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Home > Health Library > Minerals: Their Functions and Sources
The body needs many minerals; these are called essential minerals. Essential minerals are sometimes divided up into major minerals (macrominerals) and trace minerals (microminerals). These two groups of minerals are equally important, but trace minerals are needed in smaller amounts than major minerals. The amounts needed in the body are not an indication of their importance.
A balanced diet usually provides all of the essential minerals. The two tables below list minerals, what they do in the body (their functions), and their sources in food.
Needed for proper fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction
Table salt, soy sauce; large amounts in processed foods; small amounts in milk, breads, vegetables, and unprocessed meats
Needed for proper fluid balance, stomach acid
Table salt, soy sauce; large amounts in processed foods; small amounts in milk, meats, breads, and vegetables
Meats, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes
Important for healthy bones and teeth; helps muscles relax and contract; important in nerve functioning, blood clotting, blood pressure regulation, immune system health
Milk and milk products; canned fish with bones (salmon, sardines); fortified tofu and fortified soy milk; greens (broccoli, mustard greens); legumes
Important for healthy bones and teeth; found in every cell; part of the system that maintains acid-base balance
Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, processed foods (including soda pop)
Found in bones; needed for making protein, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, immune system health
Nuts and seeds; legumes; leafy, green vegetables; seafood; chocolate; artichokes; "hard" drinking water
Found in protein molecules
Occurs in foods as part of protein: meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, legumes, nuts
The body needs trace minerals in very small amounts. Note that iron is considered to be a trace mineral, although the amount needed is somewhat more than for other microminerals.
Part of a molecule (hemoglobin) found in red blood cells that carries oxygen in the body; needed for energy metabolism
Organ meats; red meats; fish; poultry; shellfish (especially clams); egg yolks; legumes; dried fruits; dark, leafy greens; iron-enriched breads and cereals; and fortified cereals
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
Meats, fish, poultry, leavened whole grains, vegetables
Found in thyroid hormone, which helps regulate growth, development, and metabolism
Seafood, foods grown in iodine-rich soil, iodized salt, bread, dairy products
Meats, seafood, grains
Part of many enzymes; needed for iron metabolism
Legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, organ meats, drinking water
Part of many enzymes
Widespread in foods, especially plant foods
Involved in formation of bones and teeth; helps prevent tooth decay
Drinking water (either fluoridated or naturally containing fluoride), fish, and most teas
Works closely with insulin to regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels
Unrefined foods, especially liver, brewer's yeast, whole grains, nuts, cheeses
Part of some enzymes
Legumes; breads 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.
Current as of:
August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Kathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineRhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Current as of: August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
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