There are two types of minerals in food, and both are essential for good health. Major minerals are required in relatively large quantities, over 250 milligrams per day. Examples include calcium, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and chloride. Minor minerals, or trace minerals as they are commonly called, include iron, copper, fluoride, chromium, iodine, zinc, molybdenum and manganese. Less than 25 milligrams of each of these are required daily. All minerals play critical roles in your body, regardless of amounts required.
Your body contains more calcium than any other mineral, and most of it is found in your bones. In addition to supporting bone strength and growth, calcium is important for muscle contraction, regular heartbeat, blood clotting and nerve function. Milk and dairy products are the primary sources of calcium in the foods you eat.
Phosphorus is an integral part of producing energy for your body, and along with calcium is an important component of your bones and teeth. Your body cells depend upon phosphorus found in DNA for normal growth and repair. Most foods contain some phosphorus, so getting sufficient amounts in your diet is rarely problematic.
Magnesium is found in body enzymes, the chemicals responsible for starting and regulating many of the chemical reactions taking place constantly in your body. Muscle contraction and relaxation is also dependent upon magnesium. The richest food sources of magnesium are whole grains, green vegetables, nuts and legumes.
Sodium, chloride and potassium are major minerals that function as electrolytes in your body. Working in tandem with each other, electrolytes regulate your body's fluid balance, balancing the amounts going in and out of cells. Electrolytes are also important for proper nerve and muscle functioning. Sodium plays an important role in blood pressure regulation, which is why consuming too much in your diet is unhealthy. Processed foods are the richest source of dietary sodium.
Chloride also aids in food digestion as a component of stomach acid. It is primarily found along with sodium in processed foods, which should be limited in your diet.
Potassium counterbalances sodium's blood pressure-elevating tendencies. It is important for proper nerve functioning and muscle contractions. Rich food sources include bananas, milk, potatoes, tomatoes, turkey and kidney beans.
Trace Minerals Iron, Copper, Fluoride, Chromium and Iodine
Your body needs iron for healthy brain and immune functioning. Along with copper, iron forms part of hemoglobin, a blood protein that carries oxygen throughout your body. Liver and other organ meats are the best sources of iron and copper; nuts and seeds are also good sources.
Fluoride protects your teeth from decay by strengthening enamel. Not much is found in food; the majority comes from using fluoridated water for drinking and cooking.
Along with insulin, chromium helps regulate your blood sugar. Good food sources include eggs, meat and cheese.
Iodine is a component of thyroid hormones which are necessary for energy regulation. Saltwater fish and iodized salt are the main food sources of iodine.
Zinc, Molybdenum and Manganese
Zinc is important for cell reproduction and growth. Include plenty of meat and seafood in your diet to get enough zinc; eggs, milk and whole grains supply lesser amounts.
Molybdenum is a component of many enzymes and also assists with iron incorporation into hemoglobin. It is found in a wide variety of foods such as milk, legumes and grains.
Manganese is found primarily in whole grains, and also some fruits and vegetables. Your body needs it to make energy, and it is also found in bones and enzymes.
Sue Roberts began writing in 1989. Her work has appeared in such publications as “Today’s Dietitian” and "Journal of Food Science." Roberts holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University, a Master of Public Health in nutrition from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Science in food science from Michigan State University. She is a registered dietitian and certified nutritionist.