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Nutrition and Diet (cont.)

Minerals

Minerals are another component in a healthy diet. There are two categories of minerals: major minerals and trace minerals. The difference between each of these is the amount that is needed each day. The major minerals are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur. The trace minerals are iodine, iron, zinc, selenium, fluoride, chromium, and copper.

The primary functions and sources of the major minerals are

  • Calcium: The primary mineral in bones and teeth is also needed for normal muscle contraction and relaxation, nerve functioning, and blood clotting. The dietary sources are milk and milk products, oysters, small fish, tofu, greens, and legumes.
  • Phosphorus: This mineral makes up about 1% of your body weight. It is needed for bone and tooth strength, and it plays an important role in the body's utilization of carbohydrates and fats and in the synthesis of protein and in the maintenance and repair of cells and tissues. The dietary sources are dairy products and meat.
  • Magnesium: This is required for nerve and heart function, bone strength, and to maintain a healthy immune system. The dietary sources are halibut, nuts, spinach, cereal, oatmeal, potato, peanut butter, and yogurt.
  • Sodium: This is critical for nerve impulse transmission and helps to maintain cells' normal fluid balance. The guidelines for sodium consumption are to consume less than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 tsp of salt) of sodium per day and to choose and prepare foods with little salt. At the same time, consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Potassium: This is essential for the body's growth and maintenance and the contraction of muscles. It's also necessary to maintain a normal fluid balance between the cells and body fluids. Dietary sources are potato with the skin, prunes, raisins, lima beans, orange juice, tomato juice, acorn squash, bananas, spinach, and sunflower seeds.
  • Chloride: Chloride is a part of the hydrochloric acid in the stomach that is necessary for proper digestion. The dietary sources are salt and processed foods.
  • Sulfur: This is the only mineral that aids in drug detoxification. The dietary sources are all protein-containing foods.

The primary functions and sources of the trace minerals are

  • Iodine: This mineral is a component of thyroid hormones. The dietary sources are iodized salt, seafood, and dairy products.
  • Iron: Iron deficiency is considered the number-one nutritional disorder in the world. It is needed to make hemoglobin, which is used to carry oxygen in the blood. When oxygen can't get to the cells, the symptoms will be fatigue, poor work performance, and decreased immunity. The dietary sources are liver, oysters, beef, turkey, chicken, and tuna.
  • Zinc: This mineral is involved in normal growth and development, it's needed for a healthy immune system, it helps maintain your sense of taste and smell, and it is needed for wound healing. The dietary sources are seafood, meat, poultry, and whole grains.
  • Fluoride: Pick up your toothpaste and you will see that it contains fluoride. The reason for this is because it increases resistance of tooth enamel to dental caries. Water is also fluoridated for this reason.
  • Chromium: This mineral enhances the action of insulin. It also appears to be involved in carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism. Dietary sources are meat, unrefined grains, broccoli, garlic, and basil.
  • Copper: Copper aids in forming hemoglobin, which is needed to carry oxygen to the cells. It is also involved in protein metabolism and hormone synthesis. The dietary sources are liver, cocoa, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dried fruits.

I want to conclude with a very important point. The goal isn't to go for "perfection" with your diet. The goal is to make some changes to what you are currently doing and continue to add and remove things as you go. There are not "good" and "bad" foods. Each food can fit into your diet, but the frequency and quantity may need to be altered. Think of foods as "everyday" foods and "sometimes" foods, and go for lots of color and a balance of foods from each of the food groups. Remember, eating is a social, enjoyable activity that can be both fun and healthy. Bon appétit.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/6/2014

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