contains phytic acid which blocks their absorption.
  • White flour is markedly deficient in trace elements compared to wholemeal.


Low levels of trace elements have the following disease associations:

  • magnesium/potassium with heart disease
  • selenium with cancer and heart disease
  • iodine with hypothyroidism
  • iron with anaemia
  • chromium with diabetes
  • manganese with epilepsy
  • zinc with immunity problems, infertility, behaviour problems, etc.

My family are hopeless at taking supplements so I put them into the cooking. Fruit salad gets a sprinkling of vitamin C, oils and minerals get squirted into homemade bread, mashed potato and soups. It is impossible to disguise the B vitamins (they make the bread bright yellow!) so they go on the table with breakfast and I bully my daughters until the capsules get swallowed.

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