Minerals: Their Functions and Sources

Minerals: Their Functions and Sources

Minerals are chemical elements that are required by the human body for daily normal functioning. The body uses these minerals for different jobs like regulating the heartbeat, making hormones, and building bones. Hence, they are also called essential minerals.

These minerals are divided into macrominerals (major minerals) and microminerals (trace minerals). Both these two groups are equally important and eating a balanced diet usually provides all these needed minerals.


These minerals are required in larger levels in our body for proper functioning. The following minerals make up this group:

  1. Sodium

Function: Needed for muscle contraction, nerve transmission, and proper fluid balance.

Source: Unprocessed meats, vegetables, bread, small amounts in milk, large amounts in processed food, soy sauce, and table salt.

  1. Chloride

Function: Needed for stomach acid and proper fluid balance

Source: Vegetables, bread, meats, small amounts in milk, large amounts in processed food, soy sauce, and table sauce.

  1. Potassium

Function: Needed for Muscle contraction, nerve transmission, and proper fluid balance

Source: Legumes, whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits, milk, and meats.

  1. Calcium

Function: Needed for the immune health system, blood pressure regulation, blood clotting, nerve functioning, relaxing and contraction of muscle, and maintaining healthy teeth and bones.

Source:  Legumes, green vegetables (mustard greens, broccoli), fortified soy milk, fortified tofu, canned fish with bones (sardines, salmon), calcium supplements, milk products, and milk.

  1. Phosphorus

Function: Needed for part of the system that maintains the acid-base balance and maintaining teeth and bones; found in every cell as well.

Source: Processed foods (like soda pop), milk, eggs, poultry, fish, and meat.

  1. Magnesium

Function: Needed for maintaining the immune system, muscle contraction, making protein, and found in bones.

Source: ‘Hard’ drinking water, artichokes, chocolate, seafood, green and leafy vegetables, legumes, and seeds and nuts.

  1. Sulfur

Function: Needed for protein molecules.

Source: Nuts, legumes, milk, eggs, fish, poultry, and meats.


Also known as trace minerals, microminerals are needed in smaller amounts in our diet. The following minerals fit into this group:

  1. Iron

Function: Needed for energy metabolism; found in RBC that carries oxygen throughout the body.

Source: Fortified cereals, iron-enriched cereals and bread, dark and leafy greens, dried fruits, legumes, egg yolks, shellfish (especially clams), poultry, fish, red meats, and organ meats.

  1. Zinc

Function: Needed for the immune system, sexual maturation and normal growth, fetal development, wound healing, and making genetic material and protein.

Source: Vegetables, leavened whole grains, poultry, fish, and meats.

  1. Iodine

Function: Found in the thyroid, which helps in metabolism, development, and growth regulation.

Source: Dairy products, bread, iodized salt, food grown in iodine-rich soil, and seafood.

  1. Selenium

Function: Used as an antioxidant

Source: Grains, seafood, and meats.

  1. Copper

Function: Needed for iron metabolism; a part of many enzymes.

Source: Drinking water, organ meats, whole grains, seeds and nuts, and legumes.

  1. Manganese

Function: Part of several different types of enzymes

Source: Found in all sorts of foods, especially plant-based foods

  1. Fluoride

Function: Needed for preventing tooth decay; involved in the formation of teeth and bones.

Source: Most teas, fish (either naturally-containing fluoride or fluoridated), and drinking water.

  1. Chromium

Function: Regulates with insulin to regulate glucose (sugar) levels.

Source: Cheese, nuts, whole grains, brewer’s yeast, unrefined food (especially liver)

  1. Molybdenum

Function: Part of some enzymes

Source: Liver, milk, green vegetables, leafy greens, grains and bread, and legumes.

Being deficient in any of these minerals can have an adverse effect on your health. Hence, it is advised that you eat a balanced diet to keep your body healthy and moving forward.

Essential metals you need in your diet

Essential metals you need in your diet

When it comes to the economy, gold, silver, and platinum take all the glory. But in the context of human health, many metals ought to be included in your diet. From cell repair to enzyme activation, to even the maintenance of the color of your blood, metals are essential for proper body functions.

While some of them are stored in large quantities, others are needed only in tiny amount by our bodies. Nevertheless, all the metals listed here play a vital role in a multitude of body functions and you must include them in your diet today.


Our teeth and our bones are made of calcium. For proper nerve and muscle function, our bones need to have an abundance of calcium. Even to ensure your blood clots normally, calcium is required by the body. Some of the sources of calcium include eggs, milk, tofu, nuts, and green vegetables like broccoli. A calcium deficiency can lead to dental problems, changes in the brain and conditions like osteoporosis that make the bones brittle.

However, try not to take more than 1500mg of calcium a day as it may lead to stomach aches and diarrhea.


Copper is found in all body tissues, brain, heart, and kidneys. It is absolutely necessary to have some amounts of copper in your diet to ensure the nervous and immune system remains healthy. It is also required in the absorption of iron to facilitate the production of red blood cells. Good sources of copper include lobsters, oysters, dark chocolate, nuts, etc. A daily intake of 900 micrograms is required.

Copper deficiency can lead to improper immune function conditions like neutropenia. People with such conditions are more likely to get an infectious disease. It can also lead to arthritis, high cholesterol, and heart failure.


Zinc is an all-important metal for making proteins and DNA, repairing body tissues, and division of cells. It is required for the proper functioning of more than 300 enzymes in the body.  Zinc is found in meat, whole grains, eggs, seeds, etc. At least 11mg is needed for men and 8mg for women on a daily basis.

Zinc deficiency can lead to loss of appetitive, retardation and lowered immune functioning.


Iron is required to make hemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood throughout the body. In addition to that, iron is important for activating certain enzymes and making hormones and neurotransmitters. An iron deficiency can lead to anemia and blood loss from kidney, bladder and other organs. The recommended daily intake of iron is 18mg which you can get from eggs, tuna, spinach, brown rice, etc.


Potassium is essential in balancing body fluids, maintaining a steady heartbeat, making muscles contract and a variety of other functions. A deficiency of potassium can lead to muscle cramps and spasms, weakness, digestive problems, and heart palpitations. Many fresh fruits like bananas, oranges, apricots, etc. contain potassium that you need to start taking today.

Some of the aforementioned metals are harder to get in your diet than others. Make sure you incorporate a variety of foods in your diet. In case there is a deficiency, you can always take supplements that provide these essential metals.