Minerals and our health

Minerals and our health

What are minerals?

Minerals are micronutrients that we need to consume for overall health. They are different than vitamins in that they are not broken down in the body or destroyed during cooking or in light. This means that the calcium found in our bones is the same than the calcium in the milk we drink. Minerals have many important functions such as regulating fluids and producing energy, maintaining bone and blood health, and getting rid of harmful byproducts that our bodies generate.

Two types of minerals:

Major minerals are: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulphur (needed in amounts greater than 100mg/day).

Minor minerals are: iron, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, iodine, fluoride, chromium, molybdenum (needed in amounts less than 100mg/day).

Some minerals and their functions

Mineral Some food sources Function
Calcium Milk, cheese, yogurt, calcium fortified non-dairy beverage, tofu with added calcium Builds bones and teeth and helps keep them strong.

Helps muscles like your heart work properly.

Iron Meat, fish, poultry, firm tofu, dried beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, nuts and seeds.

* Vitamin C (found in citrus fruits) can increase absorption of iron in the body.

Carries oxygen to all parts of the body.

Prevents tiredness.

Magnesium Spinach, bran cereals and wheat germ, dried beans. Keeps nerves and muscles strong.

Helps form bones and teeth.

Potassium Bananas, sweet potato, dark leafy greens, avocado, prune juice, milk, yogurt, dried beans. Keep fluids balanced in blood and tissue.

Helps control blood pressure.

Allows nerves and muscles to work together.

Zinc Yogurt, milk, cheese, dried beans. Maintains a healthy immune system.

Important for wound healing.

Helps the body use other nutrients.

Most people can get enough minerals by eating a variety of healthy foods from the four major food groups (meats and alternatives, dairy products and alternatives, vegetables and fruits, and grains).

Stephanie Aboueid, RD


Nutrition: A functional approach by Judy Sheeshka, Pearson Education Canada; 2 edition.