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.
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.
|Sodium||Is is used for proper fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction||Table salt, soy sauce; large amounts in processed foods; small amounts in milk, bread, vegetables, and unprocessed meats|
|Chloride||Needed for proper fluid balance, stomach acid||Table salt, soy sauce; large amounts in processed foods; small amounts in milk, meats, breads, and vegetables|
|Potassium||Needed for proper fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction||Meats, milk, fresh fruits, and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.|
|Calcium||Important for healthy bones and teeth; helps muscles relax and contract; important in nerve functioning, blood clotting, blood pressure regulation, and immune system health||Milk and milk products; canned fish with bones (salmon, sardines); fortified tofu and fortified soy milk; greens (broccoli, mustard greens); legumes|
|Phosphorus||Important for healthy bones and teeth; found in every cell; part of the system that maintains acid-base balance||Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, processed foods, and soda pop|
|Magnesium||Found in bones; needed for making protein, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, immune system health||Nuts and seeds; legumes; leafy, green vegetables; seafood; chocolate; artichokes; hard drinking water|
|Sulfur||Found in protein molecules||Occurs in foods as part of protein: meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, legumes, nuts|
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.
|Iron||Makes up the molecule hemoglobin that is found in our red blood cells. Hemoglobin carries oxygen throughout our body. It is also used for energy metabolism||Organ meats; red meats; fish; poultry; shellfish (especially clams); egg yolks; legumes; dried fruits; dark, leafy greens; iron-enriched breads and cereals; and fortified cereals|
|Zinc||Part 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 health||Meats. fish, poultry, leavened whole grains, vegetables|
|Iodine||Found in thyroid hormone, which helps regulate growth, development, and metabolism||Seafood, foods grown in iodine-rich soil, iodized salt, bread, dairy products|
|Selenium||Antioxidant||Meats, seafood, grains|
|Copper||Part of many enzymes; needed for iron metabolism||Legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, organ meats, drinking water.|
|Maganese||Part of many enzymes||Widespread in foods, especially plant foods|
|Fluoride||Part of many enzymes||Widespread in foods, especially plant foods|
|Chromium||Works closely with insulin to regulate blood sugar levels||Unrefined foods, especially liver, brewer’s yeast, whole grains, nuts, cheeses|
|Molybdenum||Part of some enzymes||Legumes; breads and grains; leafy, green vegetables; milk; liver|
Recommended Daily Intake
|Mineral||Recommended Daily Intake|
|Sulfer||14 mg/kg of body weight per day|
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.
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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- 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
- 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