Minerals like zinc and magnesium are necessary for us to properly use energy, detoxify our bodies, and hundreds of other cellular activities that our body needs to go through each day. Because minerals are so important, you often see them in supplements either by themselves or part of a multi-vitamin/ multi-mineral formula.
Unfortunately, most companies use cheap forms of minerals that are not highly bioavailable and are not absorbed after ingestion and can often cause digestive discomfort. The cheapest forms of minerals are usually the raw elemental forms like zinc or magnesium oxide. This is basically what you would expect to find in dirt. I’m pretty sure that dirt is not one of the 5 food groups, so why would we consume anything in that form is beyond me.
Before supplements our only source of minerals was from plants and animals. Plants can absorb minerals from the soil, but they do not remain in their elemental form once taken up by the plant. These minerals then become what we call organic minerals. The plants bind the minerals to proteins. This is the form in which it can then be absorbed by the animals and humans that eat the plants.
Copper is an essential nutrient in our diet, but we don’t get it from eating pennies. We absorb small amounts of organic copper from the foods we eat, which in turn got the minerals from the soil. This is one of the reasons that organic foods are much healthier. They usually contain a higher amount of bioavailable minerals. This is also one of the reasons that when people start eating more fresh organic produce, that their energy levels improve drastically.
“Chela”, Greek for “claw” which refers to the process of which minerals become organic. Chelation is the suspension of a mineral between two or more amino acids, or bonding to “small proteins”, peptides or amino acids. Chelation substances can include things like amino acids, ascorbic acid and orotates, as well as hydrolyzed protein. The most important thing about chelation is that it improves the absorption of the mineral from the digestive tract. There are also chelation therapies that can help remove metals from the body by basically the reverse process using chelates that make the metals benign to the body.
In terms of best absorption, different chelates work better for different minerals, and different tissues of the body. If you want maximal absorption of a mineral, let’s say like magnesium because your levels are low; you will want to take in as several different chelates if possible. When supplementing with minerals, because the dosages are higher than normally in food, digestion can often be limited, and in some cases disrupted. Taking a poor quality magnesium is a great way to get rid of constipation because it gets the bowels moving, but very little of that magnesium will be absorbed and used by your body.
Because chelates can also work as traffic directors, increasing mineral uptake in certain tissues, different chelates can have different therapeutic effects. For instance magnesium malate will be more energizing and is good for detoxifying aluminum, magnesium glycinate will be more calming and will help with sleep and liver health.