You may be familiar with how important iron and calcium are for our bodies and how their deficiencies can lead to disorders but there’s more to that list (a lot more). Minerals that we need for sustenance are called ‘essential minerals’ and are divided into macrominerals (or major minerals) and microminerals (or trace minerals). This categorization is based on the amount of the minerals we need rather than an indication of their importance. We require and store macrominerals in relatively larger quantities as compared to microminerals but they are just as important. Humans and animals do not make these minerals but are introduced in the food chain through pants which absorb them through soil, rocks and water.
Calcium: required for healthy bones, muscle contraction, blood clotting, healthy nervous and immune system. Best sources are milk and dairy products, kale, broccoli, legumes, and fortified foods. Calcium deficiency can cause hypocalcemia, osteoporosis and osteopenia while overconsumption can cause constipation and kidney stones. Recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 1000 – 1200 milligrams.
Sodium: required for proper fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction. Best sources are table salt, meat and milk. Sodium deficiency can cause hyponatremia; overconsumption can increase heart stroke risks, cause osteoporosis and hypertension. RDA is 1200 mg to 1500 mg.
Potassium: required for muscle contraction, fluid balance and nerve function. Best sources are Meats, milk, fresh fruits like banana and vegetables like potatoes, whole grains, and legumes. Potassium deficiency can cause hypokalemia while overconsumption can cause hyperkalemia. RDA is 4700 – 5000 mg.
Chloride: required for fluid balance and for making stomach acids. Best sources are table salts, meats and milk. Chloride deficiency can cause hypochloremia and overconsumption can cause hypochloremia. RDA is 2300 mg.
Magnesium: required for making protein, muscle contraction, nerve transmission and maintaining healthy immune system. Best sources are nuts and seeds, legumes, leafy, green vegetables, seafood, chocolate, and artichokes. Deficiency can cause tremor, poor coordination, muscle spasms, loss of appetite, personality changes, and nystagmus; overconsumption can cause irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, confusion, slowed breathing. RDA is 320mg – 400 mg.
Phosphorus: required for making bones and cells, energy metabolism, and acid-base balance. Best sources are milk, eggs, meat, cereals and peas. Deficiency can cause bone and tooth pain and their weakening; overconsumption can cause diarrhea, hardening of organs and soft tissue, and interfere with utilization of other minerals. RDA is 700 mg.
Sluphur: required as for synthesizing protein molecules. Best sources are milk, eggs, meat and fish. Deficiency can lead to cardiovascular diseases; over consumption can cause diarrhea and gut inflammation. No universal RDA is decided yet.
Iron: it plays an important role in energy metabolism and is required for making red blood cells. Best sources are organ meats, eggs, dark leafy vegetables and legumes. Deficiency can cause anemia and overconsumption can cause liver disease, heart problems, and diabetes. RDA is 1000 mg.
Iodine: helps in regulating growth, metabolism and development by stimulating thyroid function. Best sources are seafood, iodized salt and dairy. Deficiency can cause hypothyroidism and goiter while excessive iodine can cause burning of mouth, throat and stomach, diarrhea, and thyroid cancer. RDA is 150 micrograms.
Zinc: is an essential building block for many enzymes, protein and genetic material; has a function in taste perception, wound healing, normal fetal development, production of sperm, normal growth and sexual maturation, immune system health. Best sources are shellfish, mushroom, organ meats, and seeds. Deficiency can cause growth retardation, loss of appetite, impaired immune function, hair loss, diarrhea, delayed sexual maturation, impotence, hypogonadism in males, and eye and skin lesions. Overconsumption can lead to nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and headaches. RDA is 8 – 11 mg.
Copper: part of enzymes, helps form connective tissues, and is required for iron metabolism. Best sources are organ meats, seeds, dark chocolate, and nuts. Deficiency can cause problems with connective tissue, muscle weakness, anemia, low white blood cell count, neurological problems, and paleness; too much copper can kill liver cells and cause nerve damage. RDA is 800 micrograms.
Fluoride: involved in maintaining bone and teeth health and protects teeth from decay. Best sources are fish and tea. Deficiency can cause tooth decay and osteoporosis while excessive fluoride can lead to dental fluorosis or skeletal fluorosis, which can damage bones and joints. RDA is 0.3 - 1 mg.
Selenium: is an antioxidant and is involved in proper thyroid function and metabolism. Best sources are nuts and organ meats. Deficiency can cause impaired immune system, fatigue, weakness and infertility; excessive consumption can cause bad breath, fever, and nausea, liver, kidney and heart problems. RDA is 55 micrograms.
Manganese: is an antioxidant and assists enzymes in metabolism, bone development, and wound healing. Best sources are seeds, nuts and dark chocolate. Deficiency of manganese can lead to osteoporosis, diabetes, and epilepsy; while overconsumption can cause loss of appetite, slowed growth, anemia, and reproductive issues. RDA is 1.8 – 2.3 mg.
Chromium: works closely with insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. Best sources are organ meats, nuts, and cereals. Deficiency can cause impaired insulin function, inhibition of protein synthesis and energy production; overconsumption can cause stomach problems and low blood sugar. RDA is 30 – 35 micrograms.
Molybdenum: is a building block for some enzymes. Best sources are legumes, grains, cereals and organ meats. Deficiency is extremely rare and can cause brain abnormalities, developmental delays and childhood death while excessive molybdenum can cause accumulation of uric acid and kidney problems. RDA is 45 micrograms.
Cobalt: is found as part of vitamin B12 and is required for making red blood cells, activating enzymes, and metabolism. Best sources are cereals, leafy green vegetables, nut and fish. It is not clear what disorders its deficiency can cause but excessive intake can negatively affect heart and fertility.
The Takeaway Box
This article is a pretty exhaustive list of minerals required by us and you may be wondering “how the fudge am I supposed to keep track of these!?” That’s a good question my friend but fret not, if you’re having a vibrant balanced diet then you wouldn’t need to keep track of any of these; unless you have a serious deficiency, you wouldn’t need to shell out cash for supplements too. I would highly recommend that try to fulfill your mineral needs through diet and don’t go for supplements just ‘cover you bases’ as evidently overconsumption may lead to disorders as well. Honorable mentions not listed above are nickel, silicon and vanadium as their exact role in our body is still not clear and needs more research, nevertheless their deficiencies are very rare. Most common mineral deficiencies are iron, iodine, calcium and magnesium so be aware of those and get them checked if you have the symptoms.
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