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Minerals: Functions & Food Sources

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  • 0:01 Minerals Overview
  • 0:32 Macrominerals
  • 2:37 Trace Minerals
  • 4:51 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Sarah Lawson

Sarah has taught nursing courses and has a master's degree in nursing education.

Have you ever wondered the role and function that minerals play in our nutrition? Learn more about minerals and their sources and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Minerals Overview

Minerals are chemical elements required by the body for normal function. The body uses minerals for many different jobs, including building bones, making hormones, and regulating the heartbeat. They are divided into two groups: macrominerals and trace minerals, or microminerals. Both groups are important, but macrominerals are needed in larger amounts than trace minerals. Eating a balanced diet will usually provide all of the needed minerals.

Macrominerals

Macrominerals are required in larger levels in our bodies for proper functioning. The following minerals make up the group macrominerals: sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and sulfur.

Sodium functions to maintain proper fluid balance in the body. It is also necessary for muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmission. It is found in table salt, soy sauce, and in processed foods. It is also found in small amounts in milk, bread, vegetables, and some meats.

Chloride is needed for proper function of stomach acid and also for fluid balance maintenance. It is found in table salt, soy sauce, and in processed foods. It is also found in small amounts in milk, meats, bread, and some vegetables.

Potassium is required for normal fluid balance, muscle contraction, and for nerve impulse transmission. Meats, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are good sources of potassium.

Calcium is needed for healthy bones and teeth. It is also needed to help muscles relax and contract, nerve functioning, blood clotting, regulating blood pressure, and supports the immune system. It is found in milk and milk products, fortified tofu and soy milk, vegetables, such as broccoli and mustard greens, and legumes.

Phosphorus is found in every cell. It is necessary for healthy bones and teeth. It plays a role in normal acid-base balance. It is found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and milk.

Magnesium is found in the bones. It is necessary for protein production, muscle contraction, nerve impulse transmission, and supporting the immune system. Nuts and seeds, legumes, leafy greens, seafood, artichokes, chocolate, and hard drinking water are good sources of magnesium.

Sulfur is found in protein molecules. It is found in foods high in protein, such as meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, legumes, and nuts.

Trace Minerals

Trace minerals, also referred to as microminerals, are required in smaller amounts in our diet. The following minerals make up the group trace minerals: iron, zinc, iodine, selenium, copper, manganese, fluoride, chromium, and molybdenum. Other trace minerals known to be essential in small amounts include nickel, silicon, vanadium, and cobalt.

Iron is an essential part of a molecule that is found in red blood cells. It is necessary to carry oxygen throughout the body and needed for energy metabolism. It is found in organ meats, red meats, fish, poultry, shellfish, egg yolks, and legumes. It is also found in dried fruits, leafy greens, and fortified cereals and breads.

Zinc is needed for the production of protein and genetic material. It is necessary in wound healing, reproductive maturity, normal fetal development, immune health, and even has a function in perception of taste. It can be found in meats, fish, poultry, leavened whole grains, and vegetables.

Iodine is necessary for the production of thyroid hormone, which regulates growth, development, and metabolism. Sources of iodine include seafood, foods grown in iodine-rich soil, iodized salt, bread, and dairy products.

Selenium is an antioxidant. It is found in meats, seafood, and grains.

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