Fitness Nutrition Forums

Minerals: Essential Nutrients!


Minerals are the regulators and initiators of many of the processes occurring in the body. They are essential to muscle contractions, body structure, and fluid balance within the cells and nervous system communication. Minerals give strength and structure to your teeth, bones, muscles, blood and body tissues. They are inorganic matter that cannot be destroyed by cooking or heat. They are absorbed into your intestines and then transported, stored or utilized by your body in different ways. Some travel through the blood stream or are excreted in urine or even stored by your body to toxic levels if too much is consumed. Avoid excess supplementation of minerals.

Typically minerals are split into two separate categories, Major Minerals and Trace Minerals.

Major minerals include sodium, chloride, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium. You need these minerals in greater amounts than trace minerals.

Major Minerals

The Electrolytes: Sodium, Potassium and Chloride

Sodium helps regulate your blood pressure, the movement of fluid in and out of your cells, nerve transmissions and muscle relaxation. It is found in processed foods, table salt and small amounts naturally occurring in food. Too much sodium in your diet can cause fluid retention and swelling if your body is unable to excrete the excess. Prolonged vomiting, diarrhea or kidney problems can result in a sodium deficiency, causing muscle cramps, nausea and dizziness.

Potassium assists in regulating the mineral and fluid balance both on the inside and surrounding outside of your cells. It is used to regulate sodium's impact on blood pressure, help muscles contract and transmit nerve signals. It is found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, meat, nuts and dairy products. Your body excretes excess amounts, however, and people with kidney problems might need to limit potassium in their diets, as heart problems and even sudden death can result. Not enough potassium can result in muscle cramps, nausea, weakness and fatigue.

Chloride regulates the fluids in and out of body cells, transmits nerve impulses and helps your body digest food by absorbing nutrients as a component of stomach acid. It is found in salt (Sodium Chloride). Deficiency and excess levels are rare but have similar effects as sodium.

Other Major Minerals: Magnesium, Phosphorus, Calcium

Magnesium is part of 300 enzymes that regulate your body in making energy, protein and muscle contractions, as well as many other functions. It is part of bones. It helps signal muscles to relax and contract and maintains body cells in muscles and nerves. Magnesium is best found in whole grains, legumes, nuts and green vegetables. Deficiency is rare but irregular heartbeat and nausea can occur. Excess is excreted, unless kidney problems exist.

Calcium is well known for its part in building bone strength, length and tissues. It continues to support bone health by slowing bone loss as you age. But calcium also helps clot your blood, supports nerve function and assists muscles in contracting, including your heart beat! It is found in green leafy vegetables, calcium-fortified foods, dairy products and tofu. Deficiency can lead to impaired growth in children and permanently affect height. Even a small deficiency over a long period can affect bone density and loss while increasing risk of osteoporosis.

Trace Minerals

Iodine, Fluoride, Chromium, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Selenium, Zinc, Molybdenum

Iodine works as part of your thyroid hormones to regulate how your body uses energy. Iodine is found naturally occurring in saltwater fish, potatoes and cooked navy beans, but most people get their daily needs in iodized salt. People who are iodine deficient may experience weight gain or develop goiters. Goiters are enlarged thyroid glands and are frequently still seen in developing countries where the salt has not been iodized. Excess iodine can result in irregular heartbeat.

Fluoride protects your teeth from decay, hardens tooth enamel and strengthens bones. Inadequate fluoride can result in weak tooth enamel but an excess can cause tooth mottling, or stains. It is found in tea, fish and drinking water.

Chromium helps insulin in your body to use glucose. You are unlikely to consume excess from dietary sources but a deficiency could appear to look like diabetes. It is found in whole-grains, cheese, peas, eggs and meats.

Copper serves as a part of many enzymes. It helps your body make hemoglobin and connective tissues as well as plays a part in producing energy in your cells. Copper is found in nuts, seeds, organ meats and seafood. Deficiency or excess intake is rare in the U.S.

Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, needed to transport oxygen to every body cell and enzymes. It is needed for healthy brain development and immune function. A deficiency can lead to anemia, fatigue and infections. Excess amount can cause an enlarged liver, skin coloring, diabetes and internal damage. High iron foods include meats, beans, spinach, seeds and whole-wheat foods.

Manganese helps in bone formation, metabolism of energy from foods, and is a part of many enzymes. It is rare to have a deficiency or consume excess from dietary sources. It is found in whole-grain products, lentils, and some fruits (pineapple and strawberries) and vegetables (kale).

Selenium works with Vitamin E as an antioxidant, both protecting cells and supporting immune function. It is found in seeds, whole-grains, seafood, organ meats and eggs. Deficiency or overconsumption is rare in a normal diet.

Zinc helps your body use food, support enzymatic reactions and promote cell reproduction and tissue growth and repair. Zinc is found in whole-grain products, meats, eggs, peas, nuts and seeds. A zinc deficiency can impair growth in children and cause birth defects during pregnancy. Avoid excess zinc supplementation.

Molybdenum is a part of enzymes and works with riboflavin to help use iron to make red blood cells. Deficiency and excess consumption in a normal diet is rare.

What Is Saturated Fat? How Much Should I Have?

Emily DeLacey MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and currently working in Jamaica as a HIV/ AIDS Prevention Specialist. She attended Central Washington University for her Bachelor's Degree in Science and Dietetics and continued on after her internship to Kent State University for her Master's Degree in Science and Nutrition, with a focus on public health and advocacy. She served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi 2012-2014 working as a Community Health Advisor in a rural village, immersing in the joys of life without electricity or running water. She has been to 20+ countries and 47 of the 50 states in the US. Traveling, adventuring and experiencing new cultures has made her a passionate advocate for the equality of nutrition and wellness for all people.

{{ oArticle.title }}

{{ oArticle.subtitle }}