Hello! Minerals are kind of like the long lost child of people’s diets.
Many people focus so much on carbs, protein, fats, and vitamins in their diet that they don’t really think about minerals. So today I wanted to talk about why are minerals important for us?
There are tons of reasons why they’re important, but before I get into that I want to give you some general information on minerals. Unlike other nutrients, minerals are ions that don’t change their form during digestion.
Minerals play many roles in your body, ranging from being catalysts for enzymes to a more structural function. They’re classified into 2 categories, major minerals and trace minerals. Your body requires more than 100 mg of each major mineral per day, but requires less than 100 mg per day of trace minerals.
Foods from both plants and animals can be sources of minerals. Usually animal food will contain more minerals than plant food. I’ll be going over some of the more common major minerals first.
Many people don’t realize that sodium, commonly known as an ingredient in table salt, is an essential mineral. We always hear about how we shouldn’t eat too much salt which is true, however some sodium in your diet is required for certain body functions.
Function – Sodium is critical in the regulation of body fluids. It acts with potassium and chloride to maintain body water distribution and blood pressure. Nerve activity and muscle function require sodium, it’s also needed to control your body’s acidity level and absorption of nutrients.
Dietary Recommendation – The recommended daily dose of sodium is is 1500 mg and you should try to stay below 2400 mg. To give you an idea how little that is, one teaspoon of table salt is about 2300 mg. Hence, you really don’t need to add much salt to your food to stay within the daily limit.
Sources – Most sodium in the American diet comes from processed foods. Pickles, ham, and spaghetti sauce are foods rich in sodium.
Potassium is one of the key minerals that’s responsible for the structure of our cells.
Function – The flow of potassium in and out of your cells is important for muscle contractions, transmission of nerve signals, and regulation of blood pressure.
Dietary Recommendation – The recommended daily dose of potassium is between 3500-4700 mg.
Sources – Dates, raisins, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, and lentils are good sources of potassium.
Chloride is a negatively charged ion that’s most commonly known as the other ingredient in table salt besides sodium.
Function – Chloride helps maintain your body’s fluid balance. It also combines with hydrogen to form hydrochloric acid in your stomach for digestion. Your white blood cells also use chloride to help fight bacteria and infections.
Dietary Recommendation – The daily suggested dose of chloride is between 3400-3600 mg.
Sources – Although chloride is found in some fruits and vegetables, most of our chloride intake comes from salt.
Calcium – Your body contains more calcium than any other mineral, it’s about 2% of your body weight. It’s not only important for healthy bones and teeth, but it also has other significant uses.
Function – Calcium helps prevent hypertension, reduces your risk of cancer, helps with weight control, and lowers your risk of kidney stones. Bones and teeth contain about 99% of your body’s calcium.
This makes them hard and strong so they don’t easily break. The other 1% helps with muscle contraction, nerve impulses, blood clotting, and cellular metabolism.
Dietary Recommendation – For adults ages 19-50 and men up to age 70, the recommended daily dose of calcium is 1000 mg. For women 51 and older and adults over 70 the suggested daily dose is 1200 mg.
Sources – Dairy products are the best source of calcium. Low fat and non fat milk are great sources because of the lower fat content.
Non fat yogurt is another good choice. Collard greens, sardines, and spinach are also fairly high in calcium.
Phosphorus is an important component of ATP which is the energy source of all cells. It also plays a part in the structure of DNA.
Function – Phosphorus helps in the biochemical reactions within cells and also helps in the health of bones.
Dietary Recommendation – The daily suggested dose of phosphorus is 700 mg for adults and 1250 mg for adolescents to support growth.
Sources – Cheese, beef, liver, lentils, and turkey are good sources of phosphorus.
Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in your body. About 60% is found in bones and the rest in soft tissue.
Function – Magnesium is involved in enzyme reactions with DNA and protein synthesis in your body. It’s also used for muscle contractions and blood clotting.
Dietary Recommendation – The daily recommended intake of magnesium is 400 mg for men and 310 mg for women.
Sources – Spinach, soybeans, all bran cereal, and brown rice are all foods with a good amount of magnesium.
Iron is the 4th most abundant mineral in the earth, however iron deficiency is the most common mineral deficiency in the world. It’s fairly high in both industrial and developing countries. The NASM (National Association of Sports Medicine) wrote a great article on the importance of iron you can read here.
Function – Iron plays a key role in the body’s use of energy and metabolism. It also helps with brain development and enhancing your immune system.
Dietary Recommendation – The recommended daily dose of iron is 8 mg for men and post menopausal women. For women of childbearing age it’s 18 mg per day.
Sources – Beef is probably the best source of iron, other sources include clams, liver, poultry, fish, pork, and legumes.Zinc
Some people think of Zinc only in relation to zinc oxide which is a common sunscreen, or zinc lozenges for colds and sore throat. However, zinc has many other purposes besides those.
Function – Cell growth and health is one of the main functions of zinc. It’s also used for protein and fat metabolism, fertility and reproduction, maturation of sexual organs, hormone activity, night vision, and strengthening your immune system.
Dietary Recommendation – The recommended daily consumption of zinc is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. Women should increase their dose to 11 mg during pregnancy.
Sources – Red meat, oysters, clams, and poultry are good sources of zinc.
Two amino acid derivatives, selenomethionine and selenocysteine contain most of your body’s selenium.
Function – Selenium is involved in the metabolism of iodine and enhancing your immune system.
Dietary Recommendation – The suggested daily intake of selenium is 55 micrograms for men and women.
Sources – Lobster, tuna, salmon, turkey, and cheese are great sources of selenium.
Iodine deficiency is still a nutritional problem in some parts of the world. It’s complete eradication is still a goal of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Function – Iodine is a critical element of the 2 thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones control the regulation of body temperature, basal metabolic rate, reproduction, and growth.
Dietary Recommendation – The recommended daily amount of iodine for men and women is 150 micrograms. Consistently low levels of iodine can result in the condition of goiter, which is major swelling of the neck tissue.
Sources – Iodized salt, milk, white bread, flour, and beef liver are all rich sources of iodine.
Although many people think about copper in the form of pennies, it does serve some important purposes in your body.
Function – Copper plays a role in the health of nerve tissue, boosting your immune system, and cardiovascular function.
Dietary Recommendation – The daily dose suggested for copper is 900 micrograms for men and women.
Sources – Shellfish, nuts, legumes, peanut butter, and chocolate are excellent sources of copper.
Manganese gets it name from a Greek term for magic. Even though its functions aren’t magical, they are needed by your body.
Function – Manganese serves as an antioxidant to prevent tissue damage in your body. It’s also used to form urea in the urine and helps to form cartilage in bone and skin.
Dietary Recommendation – The recommended daily amount of manganese is 2.3 mg for men and 1.8 mg for women.
Sources – Pineapples, bran cereal, whole wheat spaghetti, brown rice, and spinach are all high in manganese.
Summary – The major and trace minerals I’ve mentioned are just some of the more common minerals. There are many other minerals that people consume, usually in lower, but could be larger amounts. Minerals play just as an important role in your diet as any other nutrient.
Many times they don’t get talked about as much, because they’re not as glamorous as the carbs, protein, and fats that people usually prefer to discuss. The key to having a quality diet is balance with all the nutrients. This way you’re less likely to neglect a specific nutrient that you need.
If you have any comments or questions please feel free to let me know and I’ll get back to you. Thanks for reading and don’t forget your minerals!