To help people understand nutrition better, I am devoting a post on essential minerals that the body needs. You can also look under Category section on vitamins and health, to help you with getting enough of both vitamins and minerals in your healthy diet plan.
There are 2 classes of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are complex and organic, serving primarily as coenzymes or regulators of body metabolism.
Minerals are simple elements with important roles in both structure and function of the body.
Eating organically grown foods is important because if the soil is deficient in minerals, the food grown in that soil can be deficient.
What are the major minerals?
There are 7 major minerals: Calcium, Phosphorus, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Chloride, and Sulfur.
The trace elements are: Iron, Iodine, Zinc, Manganese, Copper, Chromium, Cobalt, Molybdenum and Fluoride.
Our body requires a plentiful supply of organic minerals. Our soil, filled with microbes, breaks down the inorganic minerals and the plants absorb them. This process renders the minerals organic and able to be assimilated into the body.
1. Calcium is the skeletal mineral, needed for growth and development, keeping the heart healthy, and for muscle activity. Calcium is the mineral that is present in the largest amount in the body. Calcium aides in the formation of bones and teeth, helping in metabolic functions such as blood clotting, nerve transmission, muscle contraction and relaxation. Good sources include milk, yogurt, cheese, orange juice, spinach, white beans, tofu and bread.
You need the proper intake of Vitamin D, or bone development can be impeded. With the loss of bone, osteoporosis can form.
2. Phosphorus is associated with calcium in the body. Most phosphorus is found in the skeleton and teeth, with calcium. Phosphorus works with proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates to produce energy, build and repair tissue and help maintain a good pH level. Good sources: milk and lean meat
3. Sodium- about 95% of sodium is found in extracellular fluid as free ionized sodium. This sodium guards the body water outside of the cells, regulating acid-base balance in the body. Sodium helps to maintain muscle action. High sodium can lead to high blood pressure. Spinach and celery are fairly high in sodium.
4. Potassium found inside cells where it guards intercellular water. Some is found in extracellular fluid which is good for muscle activity. Potassium inside helps balance sodium outside of cells to maintain osmotic pressure. Taking too much potassium can lead to hyperkalemia and cardiac arrhythmias. Good sources: legumes, whole grains, fruits, leafy green veggies, broccoli, potatoes, meat and milk.
5. Magnesium is found in all body cells aiding in good bone, muscle, and tissue health. good sources include: whole grains, nuts, soybeans, cocoa, seafood, dried beans, peas and green veggies.
6. Chloride is found in extracellular fluid to help control water balance and acid-base balance. Some ionized chloride is found in gastrointestinal secretions. When a loss of gastric fluids occurs with vomiting and diarrhea it can cause chloride deficiency with muscle cramps and dusturbed acid-base balance.
7. Sulfur is in all body cells. It aides in protein structure, enzyme activity and detoxification reactions. Sulfur can be found in meat, eggs , milk, cheese, legumes and nuts.
The trace elements (there are 9)
Iron: Found in abundance in nature, it is essential to life. the main function is to combine with protein and copper in making hemoglobin. Iron promotes the metabolism of protein. Sources: liver, oyster, heart, lean meat, green leafy veggies, brewers yeast, molasses, prunes, apricots, peaches, bananas, eggs, whole grains, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame seeds, kelp, parsley, soybeans, lentils, and almonds.
Iodine is “the energy mineral” needed for the health of the thyroid gland, and the production of thyroxine, the hormone produced by the thyroid. Most food sources have little iodine., though some plants grown in iodine-rich soil, and seafood have higher concentrations.
Found in Kelp, seafood, fish liver oils, garlic, watercress, pineapple, egg yolks, turnip greens, mustard greens, watermelon, cucumber, asparagus and green pepper.
Zinc is important for the absorption of B vitamins and linoleic acid, an essential fatty acitd that helps keep the skin healthy. Zinc is helpful in speeding up the healing process. Zinc is one of the most important mineral for the immune system as it assists antibodies, white blood cells, the thymus gland, and hormone function. Pregnant women need to take adequate zinc to assist in normal fetal growth and development. Oral contaceptives can destroy zinc. Soy protein, glucose, lactose and red wine enhance zinc absorption. animal and fish sources are more readily absorbed as they contain amino acids that bind with zinc.
Manganese is one of the essential trace elements needed for metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It is the “Love” mineral because animals will not suckle their young if deficient in manganese. It is important for healthy nerves, normal reproduction, and the production of breast milk.Sources: seeds, nuts, fresh wheat germ, legumes, buckwheat, green leafy veggies, oranges, grapefruit, apricots, peas, kelp, egg yolk, dried fruit.
Copper is absorbed in the small intestines and stored in many tissues. Essessive Copper storage in the body can lead to Wilson’s Disease. Found in meat, liver, seafood, whole grains, legumes, nuts.
Chromium is absorbed in association with Zinc and excreted in the kidneys. Chromium is associated with glucose metabolism, potentiating the action of insulin. Found in whole grains and cereals, Brewer’s yeast, animal protein food.
Cobalt is absorbed as a component of vitamin B12, and stored in the liver. Cobalt functions with vitamin B12. A deficiency exists only if deficient also in vitamin B12. Cobalt is found only in animal foods that contain vitamin B12, therefore, vegetarians, especially vegans who consume no dairy are at risk of deficiency unless they take a supplement.
Molybdenum is readily absorbed and excreted by the kidneys. Found in legumes, whole grains, milk, organ meat, fish and fish products, leafy vegetables.
Fluoride absorbed by the small intestine and excreted by the kidneys. Accumulates in bones and teeth, which increases hardness. Found in fish, tea, drinking water, foods cooked in fluorided water.
Taken in part from: Schlenker, E. and Long,S. (2007). Williams’ Essentials of Nutrition and Diet Therapy. St Louis, Mo. Mosby, Inc.
Mahan, K. and Escott-Stump, S. ( 2008). Krause’s Food and Nutrition Therapy. St. Louis, Mo. Saunders.