Essential minerals in the body

food Jul 18, 2021
Vegetable Market
Photo by Peter F / Unsplash

To maintain a healthy immune system, to strengthen bones and teeth and to help vitamins to do their work minerals are needed. They are needed in the right amounts to maintain a healthy body.
Scientists identified 16 minerals as essential for the body to function properly.
To consider a mineral to be essential, it should perform at least one function which is vital to life, i.e. growth or reproduction. The minerals needed are only 3-4% of the human body weight.
Some minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium are required in comparatively large amounts and they are called Macro minerals.
Some minerals such as iron and zinc are needed in small amounts and they are called micro minerals.
Some other minerals such as selenium, magnesium and iodine are required in minuscule amounts and they are called trace elements.
The ability of the body to absorb these minerals may be affected by various nutrients. For example, for the uptake of calcium absorption, Vitamin D is essential. Vitamin C is essential for the absorption of iron from the food.
Some other food components such as tannin found in tea, phytic acid found in wheat bran and brown rice inhibit the absorption of calcium, iron and zinc.

If the mineral intake is high, excess amounts will be excreted so that the body cannot be harmed. If the intake is low, the body draws the minerals which are stored in the muscle, the liver and even the bones. Thus the body can maintain its own mineral balance over short periods.

Macro Minerals

Available in most raw foods, salt and its daily requirement is 1600mg.  
It is essential for nerve stimulation and muscle function. It also maintains the correct balance of fluid in the cells and supports the absorption of other nutrients including chloride, amino acids and glucose.
Its deficiency leads to excess sweating, diarrhoea and renal failure.
Available richly in fruits (dried fruits, bananas, and berry fruits), leafy green vegetables (e.g. broccoli and spinach) meat, nuts, seeds and pulses.
Its daily requirement is 3500mg.
It is essential for water and electrolyte balance and normal functioning of cells, including nerves.
Its deficiency leads to weak muscles, hypertension, depression and slight raise in the blood pressure slightly and abnormal heart beats.
Found in table salt, soy sauce; large amounts in processed foods; small amounts in milk, meats, breads, and vegetables.
Its daily requirement is 2500mg. It is essential for proper fluid balance, and stomach acid.
Its deficiency causes muscle weakness and cramping, fatigue or apathy, dehydration, loss of appetite and nausea.
Available in Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, processed foods and its daily requirement is 550mg.
It is needed for the structure of bones and teeth, for the structure of cell membranes and for energy metabolism.
Its deficiency causes stiff joints, fragile bones, mental status changes, muscle dysfunction and weakness.
Available in red meat, dairy products, fish, poultry, bread, rice and oats. Its daily requirement is 700mg.
It is essential to maintain healthy bones and teeth, for normal muscle contraction (including the heart) and normal blood clotting
Its deficiency causes inadequate supply of vitamin D, as it is essential for the absorption of vitamin D, in children rickets, and osteomalacia in adults.
Available in nuts and seeds, legumes, leafy, green vegetables, seafood, chocolate and "hard" drinking water.
Its daily requirement is 270-300mg.
It is needed for making protein, muscle contraction, nerve transmission and immune system health.
Its deficiency causes weak bones, teeth, muscle cramps, tension, backache, headache and also other joint pains. This might also affect the cardiovascular system.

Micro Minerals

Found in whole grains, brewer’s yeast, nuts and dark chocolate. Its daily requirement is 25micrograms. It enhances the effects of insulin, and thus, play a role in the development of glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes.
Its deficiency causes impaired glucose tolerance, weight loss, nerve damage, fatigue, high cholesterol, diabetes and infertility.
Available in liver, shellfish, legumes, nuts and seeds and assists with the transport of iron.
Its daily requirement is 1.2 mg.
It assists with the transport of iron.
Its deficiency is rare in healthy people.
It is present in drinking water and in small amounts in tea and saltwater fish, fluoride toothpastes.  Dietary supplement is not required.
It is needed for the formation of strong teeth and protects against dental decay (caries).
Its deficiency causes tooth decay, brittle or weak bones, fractured hips in the elders.
It is found in saltwater fish, liver, legumes, and potatoes, iodized salt and dairy products.
Its daily requirement is 140micrograms.
It is a component of the thyroid hormones which regulate metabolic rate and body temperature.
Its deficiency leads to hypothyroidism: fatigue, weight gain and intolerance to cold.
Dietary iron is found in two forms: Haem iron (from animal sources); Non-haem iron (from plant sources) cereals, vegetables, pulses, beans, nuts and fruit.
Its daily requirement is 8.7- 14mg.
It is essential for the formation of haemoglobin in red blood cells, binding of oxygen and transporting around the body, function of the immune system and normal energy metabolism.
Its deficiency leads to anaemia.
It is found in tea and coffee, nuts, whole grains, legumes and some fruits and vegetables.
Its daily requirement is 1.4mg.
It is Important in many enzyme-mediated chemical reactions including enzymes involved in the synthesis of cartilage in skin and bone.
Its deficiency causes joint pains, osteoporosis, diabetes and many other health problems.
It is found in Peas, legumes and some breakfast cereals.
Its daily requirement is 50-400 micrograms.
It helps several enzymes including one required for the metabolism of sulphur-containing amino acids.
Its deficiency is rare
It is present in organ meats, seafood, other meats and whole grains.
Its daily requirement is 60-75 micrograms.
It is required for immune function and for the synthesis of thyroid hormones and also helps enzymes in protecting cell membranes from damage.
Its deficiency decreases an individual’s ability to fight viral infections and may cause some cancers.
It is available in protein-rich foods. No dietary requirement.  
It Helps maintain acid-base balance, assists in some of the liver’s drug-detoxifying pathways and it is a component of some vitamins and amino acids.
No known deficiency.
It is present in oysters, beef and clams and whole grains.
Its daily requirement is 7-9.5mg.
It helps in normal growth and sexual maturation, protects cells from damages.
Its deficiency causes delayed growth and sexual development, decreased immune function, altered sense of taste, hair loss and gastrointestinal distress.


A. Sandhya

M.Sc Zoology

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