Minerals in Food

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Minerals Definition

Minerals can be defined as components or elements present in food which is required by our body to develop and function properly.  The minerals that our body needs are called essential minerals and they can be divided into two categories. These are macro and micro or trace minerals. The amounts of these minerals needed in our body do not indicate their importance. There’s a list of 20 minerals or chemicals known to be required for various human biochemical processes.  Amongst these, oxygen, hydrogen and carbon make the major ones because they make up 96% of the human body weight. Other components are also discussed in this article. 


What are the two Categories of Minerals?

The wide range of minerals available can be categorised into two classes which are macro minerals and micro minerals.

  1. Macrominerals

  • These are the range of minerals that are required in large quantities.

  • The macro minerals list includes sodium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, sulphur and phosphorus. They are all vital for the proper functioning and metabolism of the human body. We cannot produce these components and therefore we have to obtain them through various sources of minerals such as different types of food and other supplements.

  • The deficiency of these minerals in the human body has severe negative effects on human physiology. For example, calcium deficiency can lead to a weak skeletal structure and thereby increasing the chances of bone fractures. 

  1. Micro Minerals

  • Micro minerals are also called trace minerals and they are required in small amounts. The list of trace elements includes copper, iron, iodine, manganese, zinc, fluoride, selenium and cobalt.

  • Please note that if these minerals are taken in excess, they can induce mineral toxicity which can lead to various health issues such as nail discolouration, nausea, diarrhoea etc.


Importance of Minerals in Food

Dieticians always recommend following a mineral-rich diet as mineral-rich foods are the best sources of supplying these components in the body. Orange has a lot of calcium in it which is good for the bones, whilst iodised salt has iodine which is highly important for the production of iodine.  The dietary focus on minerals derives from an interest in supporting is that a range of biochemical reactions in metabolism requires elemental components. Appropriate intake of certain minerals has been demonstrated to be required to maintain optimal health. Diet can meet the human body's all mineral requirements, although supplements can be used when some recommendations are not adequately met by the diet. For example, a diet low in dairy products, and therefore not meeting the recommendation for calcium.


Minerals Function and Sources

The below is the minerals in the food list which includes minerals food sources list and their function.

Macrominerals Chart

Minerals

Sources of Minerals

Minerals in Food Function

Sodium

Table salt, processed foods, vegetables, unprocessed food.

Required for food balance, nerve transmission, muscle contraction.

Chloride

Table salt, vegetables, processed meat, small amounts in milk.

Fluid balance in the body, a component of stomach acid.


Potassium

Milk, fresh fruits, whole grains, legumes, meat.

Fluid balance in the body, muscle contraction, nerve transmission. 

Calcium

Milk and milk by-products, fish, soy milk, vegetables such as squash, beans cashews

Required for healthy bones and teeth; helps muscles relax and contract; important in nerve functioning, blood clotting, blood pressure regulation, immune system health


Phosphorous

Fish, poultry, meat, eggs, milk

Required in healthy bone formation and protein formation, muscle contraction, nerve transmission etc,

Magnesium

Nuts and seeds,  leafy greens, seafood chocolate, oils

Found in bones, helps in maintaining water balance, controls nerve impulse transmissions.

Sulphur

Cheese, eggs, nuts, turnips, fish, wheat germ, corn, cauliflower

Utilised in protein synthesis, protects cells from damage, and promotes shedding of skin.


Micro Minerals Chart

Minerals

Sources of Minerals

Minerals in Food Function

Iron

Meat, beans, eggs, baked potatoes, dried fruits, green leafy vegetables, enriched grains. 

Is one of the major components of haemoglobin which is found in red blood cells and carries oxygen,

Zinc

Pork, beef, nuts, turnips, onions, fish, wheat germ.

Is used in enzyme and protein synthesis as well as the synthesis of the genetic material. Additional functions are wound healing, foetal development, production of sperm, normal growth and sexual maturation, immune system health. 

Iodine

Iodised salt, seaweed, seafood.

Found in the thyroid hormone which regulates growth, metabolism and development. 

Selenium 

Seafood, grains, meats

It functions as an antioxidant.

Copper 

Nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes

It is a part of many enzymes, needed for iron metabolism.

Manganese

Cereals, nuts, oils, vegetables.

It is a part of many enzymes.

Fluoride

Fish, teas, drinking water.

Used in the formation of bone and prevents tooth decay.

Chromium 

Nuts, cheese, brewer’s yeast, whole grains.

Works closely with insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.

Molybdenum

Bread, grains,  legumes, milk, liver

Part of some enzymes


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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. What are the Side effects of Eating Minerals Excessively?

Ans. Consuming too much of one thing always has a negative effect on the human body. Taking excess minerals in everyday diet may lead to certain illnesses in the body.

  • Excess of calcium in our diet can cause constipation and kidney problems.

  • Too much of zinc kin our diet may cause diarrhoea, kidney malfunctioning, heart problems and vomiting.

  • Excessive sodium in blood cells increases the risk of stroke, other heart-related problems as well as Hypernatremia.

  • Excess of iron can result in liver disease, cardiovascular problems, loss of interest in sex, infertility and impotence.

A balanced diet prevents mineral deficiencies. The use of vitamin and mineral supplements should be discouraged to prevent any adverse effects.

Q2. What is the Function of Minerals?

Ans. Minerals are naturally occurring chemical elements that are found in the earth. Erosion breaks down stones, particulate and sand to form soil, which is the basis for plant growth. The minerals are taken up by plants, which are then turned on to herbivores which eat the plants. Humans eat plants and herbivores to obtain necessary mineral nutrients.

Minerals are needed for the proper composition of body fluids, including blood, and for the proper formation of tissues, muscles, nerves, bones and teeth, muscles and nerves. They also play an important role in maintaining healthy nerve function, the regulation of muscle tone, and supporting a healthy cardiovascular system.

Their Biochemical Functions including:

  • Energy production

  • Growth

  • Healing

  • Proper utilization of vitamins and other nutrients

There are two types in minerals found in food, these are generally classified into two groups, macrominerals and trace minerals (microminerals). The macrominerals are calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium and potassium; they are required in large amounts in the body. 

Trace or microminerals are only required only in minute quantities in the body. These are zinc, copper, chromium, selenium, molybdenum, manganese, iodine etc.

Q3. Give some examples of Minerals in Food.

A3. Examples of Minerals found in Food

Mineral Name

Examples of Food

Calcium

Milk and milk-by products, vegetables, beans, soy milk.

Phosphorous

Poultry, meat, eggs, fish.

Iron

Meat, beans, eggs, baked potatoes.

Zinc

Pork, beef, nuts, wheat germ.

Copper

Nuts, seeds, legumes.

Q4. What are the Types of Minerals in the Body?

Ans. Two types of minerals are required for complete nourishment of the body. These are

  • Macrominerals: Sodium, Chloride, Calcium etc.

  • Microminerals: Iodine, manganese, fluoride etc.