Minerals and Their Functions
May 13, 2022
Health

Minerals are essential for your body to stay healthy. Your body uses minerals for many tasks, including the proper functioning of bones, muscles, heart, and brain. Minerals are also important for the production of enzymes and hormones.

Your body needs large amounts of macro-minerals. These include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chlorine, and sulfur. You only need small amounts of micronutrients. These include iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, and selenium. Most people get the minerals they need from a variety of foods.

Sometimes a doctor may recommend a mineral supplement. People with certain health problems or taking certain medications may need fewer minerals. For example, people with chronic kidney disease need to limit foods high in potassium. A balanced diet usually provides all the necessary minerals. The following two tables list minerals, their role in the body (their functions), and their nutritional sources.

Macrominerals


Sodium

Needed for proper fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction

Food Sources: Table salt, soy sauce; large amounts in processed foods; small amounts in milk, bread, vegetables, and unprocessed meats


Chloride

Needed for proper fluid balance, stomach acid

Food Sources: Table salt, soy sauce; large amounts in processed foods; small amounts in milk, meats, bread, and vegetables


Potassium

Needed for proper fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction

Food Sources: Meats, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes


Calcium

Important for healthy bones and teeth; helps muscles relax and contract; important in nerve functioning, blood clotting, blood pressure regulation, immune system health

Food Sources: Milk and milk products; canned fish with bones (salmon, sardines); fortified tofu and fortified soy milk; greens (broccoli, mustard greens); legumes


Phosphorus

Important for healthy bones and teeth; found in every cell; part of the system that maintains acid-base balance

Food Sources: Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, processed foods (including soda pop)


Magnesium

Found in bones; needed for making protein, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, immune system health

Food Sources: Nuts and seeds; legumes; leafy, green vegetables; seafood; chocolate; artichokes; "hard" drinking water


Sulfur

Found in protein molecules

Food Sources: Occurs in foods as part of protein: meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, legumes, nuts


Trace Minerals (Micro Minerals)


Iron

Part of a molecule (hemoglobin) found in red blood cells that carries oxygen in the body; needed for energy metabolism

Found Sources: Organ meats; red meats; fish; poultry; shellfish (especially clams); egg yolks; legumes; dried fruits dark, leafy greens; iron-enriched bread and cereals; and fortified cereals


Zinc

Part of many enzymes; needed for making protein and genetic material; has a function in taste perception, wound healing, normal fetal development, production of sperm, normal growth and sexual maturation, immune system health

Food Sources: Meats, fish, poultry, leavened whole grains, vegetables


Iodine

Found in thyroid hormone, which helps regulate growth, development, and metabolism

Food Sources: Seafood, foods grown in iodine-rich soil, iodized salt, bread, dairy products


Selenium

Antioxidant

Food Sources: Meats, seafood, grains


Copper

Part of many enzymes; needed for iron metabolism

Food Sources: Legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, organ meats, drinking water


Manganese

Part of many enzymes

Food Sources: Widespread in foods, especially plant foods


Chromium

Works closely with insulin to regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels

Food Sources: Unrefined foods, especially the liver, brewer's yeast, whole grains, nuts, cheeses


Molybdenum

Part of some enzymes

Food Sources: Legumes; bread and grains; leafy greens; leafy, green vegetables; milk; liver


Other trace nutrients known to be essential in tiny amounts include nickel, silicon, vanadium, and cobalt.

Hormones

If the functions of certain hormones are impaired in the body, it will also affect our body's ability to use calcium. For example, parathyroid, thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormones. The parathyroid hormone is the main one in regulating the level of calcium in the blood. Mineralocorticoids produced by the adrenal glands are very important for the regulation of minerals, in particular sodium/potassium homeostasis, which also plays a role in calcium homeostasis. Menopausal women have a much greater risk of bone loss. Estrogen and progesterone must be balanced to promote osteoplastic activity.

Fatty Acids

Dietary intake of fatty acids is necessary for the transport of calcium across cell walls. Fatty acids also help increase calcium levels in tissues. Weston Price and Royal Lee talked about the relationship between vitamin D and vitamin F (or fatty acids) in their research. Vitamin D releases calcium into the blood, fatty acids release it into tissues. Without fatty acids, you won't get calcium in your tissues, where much of our body contains calcium. Vitamin D is essential for calcium homeostasis and bone health.

Hydration

We need good hydration so that the blood is thin enough to transport calcium to other tissues throughout the body. We also need access to balanced electrolytes (charged ions of calcium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate) to ensure adequate transport of calcium in and out of cells. This is just the beginning of understanding how a mineral works in the body. However, they all work synergistically, so it is important to eat a high-quality adequate diet according to the well-cooked food paradigm discovered by Weston A.

We need a full-spectrum approach to making sure we're getting enough minerals. Adding a few or one or two individual minerals will always knock out the mineral balance in the body. Make sure you eat a variety of fresh, seasonal whole foods and prepare them well.

Vitamins and Minerals, What's the Difference?

Although they are both considered micronutrients, vitamins and minerals are quite different. Vitamins are organic and can be broken down by heat, air or acid. Minerals are inorganic and retain their chemical structure. So why does it matter?

This means that the minerals in soil and water are easily absorbed into your body through the plants, fish, animals, and fluids you consume. But it's harder to transfer vitamins from food and other sources into your body because cooking, storage, and simply exposure to air can inactivate these more fragile compounds.