Minerals: Their Functions and Sources

Micronutrients and macronutrients are the two major classes of nutrients found in the food we eat. Macro means big, thus macronutrients make up the bulk of the nutrition in the food we eat. They are the nutrients that supply our calories and act as the building blocks for muscles and tissues. Carbohydrates, fat, and protein are all examples of macronutrients. Micronutrients are the individual vitamins and minerals that our body needs to maintain its health. Although they are crucial, we need them in much smaller amounts.

Vitamins are necessary for energy production, immune function, blood clotting, and more. Meanwhile, minerals play an important role in growth, bone health, fluid balances, and other key processes. This article will explore the importance of minerals within our bodies. Additionally, it will highlight the sources for the minerals within our diets.

Minerals are naturally occurring chemical elements. The body needs many minerals in order to maintain its health. Essential minerals are the minerals that our body uses to maintain its health. There are two categories of essential minerals, major minerals and trace minerals.

Major Minerals

Our body needs needs more than 100 mg of major minerals per day. Additionally, there are more than 5 grams of major minerals within our body at all times. The major minerals are: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium.

MineralFunctionSources
SodiumIs is used for proper fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle contractionTable salt, soy sauce; large amounts in processed foods; small amounts in milk, bread, vegetables, and unprocessed meats
ChlorideNeeded for proper fluid balance, stomach acidTable salt, soy sauce; large amounts in processed foods; small amounts in milk, meats, breads, and vegetables
PotassiumNeeded for proper fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle contractionMeats, milk, fresh fruits, and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
CalciumImportant for healthy bones and teeth; helps muscles relax and contract; important in nerve functioning, blood clotting, blood pressure regulation, and immune system healthMilk and milk products; canned fish with bones (salmon, sardines); fortified tofu and fortified soy milk; greens (broccoli, mustard greens); legumes
PhosphorusImportant for healthy bones and teeth; found in every cell; part of the system that maintains acid-base balanceMeat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, processed foods, and soda pop
MagnesiumFound in bones; needed for making protein, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, immune system healthNuts and seeds; legumes; leafy, green vegetables; seafood; chocolate; artichokes; hard drinking water
SulfurFound in protein moleculesOccurs in foods as part of protein: meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, legumes, nuts

Trace Minerals

Our body needs less than 100 mg of trace minerals per day. Additionally, there are less than 5 grams of trace minerals within our body at all times. The trace minerals are: iron, cobalt, copper, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, iodine, bromine, and selenium. Iron is considered a trace mineral, however it is needed at a higher level than the other trace minerals.

MineralFunctionSources
IronMakes up the molecule hemoglobin that is found in our red blood cells. Hemoglobin carries oxygen throughout our body. It is also used for energy metabolismOrgan meats; red meats; fish; poultry; shellfish (especially clams); egg yolks; legumes; dried fruits; dark, leafy greens; iron-enriched breads and cereals; and fortified cereals
ZincPart of many enzymes; needed for making protein and genetic material; has a function in taste perception, wound healing, normal fetal development, production of sperm, normal growth and secual maturation, immune system healthMeats. fish, poultry, leavened whole grains, vegetables
IodineFound in thyroid hormone, which helps regulate growth, development, and metabolismSeafood, foods grown in iodine-rich soil, iodized salt, bread, dairy products
SeleniumAntioxidantMeats, seafood, grains
CopperPart of many enzymes; needed for iron metabolismLegumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, organ meats, drinking water.
MaganesePart of many enzymesWidespread in foods, especially plant foods
FluoridePart of many enzymesWidespread in foods, especially plant foods
ChromiumWorks closely with insulin to regulate blood sugar levelsUnrefined foods, especially liver, brewer’s yeast, whole grains, nuts, cheeses
MolybdenumPart of some enzymesLegumes; breads and grains; leafy, green vegetables; milk; liver

Recommended Daily Intake

MineralRecommended Daily Intake
Calcium2000-2500 mg
Phosphorus700 mg
Magnesium310-420 mg
Sodium2,300 mg
Chloride1800-2300 mg
Potassium4700 mg
Sulfer14 mg/kg of body weight per day
Iron8-18 mg
Manganese1.8-2.3mg
Copper900 μg
Zinc8-11 mg
Iodine150 μg
Fluoride3-4 mg
Selenium55 μg
Chromium20-35 μg
Molybdenum45μg

Health Benefits of Minerals

All minerals are extremely important for the functioning of your body. Consuming an adequate amount of minerals is key to optimal health and may even help fight diseases. Research has linked low blood levels of selenium to a higher risk of heart disease. A study found that the risk of heart disease decreased by 24% when blood concentrations of selenium increased by 50%1. Additionally, a study showed that adequate calcium intake decreases the risk of death from heart disease and other causes2.

Conclusion

Micronutrients include the vitamins and minerals that help our body function. Minerals play an important role in growth, bone health, fluid balances, and other key processes. There are two categories of minerals, major minerals and trace minerals. Our body needs needs more than 100 mg of major minerals per day. similarly, it needs less than 100 mg of trace minerals per day. Having enough minerals in our diet is important to ensure that we function properly. Additionally, adequate levels of minerals may help prevent heart disease and early death. To ensure you are getting enough minerals, aim for a balanced diet that is composed of a variety of foods.

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References

  1. Flores-Mateo G, Navas-Acien A, Pastor-Barriuso R, Guallar E. Selenium and coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006;84(4):762-773. doi:10.1093/ajcn/84.4.762
  2. Asemi Z, Saneei P, Sabihi S-S, Feizi A, Esmaillzadeh A. Total, dietary, and supplemental calcium intake and mortality from all-causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: A meta-analysis of observational studies. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2015;25(7):623-634. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2015.03.008

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