Classification of Minerals: Major & Trace

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  • 0:02 Minerals
  • 1:20 Sources
  • 2:12 Major Minerals
  • 3:57 Trace Minerals
  • 5:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Minerals are needed for good health. Major minerals include sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and sulfur. Trace minerals include iron, zinc, iodine, copper, manganese, fluoride, selenium, chromium and molybdenum. Learn about both major and trace minerals in this lesson.


Where do you find minerals? Are they found in:

A. The soil you walk on

B. The ring on your finger

C. The make-up worn on your face

D. Inside your body

E. All of the above

Surprisingly, the correct answer is E: All of the above. Minerals are inorganic compounds needed by your body to regulate chemical reactions and maintain structures. Being inorganic means they do not contain carbon, which is one of the things that makes them different from vitamins. When something is organic we can say that it is derived from living matter. This is not the case for inorganic substances, which explains why minerals can be found in things like the ground beneath your feet and the jewelry and makeup you wear on your body.

Your body needs minerals to stay healthy. Major minerals are minerals your body needs in relatively large (or major) quantities, and trace minerals are minerals your body needs in relatively small (or trace) quantities. In this lesson, you will learn which minerals fit these classifications, as well as a few memory tricks to help you recall their names.


Now, we mentioned that minerals are found in many things, like soil, jewelry and makeup, yet we don't need to eat these things in order to obtain them. Dietary sources of minerals include animal-based foods because, just like you and me, animals have minerals inside of them. Therefore, when you eat the animal product, the minerals get transferred to you.

Minerals are also found in plant-based foods because plants pick up minerals from the soil they grow in. These minerals are then transferred to you when you eat fruits, veggies and grains throughout your day. Minerals can also be added to foods to either add flavor, as we often see when sodium is added to foods, or to fortify the food, which simply means the minerals have been added to the foods to make them more nutritious.

Major Minerals

As mentioned earlier, there are two main classifications of minerals. Seven of the minerals needed by your body are classified as major minerals; they include sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and sulfur. Now, remembering the names of the major minerals can be a bit overwhelming, so I like to use a mnemonic: Salty Potato Chips Contain Pretty Much Salt.

When we look at this list we can break it down even further. For instance, the first three, sodium, potassium and chloride, are all electrolytes, which means they are positively or negatively charged ions that help your body regulate fluid balance. You might have heard of electrolytes in association with sports drinks. Sports drinks like to advertise that they help replenish electrolytes lost through sweat after an intense workout.

The next three major minerals on our list, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, are important to your bone health. You may have already known that about calcium because we're all familiar with the milk commercials that tout how calcium contained in milk builds strong bones. But, the hard mineral portion of bone is also enhanced by phosphorous and magnesium.

This is important to know from a nutrition standpoint, although I don't expect the commercial to change to 'calcium, phosphorous and magnesium build strong bones' any time soon - it's just not that catchy. As for sulfur, it's a bit of an outsider as it's not an electrolyte or involved in bone health. Sulfur is helpful as a food preservative, such as sodium sulfite.

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