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Minerals in Our Food: Functions in the Body & Food Sources

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  • 0:22 Types of Minerals
  • 1:18 Trace Minerals
  • 2:54 Macrominerals
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
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.

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