What are minerals?
Minerals are inorganic substances normally taken through consumption of food and water. Balancing mineral intake within the body is very important, as deficiencies or excesses can have negative consequences on an individual’s health. That being said, sustaining a healthy, well balanced diet is the best weapon to keeping fit. No food contains all the minerals that are necessary to fulfill the body’s needs and so by eating various foods, the body can fill in on all the elements that it needs in the right proportions. Fortunately, cooking does not alter the minerals present in food; however, some foods that are cooked in water may partly disperse. Also, the amount of minerals present in food does not always correspond to that which is bioavailable, meaning that which is actually absorbed and metabolized by the body. Taking into account all of these factors, it is possible to meet the daily requirements of minerals and only in some situations, can an individual find themselves taking supplements. Any necessary supplement intake must always be recommended by a doctor and some supplements may even require a doctor’s supervision before being taken.
What is the function of minerals?
Unlike carbohydrates, proteins and fat, minerals do not provide the organism with energy, but rather strive to keep it healthy. Their presence is vital for basic life functions. Classification of minerals is based on the amounts needed in the diet. Some minerals are fundamental constituents of bones and teeth, while others are required for enzyme function and function of certain organs (ex: iodine in the case of thyroid). Examples include the following:
- Skeletal structure (calcium and phosphorus)
- Enzyme function (cooper, zinc, and manganese)
- Nerve transmission (chlorine, sodium, and potassium,)
- Oxygen transport (iron)
How are minerals divided?
Minerals are divided in groups according to the daily requirement for macro-elements (major elements) or micro-elements (or trace elements). While both are equally important, trace elements are needed in smaller amounts than major minerals.
Macro-elements are required in large amounts, by grams or tenths of a gram. Micro-elements are needed in smaller amounts, by micrograms or milligrams.
Some minerals such as iron, copper, zinc, fluorine, iodine, selenium, chromium and cobalt are considered ‘essential’ (major elements). Deficiencies of these minerals can cause serious health conditions. In cases of manganese, silicon, nickel and vanadium, there minerals are considered as part of the trace elements and are ‘somewhat essential’.
- Sodium- found in milk, bread, vegetables, meat, soy sauce, salt
- Chlorine- found in milk, bread, vegetables, meat soy sauce, salt
- Phosphorus- found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs and milk
- Calcium- found in milk and milk products, canned fish, legumes, vegetables
- Sulfur- found in poultry, fish, eggs, milk, legumes, and nuts
- Magnesium- found in nuts and seeds, seafood, vegetables, and chocolate
- Potassium- found in meat, milk, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes
Trace elements (or microelements)
- Silicon- found in beer, whole grain bread, brown rice, green beans and mineral water
- Iodine- found in seafood, salt, bread, dairy products
- Zinc- found in meats, fish, poultry, and vegetables
- Iron- found in red meats, fish, poultry, shellfish, egg yolks and cereals
- Cobalt- found in liver, kidney, meat, oysters, clams, fish, milk, fermented soy products and beer.
- Selenium- found in meats, grains and seafood
- Cooper- found in legumes, meats, water, nuts and seeds
- Fluorine- found in water, fish and certain teas
- Vanadium- found in corn, shellfish and green beans
- Cadmium- found in potatoes, meat, whole grains and vegetables
- Manganese- found in various foods
- Molybdenum- found in breads, vegetables, milk and liver
- Nickel- found in chocolate, nuts, almonds and legumes
- Chrome- found in liver, cheeses, whole grains and nuts
- Boron- found in certain vegetables, fruits, almonds, and legumes