Nutrients: minerals


Minerals are inorganic substances widely distributed nature and present also in food. They are essential components for the human being, since we are not able to synthesize them in our body from other compounds, and we must take them from the outside through food, with the aim that our bodies function properly. They are in our body as part of various structures such as teeth, bones, blood, etc.
The minerals that are considered essential for nutrition total 26. In this article we will detail those who have greater need for consumption and the best known: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, iron, zinc, iodine, copper, manganese and fluorine.
In addition to these, there are many others such as cobalt or pewter with important actions in the maturation of red blood cells; vanadium, which contributes to the metabolism of fats; nickel, related hormones; or silicon, necessary to the growth and renewal of the bones.

What are minerals?

As general overview one could say that the minerals have a regulatory function. Most are related to energy production at the cellular level, forming part of chemical reactions. Many contribute to the metabolism of macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Also part of many molecules: vitamins, amino acids, hormones, blood cells, etc.
It is also important structural action that provide some of the minerals: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium... On the contrary, should emphasize that minerals do not have energy function, so it does not add no calories.

Minerals: classification, requirements and sources

Surely you'll wonder what amount of minerals must take through the diet. Well, each mineral has its requirement. These requirements depend largely on the age, sex, physiological and pathological condition of each person, and may see increased in specific situations (diseases, etc.). Precisely the classification criterion of the minerals that we post here has to do with the number of consumer recommendation agreed upon for healthy adults.
Either way, a fact is the mineral content containing a food and other different bioavailability, that is the actual amount of ore that is able to pass through the intestinal wall and become part of our body. The bioavailability of minerals depends on several factors: the presence of bile salts, fibre, elements present in intestine that increase or decrease the absorption, pH of the medium, etc.

Sources of minerals

The minerals are in nature on a regular basis: on the ground, on the ground, on rocks, plants, etc. They are also present in the food. There are some sources that are especially rich in some minerals and is rare to find any food that does not have any. Below you will find the food sources where to find each of minerals required by your diet.
Remember that a varied and balanced diet is the best system to avoid deficiencies and accumulations of minerals. Certainly indiscriminate supplementation without good reason is completely contraindicated.

Classification of minerals

The classification of minerals is done according to the need of consumption of the same.
If this recommendation exceeds 100 mg/day it is said that we are faced with an antagonist , and if it is less, whatever, is a micromineral.
You have to be careful because this denomination does not refer to the size of the molecule (because of the 'macro' and 'micro') or to the greater or lesser importance of the mineral for our health. To put clarifier example we will say that iron is classified as a micromineral, with some recommendations of consumption really low if compared with others. However, no one doubts the significance of its functions and its direct contribution to health.
  1. The macro (more than 100 mg/day) are:
    • Calcium
    • Phosphorus
    • Magnesium
    • Potassium
    • Sodium
    • Chlorine
    • Sulphur
  2. The microminerals (less than 100 mg/day) are all the others. Of them, by their special involvement in health and their greater knowledge, let's see in detail:
    • Iron
    • Zinc
    • Fluorine
    • Iodine
    • Copper
    • Manganese
    • Selenium


Daily calcium recommendations:
The recommended dose is not regulated, since it depends on the protein content of the diet.
The sulphur (S) is an antagonist whose consumption needs depend on the intake of methionine, an amino acid, a component of proteins. Participates in many metabolic reactions and there are several important components of the organism: vitamins, hormones, etc., which are sulfur, i.e. with sulphur in its composition.
This mineral does not have own consumption recommendations, but with a relatively balanced diet intake prevents its deficiency.
Tobacco is capable of lowering the intestinal absorption of sulphur.
As a curiosity, the sulphur baths have been used for many years for its healing properties, since they helped improve many ailments: stress, muscle, dermatological problems, etc.

Functions of the sulphur

  • It is part of vitamins.
  • He is a member of some proteins.
  • It is part of hormones.
  • It participates in the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.

Main food sources

  • Meat, fish.
  • Cheese, eggs.
  • Vegetables.
  • Garlic and onion.

ulfur deficiency

It is very rare. But its deficiency in the body may cause a delay in growth.

Toxicity by sulfur

Like his lack, too much sulfur can also cause growth problem, since it is a mineral that is closely linked to the protein. If the excess comes by the power it is not toxic, only if it is due to the intake of inorganic sulfur through other products.


Daily calcium recommendations:
800 - 1200 mg/day in adults
Calcium (Ca) is an antagonist who plays an important role in our body structural to be an integral part of bones and teeth. However, the binding of calcium in the bone system requires the presence of vitamin D.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our bodies and has some recommendations of consumption relatively high, since it is essential for the formation of the skeleton of the body, being very important that their basic needs are covered during childhood and adolescence. In addition, during pregnancy and lactation calcium needs increase significantly.
In old age, it is also very important to have adequate levels of calcium in the body, to be able to thus replace losses that are produced from this ore, as for example in osteoporosis.
The total of calcium contained in foods, is only absorbed between 20% - 40% of the total. Improves its absorption in the presence of vitamin D, lactose, fat, protein, vitamin C and acidic environment. Hence better bioavailability of calcium foods are milk and milk derivatives.

Functions of calcium

Calcium has different functions in our body:
  • Part of the teeth and bones and helps to keep them healthy.
  • It is necessary for blood clotting.
  • It is involved in the transmission of the nervous impulse.
  • It has an important role in muscle contraction.
  • Stimulation of hormone secretion.
  • It contributes to the activation of enzymes that serve as mediators in various chemical reactions.
  • Collaborates in the permeability of the cell membranes so that these can make the exchange of substances with the medium (oxygen and nutrients).
  • It is involved in the absorption of vitamin B12.

Food sources of calcium

The main food sources of where to get calcium through diet are:
  • The main source of calcium is milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products.
  • Fish that can eat the thorns (sardines, anchovies, salmon...), seafood.
  • Vegetables of green leaf (cabbage).
  • Sunflower oil.
  • Legumes (beans, soy).
  • Peanuts, walnuts.
  • Drinking water.

Calcium deficiency

  • The lack of the calcium necessary for the proper functioning of our body can cause: Osteoporosis: decreased bone mass and increased the fragility of the bones.
  • Rickets: low mineralisation and bone deformity.
  • Tetany: change in muscle contraction.

Toxicity of calcium

Increase of calcium in blood and urine. Extra-oseos calcium deposits.


Daily calcium recommendations:
12 - 20 mg/day in adults
Zinc (Zn) is a micromineral that participates in more than 200 chemical reactions at the cellular level. It is involved in virtually all systems maintenance and regulatory body.
There are certain substances listed as antinutritive, since they have a negative impact on the use of certain nutrients, such as phytates, contained in legumes, and whole grains that reduce the use of zinc.

unctions of zinc

  • Participates in multiple chemical reactions and immune (body defense), since it promotes the production of lymphocytes.
  • It helps in wound healing.
  • It is involved in the synthesis of DNA and RNA.
  • It produces certain hormones activation.
  • He collaborates in the maintenance of the structure of the cells.
  • Its presence in the body is essential for the correct functioning of the smell and taste.
  • It is essential for the correct development of the gonads (ovaries and testicles), as well as on reproduction and fertility.
  • Zinc is essential for the formation of insulin and many other proteins.

Sources of zinc

  • Wheat germ.
  • Meat, fish
  • Eggs and dairy.
  • Legumes, nuts (walnuts).
  • Oysters.

Consequences of the zinc deficiency

The lack of this mineral can cause different diseases such as:
  • Dwarfism or alterations in the growth.
  • Dermatitis.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Hair loss.
  • Hypogonadism: alteration of sexual characters.
  • Taste: decrease of the sense of taste. And also smell.
  • Fatigue or anemia.
  • Slowness in healing.

Zinc toxicity

Digestive alterations. Muscle cramps.


Daily calcium recommendations:
1, 7 - 5 g/day in adults
The chlorine (Cl) is an antagonist which is part of common salt, along with sodium. It also participates very actively in the digestive processes. It is also an electrolyte, thus completing the trio with potassium and sodium.
Trivia: the chlorine was used, during the first world war, as a chemical weapon. But surely that so you know most chlorine is that is used as a disinfectant agent for water purification.

Functions of chlorine

  • Participates in the osmotic balance: concentration of substances in and out of cells.
  • It is part of gastric hydrochloric acid which is involved in digestion.
  • It is involved in the digestion of fats.

Food sources of chlorine:

  • Component of salt.
  • Chlorinated water.

Chlorine deficiency

Loss of appetite.

Toxicity of chlorine

Fluid retention. Neuromuscular disturbances.


Daily recommendations of copper:
2 - 3 mg/day in adults
Copper (Cu) It is a micromineral elementary in the human body, since it has a primordial role, being necessary to assimilate and utilize iron, and that can be distributed appropriately to carry out its mission. In addition, it has an important variety of functions which include the regulation of enzymatic reactions. It is also required to produce ATP, which is the type of energy that the body can use. Copper in high amounts can be very toxic.

Copper functions

  • It helps to transport iron.
  • It participates in the formation of hemoglobin, red blood cells, and various enzymes.
  • It participates in the degradation of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins.
  • Involved in the uptake of vitamin C from the body.
  • He collaborates in the maintenance of bone structure.
· It participates in the integrity of the central nervous system.

Food sources of copper

We can get the copper of different foods:
  • Legumes: lentils, chick peas, beans, etc.
  • Whole grain foods and cereals.
  • Dried fruit.
  • Liver, organ meats.
  • Seafood.
  • Plums and raisins.
  • Liver, organ meats.

Consequences for its deficit

If the body lacks copper can be given different pathologies such as:
  • Anemia.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Depigmentation (skin discoloration).
  • Alterations or degeneration of the central nervous system.
  • Greying hair.
  • Loss of minerals.

Copper toxicity

It can cause liver and kidney disorders. Neurological problems. Copper workers must wear protective measures to prevent the toxicity of this mineral.


Daily calcium recommendations:
1, 5 - 4 mg/day in adults
Fluorine (F) is a micromineral essential to the human body, since it has an essential role in the formation of bones and the correct maintenance of the dentin - preventing the decay, and bone structure.
Currently being considered in a very comprehensive manner how excess fluoride in the body affects the central nervous system. In fact, it is advisable to avoid the use of products rich in fluorine in young children because of its negative influence on the development of the nervous system. This is the main reason why child toothpaste does not contain fluorine.

Functions of fluorine

  • He participated in the formation and strengthening of bones and tooth enamel.
  • Prevention of tooth decay.
  • Maintenance of the bone structure.

Food sources of fluoride

· Fluorinated water.
· Vegetables and vegetables according to the fluorine content of soil (spinach, cabbage, lettuce, bean sprouts).
· Tea
· Coffee.
· Fish.
· Seafood.

Consequences for its deficit

Lack of fluoride can cause various abnormalities such as:
  • Dental caries.
· Osteoporosis.

Toxicity of fluoride

  • Bone fractures.
  • Alterations of the nervous system.
Its excess is also a cause of a disease:
  • Fluorosis, which produces a characteristic grain in the teeth.


Daily calcium recommendations:
800 - 1200 mg/day in adults
Phosphorus (P) is a macromineral closely related to calcium, both shared functions, food sources where is present or its consumption recommendations. To greater need of one, most in need of the other. Improves the bioavailability of phosphorus in the presence of vitamin D, vitamin C and protein, among others.
Although it is present in every cell, mainly, phosphorus is found in teeth and bones, and constitutes about 1% of the total weight of a person.

Match function

  • It prevents tooth decay.
  • It is part of the bones and reduces the loss of bone mass.
  • It is part of the molecules that gets the energy at the cellular level.
  • It is part of the DNA and RNA that transfer genetic information.
  • It is part of the cell walls.
  • He collaborates in the activation of enzymes.
  • Acid-base of the cells involved in balance.
  • It is part of the vitamin B6.

Food sources of phosphorus

Phosphorus can be found in different foods:
  • Fish.
  • Meat poultry and veal.
  • Milk and eggs.
  • Whole grains.
  • Dried fruit.

Deficiency of phosphorus in the diet

It is rare that there is a deficit of phosphorus, since it is easy to get it in the food. Even so, if it displays may cause:
  • Bone alterations.
  • Alterations in muscle contraction.
  • Blood disorders.
  • Renal alterations.

Toxicity of phosphorus

  • Tetany (painful spasms in extremities).
  • Decalcification.


Daily calcium recommendations:
10 - 30 mg/day in adults
Iron (Fe) is a micromineral important for life, even if it is in a little proportion in the human body. It is vital in the transportation of oxygen, along with the process of cellular respiration. It is one of the minerals that causes major shortcomings, especially among women in fertile age, therefore, needs are greater in women, and is that iron deficiency causes a particular type of anemia.
There are two chemical forms of iron found in foods: iron heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron absorption is, roughly, a quarter and this iron is what is found in foods of animal origin. The form heme, present in plant foods, is not absorbed in very low quantity (3-8%). This is the main reason that consumption of lentils to improve iron content is not especially suitable.
The bioavailability of iron is very variable according to the elements during absorption.

Function of iron

  • It is involved in the transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.
  • He participated in the production of elements of blood as for example hemoglobin.
  • Part in the process of cellular respiration and is an integral part of Myoglobin, store oxygen in muscle.
  • It has a fundamental role in DNA synthesis, and collagen formation.
  • Increases resistance to diseases.
  • He collaborates in many chemical reactions.

Sources of iron

  • Liver.
  • Red meats.
  • Chicken
  • Kidney.
  • Black pudding.
  • Fish.
  • Eggs
  • Mussels.
  • Cereal, wheat germ.
  • Vegetables.
Facilitates the absorption of iron by the body if taken together with vitamin C, B6, B12, folic acid, copper, phosphorus and calcium.
This mineral absorption decreases with substances like coffee, wine (tannins) or fiber, and with the presence of diarrhea.

Consequences of iron deficiency

Its deficit, due to the monthly menstrual bleeding is quite frequent in women, moreover, in pregnancy the mother becomes iron baby, thus reducing its level in the body. These situations can lead to iron deficiency anemia. The most common symptoms of this condition are:
  • Tiredness, fatigue.
  • Pallor.
  • Low level of performance.
  • Increase of probability of preterm birth.

Iron toxicity

There may be iron deposits in various organs, especially the liver, causing various damage and a disease called hemochromatosis. An excessive intake of iron supplements can cause a poisoning by this mineral.


Daily calcium recommendations:
200 - 400 mg/day in adults
Magnesium (Mg) is an antagonist with a very important man in structural function, to be present in the bones. In addition, share regulatory function, since it is involved in many reactions within the cell energy production.
Fat, calcium and vitamin D decrease the absorption of magnesium at the intestinal level. While alcohol consumption causes the lower utilization of magnesium.

Function of magnesium

  • It is involved in the maintenance of teeth, heart and bones healthy.
  • Participates in energy metabolism, in the activation of enzymes that release glucose.
  • It encourages the formation of proteins.
  • It is part of the bone structure.
  • It intervenes in the twitch and nerve transmission.

Sources of magnesium

Most of magnesium can obtained from chlorophyll-rich foods: vegetables, dried fruits (walnuts, cashew nuts, almonds), legumes (soy products), cereals (rice, millet). There it is also available in:
  • Lemon.
  • Grapefruit.
  • Figs.
  • Corn.

Magnesium deficiency

Although it is not very common may be a deficit of magnesium (in alcoholic people, newly operated, by the taking of medications, Burns, or other people with problems to absorb magnesium):
  • Seizures, irritability
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weakened strength.

Toxicity of magnesium

In general, the Agency is prepared to remove excess magnesium, but occurs, especially by taking certain medications, can cause:
  • Alteration of muscle contraction.
  • Nervous disorder.


Daily calcium recommendations:
0, 3 - 5 mg/day in adults
Manganese (Mn) is a micromineral essential, with a not very high consumption needs. It is distributed widely in foods of plant origin and their best-known functions are aimed at the regulation of cellular reactions.
Along with copper, calcium and zinc can be useful in the prevention of osteoporosis.
To take into account is that manganese can affect the efficacy of some antibiotics.

Function of manganese

  • Participates in the synthesis of fatty acids.
  • It is involved in the synthesis of sex hormones.
  • It is essential to be able to assimilate vitamin E.
  • Essential in the production of cartilage.
  • It strengthens the memory.
  • It reduces irritability.
  • It reduces fatigue.

Sources of manganese

  • Vegetables, green vegetables, beet.
  • Fruits.
  • Whole grains, legumes, peas.
  • Dried fruit.
  • Milk and milk derivatives.
  • Meat.

Consequences for its deficit

Lack of manganese in the body can cause various diseases such as:
  • Vertigo.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Sterility problems: alterations in motility.
  • Bone alterations.

Manganese toxicity

Nerve and respiratory disorders


Daily calcium recommendations:
2 - 6 mg/day in adults (nursing women need quantities of, at least, 5.1 g/day)
Potassium (K) is an antagonist with important functions at the level of the muscle and the nervous system. In addition, it is also an electrolyte, as well as sodium and chlorine, which collaborates in pressure and concentration of substances in the inside and outside of cells.
It is a mineral that is very soluble in water, a resource that can be used to remove it from the diet if you are interested, for example, in the case of renal pathology.

Function of potassium

Potassium is a mineral elementary in our body, since it performs basic functions such as the regulation of water inside and outside the cells. This occupation made it together with the sodium.
The most important functions are:
  • It is essential for the proper growth of the organism.
  • It is part of the bones.
  • Participates in the osmotic balance: concentration of substances in and out of cells.
  • It is involved in the production of proteins from its main components which are amino acids.
  • It intervenes in the metabolism of carbohydrates.
  • He collaborates in the permeability of the membranes.
  • It is essential for the synthesis of the muscles.
  • Participate in chemical reactions.
  • It is involved in nerve transmission.
  • It is involved in muscle contraction.

Sources of potassium

  • Fruits (bananas, kiwi, cantaloupe melon; citrus such as lemon, orange or grapefruit; tomatoes, plums and apricots - when they are dry, have greater amount of potassium).
  • All meats (red, chicken).
  • Fish such as salmon, cod and sardines.
  • Bean sprouts.
  • Integral cereals, legumes.
  • Vegetables such as broccoli, potatoes and beans.
  • Milk and milk derivatives.
  • Nuts.

Consequences for its deficit

Lack of potassium can carry out various alterations such as:
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Tachycardias.
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension).
  • Thirst.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Neuromuscular disorders.
  • Vomiting, malaise.
Generally, the lack of this mineral (what is known as hypokalemia) due to a poor diet, or by incorrect track of strict diets. To avoid this, should consume an amount varied and balanced food, sufficient to meet the needs.

Toxicity of potassium

Excess potassium (called hyperkalemia) can cause heart and kidney disorders. It may be due to kidney failure, infections or taking some diuretics and specific drugs.


Daily calcium recommendations:
50-70 µg/day in adults
Selenium (Se) is a micromineral antioxidant, function, which it shares with vitamin E. Currently, these compounds are being widely studied for their possible value in very frequent diseases: cardiovascular, cancer, etc.
For their antioxidant capacity, is considered a cellular anti-aging element. On the other hand, selenium may potentiate the action of anticoagulant drugs by is it advisable to monitor this combination.

Functions of selenium

  • It has antioxidant capacity, that it relates to a protective role of diseases such as cancer and other problems associated with cell damage.
  • Related to vitamin E.
  • You can protect the body after a vaccination.
  • Although more studies are needed to verify it, it seems that small amounts of selenium can be good to improve fertility, especially in humans, since it increases the production of sperm and their motility.

Major food sources of selenium

Meat and fish.

Selenium deficiency

Not reaching the minimum quantities of selenium in the body can cause:
  • Blood disorders.
  • Muscle problems.
  • Pancreatic disorders.

Selenium toxicity

Digestive problems alterations in skin, hair and nails


Daily recommendations of sodium:
500 mg/day in adults
Sodium (Na) is an antagonist which is part of the salt of sodium chloride (NaCl) chemical formula or table. As well as potassium and chlorine, it is an electrolyte and has important roles in the regulation of the concentration of aqueous media. Our muscles and nerves need it to function properly.
With the sodium present in foods naturally would be sufficient to meet the established recommendations. In fact, the majority of the population takes more salt in the diet than it should. When the kidneys, responsible for eliminating it, can do so having an excess of this mineral, hypertension may occur.
As a curiosity, we pointed out that not all people with hypertension are sensitive to the withdrawal of sodium in the diet. On the other hand, common salt contains sodium, but it is not the only, also monosodium glutamate and sodium nitrite, for example.

Function of sodium

  • Regulation of blood pressure and blood volume.
  • It is essential for the proper functioning of muscles and nerves.
  • It is part of the bones.
  • Participates in the osmotic balance: concentration of substances in and out of cells.
  • He collaborates in the permeability of the membranes.
  • It is involved in muscle contraction.
  • It is involved in nerve transmission.

Sources of sodium

The way to find sodium is in the form of sodium chloride, better known as table salt. The main sources of sodium are:
  • Salt naturally present in food.
  • Salts present in processed, frozen and canned products. Almost all prepared foods are high in sodium.
  • Salt in cooking or seasoning.
Almost all foods contain sodium naturally as:
  • Milk.
  • Beet.
  • Celery.
  • Drinking water.
  • Meat is processed as Bacon, ham, etc.
  • Soups and packaged vegetables.

Deficiency of sodium in the diet

Although it is more common that problems with sodium are taken by excess, there may also be a deficit of this mineral, which results in:
  • Weakness, mental confusion.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Circulatory alterations.

Toxicity and sodium in the diet recommendations

Excessive sodium intake may lead to fluid retention. This is serious in people who suffer from congestive heart failure, or kidney disease. So you should see a doctor to make them a diet according to their pathology.
Several studies have shown that excessive consumption of salt in the diet increases blood pressure in some people, and may thus suffer from hypertension. To decrease, it would be convenient to reduce the amount of salt in foods.


Daily calcium recommendations:
100-200 µg/day in adults
Iodine (I) is a micromineral very important, since it is essential in the synthesis of thyroid hormones, essential in the regulation of the Agency. Alterations in their levels can cause hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism causing disorders in basal metabolism.
Fish and seafood are virtually the only food sources of iodine, so people who are allergic to these products, should take iodized salt in a protocol way in order to avoid its lack.
Some vegetables contain substances bociogenas (causing goitre or other alterations in the thyroid) that hamper the action of iodine, especially if eaten raw. They are, for example, cauliflower, cabbage, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, etc.

Role of iodine

  • Essential for the production of thyroid hormones.
  • It facilitates growth.
  • It helps burn excess fat that has our body.
  • It improves mental alertness.
  • It is involved in neuromuscular processes.
  • It participates in cell performance.

Sources of iodine

  • Fish.
  • Seafood.
  • Iodized salt.
  • Some varieties of algae.
  • Milk and milk derivatives.
  • Fruits.
  • Vegetables.

Iodine deficit

Iodine deficiency can cause various alterations in our body as:
  • Goiter: augmentation of the thyroid gland, located in the neck, causing misalignments in the thyroid hormones.
  • Cretinism in children (a congenital deficiency that causes physical and mental retardation).
To avoid these diseases it is necessary that the amount of iodine ingested is adequate in pregnant women and children.

Toxicity of iodine

Excess iodine can cause hipertiriodismo: increase in the production of thyroid hormones usually with an increase of the general metabolism of the person that causes weight loss, nervousness, heart problems, etc.
Article contributed for educational purposes
Health and Wellness

Recommended Contents