Chelated Minerals: Getting the Most Out of Your Mineral Supplement

Minerals are essential to human nutrition and help ensure proper metabolism and tissue tone. Unfortunately, the concentration of minerals in whole foods has decreased steadily over the last century. This has made it increasingly harder to achieve the full benefit of minerals from food alone. Furthermore, minerals require a healthy digestive system and stomach acid to absorb effectively. People with digestive issues have an increasingly hard time getting the minerals they need to thrive, making chelated minerals essential.

Mineral chelates are a safe supplement to whole foods, designed for maximum absorption, and available over the counter. However, we encourage you to take the time to find the appropriate option since each mineral chelate offers different benefits. We’ll describe it in more detail later on.

Choosing a Mineral Supplement

When mineral supplementation is required, it is helpful to weigh your options carefully. Typical supplemental minerals, such as magnesium oxide or calcium carbonate, contain elements in a simple form. These simpler forms have the advantage of smaller-sized tablets or capsules, fewer capsules per dose, and are relatively inexpensive. However, a disadvantage to these simpler forms is that they have lower absorption rates. Absorption issues with simple mineral salts are prevalent in older individuals, those who underproduce stomach acid, or those who take acid-reducing medication. Even in healthy digestive tracts, decreased absorption of simple mineral salts may contribute to intestinal symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation. The best type of mineral supplement is chelated for advanced absorbability.

If you start taking a mineral supplement and develop constipation or diarrhea,
it often indicates that your body is not absorbing all of the minerals.

Chelates Defined

When an acid is bound to a mineral, that mineral is said to be chelated. Chelation involves combining the inorganic mineral element with an amino acid such as glycine or an organic acid such as citric acid. Amino acids are considered superior to organic acids as they can effectively neutralize the ion’s electrical charge, reducing the chance that a similarly charged absorbent surface (e.g., intestinal walls) will repel the mineral.  

Examples of acids used to chelate minerals:

Amino Acids (preferred)

  • Aspartic Acid
  • Methionine
  • Monomethionine
  • Lysine
  • Glycine
  • Taurine

Organic Acids

  • Acetic acid
  • Carbonic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Gluconic acid
  • Fumaric acid
  • Malic acid
  • Orotic acid
  • Picolinic acid
Illustration of a chelated mineral from Balchem Human Nutrition & Health.

Benefits Beyond Absorption

Chelation can also be helpful when using combinations that address your particular concerns. The table below shows some of these combinations and their benefits beyond increased absorption.

MineralChelating AgentAdditional Benefits of Chelating Agent
Magnesium TaurateTaurine (amino)Cardiovascular support
Magnesium MalateMalic Acid (organic)Metabolic and muscular effects
Magnesium Citrate Calcium CitrateCitric Acid (organic)Encourages intestinal motility and can help prevent or treat kidney stones.
Magnesium Glycinate Iron BisglycinateGlycine (amino)This smallest known amino acid encourages lower volumes of Magnesium, thus avoiding bowel tolerance difficulties. Also has a mental calming influence.
Magnesium OrotateOrotic Acid (organic)Helpful for cardiac health, delaying muscle fatigue, boosting endurance, and preventing the buildup of lactic acid.
Chromium Picolinate Zinc PicolinatePicolinic Acid (organic)Neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory.

What to Watch Out For

Most minerals are chelated, but it’s not always obvious, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the different types of acids. Some prominent labeling examples include

  • using the word chelated or absorbable in the product name,
  • using the compounded name as the product name, e.g., magnesium glycinate, or
  • including the chelating agent on the supplement facts panel, e.g., Magnesium (as magnesium glycinate).

In Summary

Supplementation is often an effective way to address the inevitable nutritional imbalances we experience throughout our lives. However, it’s important to remember that not all supplements are created equal. Just because a label says “magnesium” doesn’t mean it’s created in a way that will encourage the best results. As always, read the supplement facts carefully, and if you’re ever unsure, please let us know.

Additional Resources

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Video: What are chelated minerals?

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About the Author

Joel Hall

Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness Staff

At Coastal, Joel is our go-to guy for anything related to supplementation and the complex role nutrients play in every bodily function. Although he may be reserved, helping people find their way to optimal health drives what he does. If you see him staring intently at his computer screen, he’s most likely researching something that most of us can only partly understand. He loves sharing his accumulated knowledge and spends as much time as necessary to explain things in a way to help you make good health decisions. He's been working in the wellness arena since the early 2000's and has been in the pursuit of nutritional knowledge since way before that. You can find him behind the wellness desk Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information read our profile on Joel.


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