For better or worse, you are what you eat -- nutrition from food helps to form your body and keep it functioning optimally. Minerals are nutrients from the soil and water that find their way into your body through the foods you eat, and are essential to keep all your body systems and processes healthy. You need major minerals in large quantities, while other minerals are only required in trace amounts. Minerals help to keep your heart pumping, send messages along your nerves and deliver vital oxygen to every cell in your body. They also make up your bones, teeth, skin, hair, nails and red blood cells.
Milk and dairy are nutritious parts of your daily balanced diet because they contain calcium. This major mineral is needed for heart function, muscle contraction and transmitting nerve impulses. Calcium also helps to form your bones and teeth. A deficiency can lead to weak and brittle bones, dry skin, abnormal heart rate and depression. Other foods rich in calcium are green leafy vegetables, fish, and fortified cereals and juices. The recommended amount of calcium is at least 1,000 milligrams a day.
Potassium is a major mineral that helps your body fluids stay balanced, releases energy from food and keeps your heart, muscles and nerves healthy. The Institute of Medicine recommends getting at least 4.7 grams of potassium per day. Good food sources of this mineral include low-fat milk, meat, nuts, fish, soy, beans, kale, dates, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, kiwi, prunes, apricots and citrus fruits.
Iodine is a mineral you need in very small amounts, although it is essential for healthy thyroid function. Iodine is needed to produce thyroid hormones, which play a critical role in growth and development, brain function, food metabolism and reproduction. The World Health Organization notes that almost 2 billion people worldwide have iodine deficiency, leading to conditions such as mental retardation, deafness, goiter, hypothyroidism and short stature. The Institute of Medicine advises that you get at least 150 micrograms in your diet per day. The main source of iodine is ocean salts; you can also get it from fish, shellfish, seaweed, milk, eggs and drinking water.
Iron is a trace mineral found in your red blood cells, your DNA and the myoglobin fibers of your muscles. It is needed to carry oxygen to every cell in your body, maintain healthy muscle function and burn stored energy. There are two types of iron found in foods. Heme iron from meat, fish, poultry, eggs and liver is absorbed at a rate of about 35 percent by your body, while nonheme iron from plant sources such as beans, spinach, lentils, dried fruit and whole grains is absorbed at a rate of only 2 to 20 percent, reports the University of Rochester Medical Center. The recommended daily dose for women is 18 milligrams.
- MedlinePlus: Potassium in Diet
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Calcium
- HelpGuide.org: Vitamins and Minerals: Understanding Their Role
- University of Rochester Medical Center: Iron: An Important Mineral in Your Diet
- Linus Pauling Institute: Iodine
- MayoClinic.com: Calcium and Calcium Supplements: Achieving the Right Balance
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.