An Essential Guide to Micronutrients – Minerals

Like vitamins, minerals are essential for your health. These micronutrients play an important role in growth, bone health, fluid balance and other processes.

In this article I will share with you everything you need to know about the functions of minerals, where to find these and how you can include them in your diet.

What are minerals

Minerals are inorganic substances essential for a range of functions performed by your body, such as normal nerve functions, bone formation and growth, fluid balance and more. Your body requires some minerals (the macrominerals) in larger amounts than other minerals (the trace minerals).

The most efficient way to absorb these micronutrients is through your diet. However, you need to ensure that your diet is varied in order to avoid any mineral deficit. For example, if you are a vegetarian/ vegan, adolescent girl or childbearing woman you might be more susceptible to iron deficiency. Also children, adolescents and older women should be more careful on their calcium intake, for their bone health.


As I previously mentioned your body needs more macrominerals than trace minerals, in order to perform specific functions. They are important for nerve signalling, muscular contraction, tissue structure and function and bone structure.

  • Calcium: Assists in muscle function and blood vessel contraction, transmits nerve impulses, enables the relief of certain hormones and it’s essential for the health of your bones.  You can find this mineral in leafy greens, cabbage, kale, dairy products, seafood, salmon and sardines.
  • Phosphorus: this is the second most abundant mineral in your body and it can be found on your bones, cell membranes and energy molecules. We use phosphorus in tissue growth, and some is regularly lost through sweat and urine. Our intake goal is to replenish the amount we lose. You will be able to include Phosphorus in your diet by consuming meat, poultry, fish, potatoes, nuts (especially peanuts) and wheat. 
  • Magnesium: Assists with over 300 enzyme reactions, including regulation of blood pressure, is a component of your bones and participates in muscle contraction. Magnesium can be found in leafy greens, potatoes, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, meat and fish. 
  • Sodium: is an electrolyte that aids fluid balance and maintenance of blood pressure, plays a role in nerve signalling, muscle contraction and the transferring of nutrients through cell membranes. Table salt is the most direct source of sodium. Sodium chloride is one of the oldest and most effective preservatives available and, as such, can be found in large amounts in processed foods.
  • Potassium: this is an electrolyte that maintains fluid status in cells and helps with nerve transmission and muscle function, breaking down carbs and maintaining a regular heart rhythm. You need to be aware of the fact that you can lose large amounts of potassium while you sweat during your workouts. This can lead to muscle cramps. Some good sources or potassium are spinach, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yogurt, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant and carrots.
  • Sulfur: is part of every living tissue and contained in the amino acids methionine and cysteine. It plays an important role in wound healing, it disinfects the blood and fights bacteria. A good source of sulfur is found in Meats, poultry, fish, eggs, broccoli, nuts, seeds, grains, soy products and other legumes, garlic, onions and foods containing thiamin and biotin are all excellent sources.

Trace Minerals

Though you don’t need large quantities of trace minerals in your body, these are as important as the macrominerals for your health. Sometimes we can get the trace minerals from consuming other micronutrients, such as cobalt when you include vitamin B12 in your diet.

  • Iron: it provides oxygen to muscles and assists in the creation of certain hormones. It is an important mineral in blood proteins, including the protein called hemoglobin in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout your body. Iron is also an essential part of the protein called myoglobin that carries oxygen to your muscle tissue. You will find iron in 2 forms: non-heme and heme. While plant based food includes non-heme iron and animal based food includes both non-heme and heme iron. Hence you can replenish your iron levels from foods such as chicken liver, clams, mussels, oysters, lean meats, nuts, vegetables, grains and dark leafy greens. 
  • Manganese: assists in carbohydrate, amino acid and cholesterol metabolism. It has roles in forming bones, connective tissue and sex hormones, and it helps with blood clotting. Manganese sources include seeds, legumes, grains, pineapple and nuts.
  • Copper: it is required for connective tissue formation, as well as normal brain and nervous system function and it’s essential for your body to produce red blood cells. You can find copper in foods such as potatoes, nuts, beans, shellfish, liver, kidneys, dark leafy greens, yeast and peppers.
  • Zinc: it is necessary for normal growth, immune function and wound healing. It also helps you to keep your sense of smell and taste working well. Since the body doesn’t have a specialised storage system for it, we need to consume zinc every day. The majority of zinc in your diet comes from beef and poultry, but oysters are the most zinc-potent food. You can get your zinc from cereals, nuts, peas, beans, dairy products and oatmeal too. 
  • Iodine: assists in thyroid regulation, it regulates your metabolism and synthesises proteins. A good source includes seafood, fish (especially cod), dairy products, bread and seaweed products.
  • Fluoride: it is necessary for the development of bones and teeth. Your main source of fluoride is water; however, you can also get this trace mineral from mature teal leaves, root vegetables, grapes and ocean fish.
  • Selenium: it is important for thyroid health, reproduction and defence against oxidative damage. It is also a powerful antioxidant. You can consume Brazilian nuts, seafood and organ meats to ensure you get your selenium levels up. 
  • Cobalt:as I previously mentioned this is a component of vitamin B12 so it will offer you some of the functions of this vitamin. This mineral aids in heart health and the absorption of iron and vitamin C. Cobalt can be found in food sources such as eggs, herring, clams, mackerel, liver, seafood and dairy products
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