Vitamins and minerals are the key micronutrients found in our diets. Minerals are a special kind of inorganic nutrient that helps our bodies perform all sorts of functions.
Knowing everything about minerals is no small task. Most people would probably struggle to name more than a few minerals off the top of their heads. That’s okay! But it may be beneficial for you to learn a little more about these amazing compounds that help run our bodies.
Here is a quick look at the thirteen essential minerals that are necessary for proper bodily function and health.
What Are Minerals?
Minerals and vitamins are the two categories of micronutrients. Micronutrients are compounds necessary to eat for us to function properly. Macronutrients are carbs, fats, and proteins, the three basic food types that fuel your body. Micronutrients are needed in smaller quantities than macronutrients.
Vitamins are naturally occurring compounds made by living organisms. Minerals, however, are inorganic compounds that exist in water and soils and cannot be broken down further by our bodies.
Minerals perform a collection of different specific tasks around your body and are useful in functions like growth, brain development, and the functioning of your immune system.
There are fourteen minerals that your body needs for proper functioning—let’s take a closer look at them.
There are two different categories of minerals: macrominerals and trace minerals. Macrominerals are required in much higher volumes than trace minerals.
There are seven macrominerals:
Each macromineral performs a unique function in the body, so let’s dive in a little deeper and see what each of these minerals does for us.
Calcium is one of the nutrients that gives us healthy and strong bones and teeth. It also helps release enzymes that affect several of your bodily functions. Too little calcium can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis as you age, which leaves you susceptible to broken bones and injuries.
The NIH recommends that adults consume one thousand milligrams of calcium every day, and those over 50, or those pregnant or breastfeeding, should be consuming 1200 milligrams of calcium per day.
While you could take a supplement, the best food sources of calcium are dairy products, green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, and white beans. Eating enough of these foods in your diet should mean that you get enough calcium for a healthy life.
Phosphorus is another mineral that helps keep your bones healthy. But phosphorus is also essential in muscle movement, assisting your kidneys filter waste, and producing RNA and DNA in your cells.
Consuming too little phosphorus can lead to irritability, anxiety, fatigue, and loss of appetite and can hamper the development of children’s bones.
Protein sources like beef, poultry, seafood, and dairy products are good sources of phosphorus to include in your diet. It is very rare to be deficient in phosphorus.
Every single cell in the human body needs magnesium to function regularly. Magnesium is used in a wide array of bodily functions like energy production, protein formation, gene repair, and nervous system regulation, specifically nerve function.
Yet, up to 50% of people in the United States are estimated to get less than the recommended dose of magnesium daily.
Some healthy food sources of magnesium are spinach, black beans, whole grains like quinoa, avocados, and fish like salmon, halibut, and mackerel.
You probably know sodium as salt, the delicious seasoning that goes well with absolutely everything.
But sodium is also one of the most important minerals in your body. Sodium is an electrolyte, which means that it creates positively charged ions.
Sodium has become more common as we eat more processed foods, which are typically high in sodium. A sodium deficiency is incredibly rare, even in low-sodium diets.
Table salt is not entirely sodium. It is actually made from a compound called sodium chloride, and chloride is another of the macrominerals that your body needs to function.
Chloride is one of the major components of gastric juices, which help your body digest food. Chloride is also essential for muscle contractions and helps regulate the passage of materials in and out of our cells.
Chloride is also an electrolyte, like sodium, that produces positive ions.
Foods high in salt are high in chloride, but remember to eat them in moderation, as too much salt can also be unhealthy.
Potassium is also an electrolyte that also assists in conducting the electrical pulses that operate your nervous system.
Potassium helps your body regulate heart rhythm, digestion, water balance, and the pH balance throughout your body.
The most famous potassium-rich food is the banana, but other fruits like oranges, kiwis, and pineapples are also potassium-rich. Leafy greens like chard, sweet potatoes, and carrots are also great sources of potassium in your diet.
You probably know sulfur as a gas that smells less than delicious. Sulfur is also one of the macrominerals that your body needs to survive.
Sulfur’s most important function in your body is the building and repairing of DNA, which helps prevent cell damage. Eating a diet rich in sulfur is essential to proper health.
Legumes, nuts, and seeds are very good sources of sulfur, particularly kidney beans, peanuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds. Asparagus, brussels sprouts, and root veggies are also good sources to include in your diet.
The Trace Minerals
Trace minerals are the minerals that are required in lower quantities to support a healthy body. The trace minerals are:
- Iron: Iron supports the oxygen flow to your muscles and is also useful in the fabrication of many hormones in your body. You can find plenty of iron in red meat, chicken, pumpkin seeds, certain fortified breakfast cereals, but iron deficiency is particularly common.
- Manganese: Manganese is another important mineral that is important in the metabolization of cholesterol, amino acids, and carbohydrates.
- Copper: Copper is not just useful to make pennies. Copper also helps form connective tissue in your body. Copper also works with the brain and nervous system to support proper functioning.
- Zinc: Zinc assists in the proper growth and development of children, supports immune function, and helps blood clot.
- Iodine: Iodine is an important mineral for thyroid regulation, helping regulate thyroid hormones.
- Fluoride: You might be familiar with fluoride from your dentist, where you may have to do a fluoride wash. Fluoride is a mineral that supports bone and teeth health.
- Selenium: Selenium may well be the least well-known mineral. Selenium protects your body from oxidative stress and assists the reproductive system. Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium.
- Chromium: This essential mineral helps maintain blood sugar levels.
Other honorable mentions include molybdenum, nickel, silicon, and vanadium. In addition to these minerals, you should also ensure you’re getting your dietary allowance of vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin A, and B vitamins like riboflavin (B2) and niacin (B3).
How Can I Get Enough Minerals?
The best way to ensure that you are getting the proper amount of minerals in your diet is to eat a diet that ranges in variety and is full of whole foods, fruits, and veggies.
Consuming a healthy, colorful, and nutrient-dense diet is typically enough to get your daily recommendations for essential minerals.
If you are struggling to get enough minerals in your day-to-day diet, you should consider a multi-vitamin, which should typically contain a boost of the essential minerals.
You can also look to add foods that are fortified with minerals, like VINA prebiotic soda. VINA is a soda that is sweetened with stevia, a zero-calorie sweetener, and contains prebiotics, the food source for the healthy bacteria in your gut.
VINA is also a mineral-rich beverage that can help you get enough minerals in your diet. And it tastes great, making it a wonderful healthy soda alternative for you to try.
However you want to do it, getting enough of your essential minerals every day is vital to keep your body functioning to the best of its ability and keeping you in tip-top shape.