Most of us have a vague idea of the nutrients that we need. As well as the usual protein, carbs, fat, water and vitamins, there is one more vital group of micronutrients – minerals. These are defined as substances from sources other than plants or animals.
Like essential vitamins, we cannot produce them so they need to come from the food we eat.
Of the three main minerals required by the body, calcium is the most abundant. It is essential for healthy bones and teeth, and also contributes to muscle function and blood clotting. That means that staying active relies on calcium.
Iron enables manufacture of red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues. Deficiency is known as anaemia, which produces tiredness and other symptoms. Potassium allows the body to balance fluid levels and blood pressure.
The body also needs a whole collection of trace elements. These include seemingly exotic substances such as selenium, copper, chromium and manganese. These enable cell function, hormones and enzymes that all contribute to normal health.
Dairy foods and green leafy vegetables are a great source of calcium – no-one ever ate too much veg! Iron also comes from those vegetables, as well as red meat and wholegrains. Potassium comes from fruit (especially bananas), pulses and some vegetables as well as meat.
The trace elements appear in most foods. If you eat a good varied diet there is no need to worry about the right nutrients.
Most people can get all their minerals from food. Those on restricted diets or with health problems may need some extra. However too much of some minerals can be harmful, so get a medical check before trying any self-dosing.
Body chemistry is complex, but fortunately it is designed to look after itself with the right food. Eat normally and don’t worry!
that's interesting that iron and calcium can come from veg. I'm not a zero meat eater but I am trying to cut down so good to know.
it's weird but I have never really thought about minerals before. I only tend to think about vitamins. So this is a good reminder.