Minerals are important substances that help your body's form and function on many different levels. This lesson will go over some important ones, what they do, and where they are found in our diets.
Minerals in the Diet
Minerals are commonly found in many of the foods you eat. They're even found in many vitamin pills. Despite actually not being vitamins at all, they're still in there. Here you'll learn how minerals are different from vitamins, what some important ones do for you, and where you can find them in a natural diet.
The Different Types of Minerals
A mineral, from a dietary sense, is an inorganic compound that's needed in small amounts for the regulation of your body's processes and health. Minerals are inorganic, unlike vitamins (which are organic nutrients). This means minerals do not contain carbon.
When it comes to minerals, there are two general classes of them. There are macrominerals, minerals the body needs in relatively large amounts, larger than trace minerals, minerals the body needs in relatively small amounts.
But do not be fooled! Just because trace minerals are needed in smaller amounts does not even remotely negate their critical importance, as you'll soon learn.
The different types of macrominerals include calcium, sodium, and potassium. Examples of trace minerals include: iron, fluoride, and iodine.
Functions and Sources of Trace Minerals
Remember how I just said trace minerals are important, even if you need less of them than macrominerals?
One prime example of this is the mineral iron. Iron is the same stuff found in those round weight plates at the gym. Their shape reminds me of our body's red blood cells, which are chock full of iron!
Iron is necessary for the formation of a protein called hemoglobin, found in red blood cells, which carries oxygen. That is why iron deficiency can lead to anemia, which is when your body doesn't contain enough healthy red blood cells. To avoid this, make sure you eat, like the color of red blood cells, enough red meat, which is naturally high in iron, or if not that, at least iron-fortified grains.
Other than iron, another trace mineral of importance is fluoride. This is the stuff added to toothpaste and drinking water to ensure you don't get cavities.
Just like fluoride is added automatically to the things we use, so too is iodine, another kind of trace mineral. Iodine is commonly found added to iodized salt. Iodine helps to regulate the body's metabolism because it is necessary for the thyroid gland to make its hormones.
If you were to not get enough iodine in your diet, then your neck would swell up really big into something we call a goiter. A goiter, resulting from an enlarged thyroid gland, is like a cry for help by your thyroid that alerts you to the fact that you're not getting enough iodine.
Functions and Sources of Macrominerals
Whereas iodine is often added to salt, table salt always contains something known as sodium, which is a macromineral. Sodium helps to maintain your body's water balance and acid-base balance. Meaning, it helps to control how swollen or dehydrated you look and how acidic (like a lemon) or basic (like baking soda) your body becomes as a result of many different disease processes.
Another well-known macromineral you have certainly heard of is known as calcium. This is necessary for the formation of bone. Calcium is found in milk, milk products, and many fortified foods, such as orange juice.
Milk, as well as meat and many vegetables, also contains an important macromineral called potassium. Potassium is necessary for healthy nerve function. Your nerves are like the electric circuit and power cable in your home. If you didn't have enough potassium, the electrical power would be unable to flow through your nerves, resulting in flickering, malfunction, and even shutdown of the nervous system.
This lesson covered minerals. A mineral, from a dietary sense, is an inorganic compound that's needed in small amounts for the regulation of your body's processes and health.
There are two general classes of minerals. There are macrominerals, minerals necessary in relatively larger amounts by the body, larger than trace minerals, minerals needed by the body in smaller amounts than macrominerals.
Macrominerals include calcium (important in building bone), potassium (necessary for nerve function), and sodium (which helps maintain appropriate water balance in the body).
Trace minerals are things like iodine (which help in your body's metabolism), fluoride (required to help prevent cavities), and iron (necessary to help prevent anemia).
After finishing this lesson you should be able to:
- Discuss what constitutes a mineral
- Identify and explain the purposes of three trace minerals and three macrominerals that our bodies need to function