Like vitamins, minerals are important for the body. All minerals are important; however, they are classified as either macro minerals or trace minerals (micro minerals.
Minerals are necessary for:
- building strong bones and teeth
- controlling body fluids inside and outside cells
- turning the food you eat into energy
Macro minerals are minerals the body needs in large quantity as compared to trace minerals. Micro minerals include calcium, sodium, potassium, chloride, phosphorus, magnesium and sulphur.
There is more calcium present in your body than any other mineral. Calcium has many important functions. More than 99 percent of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth to help make and keep them strong. The remaining is found throughout the body in blood, muscle and the fluid between cells. Calcium is needed to help muscles and blood vessels contract and expand, to secrete hormones and enzymes and to send messages through the nervous system. It is important to get plenty of calcium in the foods you eat. A lack of calcium could cause rickets in children or osteoporosis in later life.
Sources of calcium include leafy, green vegetables; dairy products such as cheese, milk and yogurt; calcium-enriched foods such as breakfast cereals; fruit juices and soy (remember to check the product labels), and fish with soft bones that you eat such as canned sardines and salmon.
Recommended daily dose: Adults need 700mg of calcium a day. You should be able to get all the calcium you need from your daily diet. People who do not eat enough high-calcium foods should take a calcium supplement.
Technically, sodium is referred to as sodium chloride as found in table. The body needs some amount of sodium to work properly. Its presence in the body contributes to the proper functioning of nerves and muscles and also helps to keep the right balance of fluids in the body. How much sodium is present in the body is regulated by the kidneys. However, if the kidneys can't get rid sodium, it builds up in the blood and this can lead to high blood pressure. Other health problems can develop from high blood pressure. As a rule of thumb, it is good to choose foods low in salt and sodium.
Sources of sodium include table salt, soy sauce, vegetables, milk, breads and unprocessed meats.
Recommended daily dose: Doctors recommend you eat less than 2.4 grams of sodium per day i.e. about one teaspoon of table salt a day. Remember to read the food labels as a guide to know how much sodium is in prepared foods.
The body needs potassium to work normally. It helps nerves and muscles communicate and helps move nutrients into cells and waste products out of cells. A potassium-rich diet helps to offset some of sodium's harmful effects on blood pressure. The majority get all the potassium they need from what they eat and drink.
Sources of Potassium include fruit from vines such as grapes and blackberries; Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit; root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes, and leafy greens such as spinach and collards.
Recommended daily dose: Adults - 4,700 mg/day, pregnant women - 4,700 mg/day, lactating mothers - 5,100 mg/day.
Chloride regulates the electrical communication between cells, controls the pH balance in blood by limiting the presence of acid and is the main component of hydrochloric acid, assisting the stomach in the digestion of food. Chloride also helps in the elimination of waste from the blood stream through the liver.
Sources of chloride include table salt, soy sauce, milk, meats, breads and vegetables.
Recommended daily dose: Adults, 2,300 mg/day
Phosphorus plays an integral role in reducing muscle weakness, boosting brain function, improving bone health, aiding in dental care, correcting sexual weakness and optimizing body metabolism.
Sources of phosphorus include meat, fish, poultry, processed foods (including soda pop), eggs and milk.
Recommended daily dose: Adults, 700 mg/day; children, 1,250 mg/day
Magnesium is very important in lowering anxiety and stress, and has been closely linked to a reduction in anxiety and insomnia. Magnesium also plays a role in the treatment of heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, alcoholism, bone health, cramps, menopause, pregnancy and asthma.
Sources of Magnesium include nuts and seeds, legumes, leafy, green vegetables, chocolate and seafood.
Recommended daily dose: Adult male, 400 mg/day; adult female, 310 mg/day; pregnant women, 350 mg/day, and lactating women 310 mg/day.
Sulphur contributes to the strength of hair, nails (finger and toe) and skin; helps the formation and production of collagen; assists the red blood cells in their ability to carry oxygen throughout the body and assist in several enzyme reactions and the synthesis of protein. Sulphur is also an effective agent in the removal of toxins from the body.
Sources of sulphur: it usually occurs as part of protein in foods, meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, legumes and nuts
Recommended daily dose: No specific recommended daily dose for sulphur
Trace (Micro) Minerals
Trace minerals are minerals the body needs in small quantity as compared to macro minerals. Micro minerals include, but not limited to, iron, zinc and iodine.
Iron plays an important role in the production of red blood cells and the ability for your blood to transport oxygen; improves blood quality and increases resistance to disease; assists in the maintenance of a strong immune system; promotes stable body temperature regulation; acts as an important agent in the increase of metabolism and promotes good skin tone.
Sources of Iron include liver, meat, beans, dried fruit such as dried apricots, nuts, soybean flour; whole grains such as brown rice; most dark-green leafy vegetables such as watercress and curly kale and fortified breakfast cereals.
Recommended daily dose: 8.7 mg/day for men, 14.8 mg/day for women
You should be able to get all the iron you need from your daily diet. However, women who lose a lot of blood during their monthly period (heavy periods) are at higher risk of iron deficiency anaemia and may need to take iron supplements.
Zinc plays an important role in the health and stability of the immune system; acts as an antioxidant to combat free radicals; helps in the healing of wounds; helps in the synthesis of protein; acts in the development of the reproductive organs; useful in the metabolism and digestion of phosphorus and helps stabilizing the blood and maintaining proper alkaline balance
Sources of zinc include beef, yoghurt, kidney, cheese, milk, oatmeal, cashew and breakfast cereals
Recommended daily dose:11 mg/day for males, 8 mg/day for females,11 mg/day for pregnant women and 12 mg/day for lactating women.
Iodine combines with other minerals to produce triodothyonine and thyroxine (needed by the entire body). It helps in the process of providing energy and to combat fatigue. In expectant mothers, it can reduce the risk of mental retardation in infants. It also works with the thyroid hormone to support metabolism.
Sources of Iodine: Grain products, eggs, fruit and vegetables, dairy products and sea foods.
Recommended daily dose: Adults, 150 mg/day; pregnant women; 220 mg/day and lactating women, 290 mg/day.