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Minerals: Nutrition Reference Guide
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What comes to mind when you hear the word minerals? Do you think of rocks, stones, and metal? How can these be of benefit to your body? Minerals are another group of nutrients (along with vitamins) needed by the body. They have two general body functions: to regulate body processes, and to give the body structure.

Their regulating functions include a wide variety of systems, such as:
  • heartbeat
  • blood clotting
  • maintenance of the internal pressure of body fluids
  • nerve responses
  • the transport of oxygen from the lungs to the tissues.
Their building functions affect the skeleton and all soft tissues.

Even though they make up only a small percentage of your body—about 4 percent of your body weight – minerals are essential to life. Minerals are very stable. They cannot be destroyed by light, water, heat or food handling processes. In fact, the little bit of ash that remains when a food is completely burned is the mineral content.


Minerals can be divided into two main categories, based on the amount that is needed by the body.

  • The major minerals (or macrominerals) are present in relatively large amounts in the body and are required in fairly large amounts in the diet —more that 250 milligrams daily. Calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium fall into this category as well as the electrolytes sodium, chloride, sulfur, and potassium. The electrolytes are grouped together because their work is so interrelated. They help regulate cellular fluid and transmit nerve impulses.

  • The trace minerals (or trace elements) are needed in much smaller quantities—less than 20 milligrams daily. Most trace minerals do not occur in the body in their free form, but are bound to organic compounds on which they depend for transport, storage, and functioning. Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) have been set for copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc. Adequate Intakes (AI) have been set for chromium, fluoride, and manganese. Both RDAs and AIs may be used as goals for individual intake needs. Other trace minerals have been identified, including tin, arsenic, silicon, vanadium, nickel, and boron. However, even less is known about their role in health and presently no adequate or safe intake ranges have been set. Therefore, a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods in a moderate amount is the best way to consume a safe and adequate amount.

 


Nutrition Reference Guide

Check out these other important nutritional items as well.

Introduction   Minerals
Carbohydrates   Vitamins
Proteins   Fiber
Fats   Calorie



Major Minerals



Calcium   Potassium
Phosphorus   Sodium
Magnesium   Sulfate
Chloride    


Trace Minerals


Arsenic   Manganese
Boron   Molybdenum
Chromium   Nickel
Copper   Selenium
Fluoride   Silicon
Iodine   Vanadium
Iron   Zinc





Major Minerals





Calcium


Functions Calcium is present in the body in greater amounts that any other mineral. Calcium builds strong bones in both length and density and is vital to the formation of teeth. There is about 2 - 3 pounds of calcium in the body, mostly concentrated in the bones and teeth. Small amounts of calcium circulate in the blood stream and help with muscle and heart contractions, nerve functions, and blood clotting.
Deficiencies For children, a lack of calcium can interfere with growth and keep them from reaching their potential adult height. Throughout life, a lack of calcium can weaken bone density and result in osteoporosis or brittle bone disease.
Excesses Extremely large amounts of calcium over a long period of time can result in calcium deposits in soft organs, kidney stone development, or poor kidney functioning. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level is 2,500 milligrams daily.
Amount Needed The recommended amount of calcium for male and female adults, ages 19-50, is 1,000 milligrams daily. The amount increases to 1,200 milligrams daily for those over age 51.
Food Sources The best sources of calcium include milk and milk products such as cheese and yogurt. Good sources include green leafy vegetables, canned sardines and salmon with the bones, calcium-fortified juices. Fair sources include legumes, shellfish, almonds, calcium-fortified soy milk, tofu made with calcium sulfate, and soybeans.



Phosphorus


Functions Phosphorus is a major component of bones and teeth, second only to calcium. It helps to regulate energy metabolism and generate energy in every cell through enzyme activity.
Deficiencies is widely distributed in foods, so a deficiency is rare.
Excesses Too much phosphorus in relationship to calcium can lower the level of calcium in the blood and result in bone loss. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level is 4,000 milligrams for adults from ages 19-70, and 3,000 milligrams for age 71 and above.
Amount Needed The recommended intake of phosphorus is 700 milligrams daily for both adult males and females.
Food Sources The best sources of phosphorus include meat, fish, poultry, and eggs. Good sources are milk, cheese, and dairy products. Whole-grain foods and legumes are fair sources.



Magnesium


Functions Magnesium is an essential part of more than 300 enzyme in the body. These enzymes are body chemicals that help to regulate body functions, produce energy, make protein and contract muscles. Magnesium is found in all body tissues, but principally in the bones.
Deficiencies Deficiency is not generally a problem except in alcoholics, some post-surgery patients, and in rare diseases when the body does not absorb magnesium properly. Symptoms can include weakness, nausea, irregular heartbeat, and mental confusion.
Excesses An excess intake can cause diarrhea and nervous system disturbances. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level for magnesium represents an intake in a pharmacological or supplement form ONLY. This does not include intake from food and water. This amount has been set at 350 milligrams for both adult males and females.
Amount Needed The recommended intake for adult males, age 19-30 is 400 milligrams daily, and 420 milligrams for age 31 and above. The recommended intake for adult females, age 19-30 is 310 milligrams daily, and 320 milligrams for age 31 and above.
Food Sources The best sources of magnesium include wheat germ and bran. Good sources include whole grain products, nuts, legumes, and some green leafy vegetables.


Major Minerals - Electrolytes





Chloride


Functions Chloride helps to regulate fluids in and out of the body cells. It is part of hydrochloric acid, a stomach acid important for the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. Chloride helps to transmit nerve impulses.
Deficiencies Chloride and sodium are the two elements which combine to form sodium chloride (table salt). Since salt is such a common part of the diet, a deficiency of chloride is rare. Having diarrhea or vomiting for an extended time period can bring on a chloride deficiency, resulting in nausea, dizziness, and muscle cramping.
Excesses For people who have sensitivity to chloride, there may be a link to high blood pressure, kidney disease, and congestive heart failure. Since sodium chloride is found together in most foods, the Tolerable Upper Intake Level for sodium chloride is 5.8 grams each day for adult males and females.
Amount Needed For adult males and females the recommended amount of sodium chloride is 3.8 grams each day (about 1 ½ teaspoons of salt).
Food Sources Table salt is made of sodium chloride. Therefore salt and salty foods are the best source of chloride. ¼ teaspoon salt contains 750 milligrams of chloride.


Potassium


Functions Potassium help to regulate body fluids and mineral balance in and out of body cells. It is involved in maintaining blood pressure, transmitting nerve impulses, and helping muscles and heart to contract.
Deficiencies On average, the potassium intake in the United States is well below the recommended intake level. This may be a contributing factor in high blood pressure. Also, with prolonged diarrhea, vomiting, or laxative use, a potassium deficiency may occur. Kidney problems may also cause severe loss. A deficiency will result in the following symptoms: weakness, appetite loss, nausea, and fatigue.
Excesses An excess potassium intake is rare. However, if excess potassium cannot be excreted, it can cause heart problems. Certain kidney diseases make it difficult for some to excrete excess potassium. Then a potassium restricted diet is necessary and the salt substitute potassium chloride should be avoided. No Tolerable Upper Intake Level has been established.
Amount Needed The recommended intake of potassium for adult males and females is 4.7 grams each day. Most adults receive only 2.1 to 3.2 grams daily.
Food Sources The best sources of potassium include dried fruits, nuts, green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, bran, wheat germ, yams, bananas, and oranges. Good sources include many other fruits and vegetables as well as meats, fish, poultry, and legumes.



Sodium


Functions Sodium is found mainly in blood plasma and in the fluids outside the body cells. It helps regulate the movement of body fluids in and out of the body cells. Sodium helps your muscles and heart to relax. It is involved in the transmission of nerve impulses and helps to regulate blood pressure.
Deficiencies Sodium and chloride are the two elements which combine to form sodium chloride (table salt). Since salt is such a common part of the diet, a deficiency of sodium is rare. Having diarrhea, vomiting, or heavy sweat loss for an extended time period can bring on a sodium deficiency, resulting in nausea, dizziness, and muscle cramping.
Excesses In healthy people, excess sodium is excreted. Some kidney diseases interfere with sodium excretion, causing fluid retention and swelling. For people who are sodium sensitive, a diet high in sodium can promote high blood pressure. For adult males and females, the Tolerable Upper Intake Level for sodium is 2.3 grams each day or 5.8 grams of sodium chloride.
Amount Needed The recommended intake of sodium for adult males and females is set at 1.5 grams each day. Because sodium and chloride are found together in most foods, the recommendation is also set for sodium chloride. For adult males and females the recommended amount of sodium chloride is 3.8 grams each day (about 1 ½ teaspoons of salt).
Food Sources Table salt is made of sodium chloride. Therefore salt and salty foods are the best source of sodium. ¼ teaspoon salt contains 500 milligrams of sodium. Sodium is also found in products containing baking powder, onion salt, garlic salt, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).



Sulfate


Functions / Needs Sulfate is found in all body tissues and is essential to life. It is related to protein nutrition and is a component of several important amino acids. It is also a part of thiamine and biotin, two vitamins. Sulfate is found in protein foods and is obtained by the body from protein turnover of sulfur-containing amino acids. No recommendation for intake or Tolerable Upper Intake Level has been established for sulfate.


Trace Minerals




Arsenic


Functions / Needs No biological function has been determined in humans; however, animal data indicate a requirement. Due to a lack of scientific data, no recommendation for intake or Tolerable Upper Intake Level has been determined.



Boron


Functions / Needs No clear biological function in humans has been identified, although data from animal studies indicate a role. Due to a lack of scientific data, no recommendation for intake has been set. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level for adult males and females is 20 milligrams each day.



Chromium


Functions Chromium acts with insulin to help your body use glucose or blood sugar. It is also involved in cardiovascular health.
Deficiencies A deficiency can produce a diabetes-like condition.
Excesses Consuming excessive amounts from dietary sources in very unlikely. Due to a lack of data on adverse effects, a Tolerable Upper Intake Level has not been determined.
Amount Needed Adult males ages 19-50 need 35 micrograms each day. Males 51 years of age and older need 30 micrograms daily. Adult females ages 19-50 need 25 micrograms daily, while females age 51 and older need 20 micrograms each day.
Food Sources The best food sources of chromium are whole grains, meats, eggs, cheese, mushrooms, asparagus, and brewer’s yeast.



Copper


Functions Copper is involved in the making of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is needed for the transportation of oxygen in the red blood cells. It also serves as a part of many enzymes. Copper helps to produce energy in the cells.
Deficiencies A dietary copper deficiency is rare. However a deficiency can occur with some genetic disorders. Because zinc can hinder copper absorption, an overdose with zinc supplements can cause deficiency symptoms.
Excesses An excess of copper from dietary sources is very rare. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level is 10,000 micrograms for both adult men and women.
Amount Needed The recommended intake for copper is 900 micrograms for adult males and females.
Food Sources The best sources of copper include organ meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, dried beans and peas. Cooking in copper pots also increases the copper content of foods.



Fluoride


Functions Fluoride hardens tooth enamel and results in a decrease of tooth decay. It may also help retain calcium in the bones of older adults, therefore strengthening the bones.
Deficiencies When there is a deficiency of fluoride, tooth enamel may be weakened
Excesses When there is an excess of fluoride, the teeth may be marked with brown stains and deformed, or “mottled.” The Tolerable Upper Intake Level is 10 milligrams of fluoride daily.
Amount Needed Adult males and females need 4 milligrams of fluoride daily.
Food Sources The best sources of fluoride include water that is naturally or chemically fluoridated, foods prepared with fluoridated water, and fluoride supplements. Fluoride is not widely available in food. The content found in food varies significantly and is affected by the environment in which the food originated.



Iodine


Functions Iodine is required in extremely small amounts, but the normal functioning of the thyroid gland depends on an adequate supply. Iodine is part of the thyroid hormone called thyroxin. This hormone regulates the rate at which your body uses energy.
Deficiencies When there is an iodine deficiency, the body cannot make enough thyroxin. The body will burn calories more slowly and weight gain may become a concern. The thyroid gland may enlarge, causing a goiter. A deficiency can also cause neurological, gastrointestinal and skin abnormalities. With the use of iodized salt, iodine deficiency is rare.
Excesses Goiter development can also occur when people consume a high level of iodine. An excess of iodine over time can also depress thyroid activity. The Tolerable Upper Limit Level is 1,100 micrograms for both adult males and females.
Amount Needed The recommended intake of iodine is 150 micrograms for both male and female adults.
Food Sources The best sources of iodine include saltwater fish, seaweed, and iodized salt. Foods grown near coastal areas also contain iodine. In other foods, content varies according to soil and water content. One-half teaspoon of iodized salt provides almost enough iodine to reach daily needs.



Iron


Functions Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen to the cells and makes use of the oxygen when it arrives. Iron is widely distributed in the body. It is found in the blood, liver, spleen and bone marrow.
Deficiencies An iron deficiency can lead to anemia, along with fatigue, weakness, and increased risk for infections.
Excesses Iron can build up to dangerously high levels in the body, especially in people with the genetic problem called hemochromatosis. Over supplementation of iron can also occur. This is especially dangerous in children who may take adult vitamin/mineral supplements. Immediate medical attention should be obtained. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level is 45 milligrams daily for both adult males and females.
Amount Needed The recommended intake for adult males is 8 milligrams daily. Adult females age 19-50 need 18 milligrams, while females age 51 and older need only 8 milligrams daily.
Food Sources Iron is available from foods of both animal (heme iron) and plant (non-heme iron) origin. It is better absorbed from heme iron sources. Absorption of iron is enhanced when vitamin C foods are eaten with iron rich foods. Iron cookware also adds to the iron content of cooked foods. The best sources of iron include liver and other organ meats, oysters, and black strap molasses. Good food sources include spinach, beans, and peas. Fair sources include lean meats, other shellfish, egg yolks, nuts, dried fruit, other green leafy vegetables, whole grains, poultry, and fish.



Manganese


Functions Manganese serves as part of many enzymes and is involved in fat and carbohydrate synthesis. It is needed for normal tendon, bone structure, and pancreas development. Manganese is involved in muscle contraction.
Deficiencies A manganese deficiency is rare since it is available in so many foods.
Excesses Consuming harmful levels from foods is very rare. An overdose risk is unknown. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level is 11 milligrams for both adult males and females.
Amount Needed The recommended intake for adult males is 2.3 milligrams. For adult females the recommendation is 1.8 milligrams.
Food Sources The best food sources include whole grains, beans, peas, nuts, some fruits and vegetables, tea, and cloves.



Molybdenum


Functions Molybdenum works along with riboflavin to incorporate the iron stored in the body into hemoglobin for making red blood cells. It is also a part of many enzymes.
Deficiencies A deficiency is rare. However if the body does not get enough molybdenum, certain enzymes needed by the body are affected.
Excesses An excess of molybdenum may interfere with the body’s ability to use copper. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level is 2,000 micrograms daily.
Amount Needed The recommended amount of molybdenum is 45 micrograms daily for both adult males and females.
Food Sources The best food sources include milk, meats, legumes, bread, and grain products.



Nickel


Functions / Needs No clear biological function in humans has been identified. Nickel may serve as a cofactor for metalloenzymes. Due to a lack of scientific data, no recommendation has been set. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level for adult males and females is 1.0 milligram each day.



Selenium


Functions Selenium works as an antioxidant with vitamin E to protect cells from damage that may lead to cancer, heart disease, and other health problems. Selenium appears to have a sparing action on vitamin E.
Deficiencies The effects of a deficiency of selenium are not clear, but may involve the heart muscle or thyroid functioning.
Excesses The Tolerable Upper Intake Level is 400 micrograms for both adult males and females.
Amount Needed The recommended intake level is 55 micrograms for both adult males and females.
Food Sources The best food sources of selenium are seafood, liver, kidney and meats. Grain products and seed also contain selenium, but the amount depends on the selenium content of the soil in which they are grown.



Silicon


Functions / Needs No biological function in humans has been identified. Silicon may be involved in bone formation, based on animal studies. Due to a lack of scientific data, no recommendation or Tolerable Upper Intake Level has been determined.



Vanadium


Functions / Needs No biological function in humans has been identified. Due to a lack of data, no recommendation has been set. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level for adult males and females is 1.8 milligrams each day.



Zinc


Functions Zinc promotes cell reproduction and tissue growth and repair. It is essential for adequate growth. Zinc is involved in appetite regulation and taste and helps in wound healing. It is a part of more than 70 enzymes. It assists in the utilization of carbohydrate, protein and fat.
Deficiencies A lack of zinc during pregnancy can lead to mental retardation and birth defects. Zinc deficiency can lead to poor night vision and poor wound healing. Other symptoms include appetite loss, taste changes, decrease in the sense of smell, skin changes, and reduced resistance to infections.
Excesses An excess intake is rare but can have harmful effects including impaired copper absorption. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level is 40 milligrams for both adult males and females.
Amount Needed The recommended amount of zinc is 11 milligrams daily for adult males and 8 milligrams daily for adult females.
Food Sources The best food sources include meat, oysters, poultry, legumes, eggs, fish and seafood. Good sources include wheat germ, whole grain products, black-eyed peas, and fermented soybean paste (miso).

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