How Do Minerals Work: Part Two

Mineral PatrolMinerals are micronutrients, and we need them for good health. There are 15 different minerals that can be divided into two primary groups: macrominerals and trace minerals.


Sodium is found in small amounts in vegetables, milk, and meat products. The majority of sodium intake is from processed foods and table salt. Sodium is vital for fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction.

Chloride is present in small amounts in milk, meats, breads, and vegetables. Table salt is a combination of sodium and chloride.

Potassium is found in meats, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. It’s key for proper fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction.

Calcium is found in milk and milk products, canned fish with bones, fortified tofu, fortified milk substitutes, and legumes. Calcium is also present in greens, but it’s harder to absorb that way. Calcium is important for healthy bones and teeth, muscle relaxation and contraction, nerve function, blood clotting, and blood pressure regulation.

Magnesium is present in nuts, seeds, legumes, leafy green vegetables, seafood, and chocolate. It plays roles in bone health, making protein, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, and the immune system.

Sulfur is present in protein in foods: meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, legumes, and nuts.

Phosphorus is in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, and processed foods. It is an important part of bone and teeth structure, and is found in every cell in the body.

Trace Minerals:

Iron is found in red and organ meats, fish, poultry, shellfish, eggs, legumes, and dark leafy greens. Iron in animal products is more easily absorbed than iron from plants. Iron transports oxygen throughout the body. It’s also vital for energy metabolism.

Copper is present in legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and organ meats. It is part of many enzymes and is necessary for iron metabolism.

Zinc is present in meats, fish, poultry, leavened whole grains, and vegetables. It is part of many enzymes and plays a role in taste perception, wound healing, immune system health, and normal growth and development.

Selenium is found in meats, seafood, and grains. It functions as an antioxidant, protecting the body from cell damage.

Iodine is found in seawater and soil, and is present in all seafood. Some soils contain low amounts of iodine, which means that vegetables and plants grown in those soils also are low in iodine. Iodine is added to table salt to prevent iodine deficiency, which can lead to hypothyroidism and goiter.

Chromium is in liver, brewer’s yeast, whole grains, nuts, and cheeses. It works with insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.

Molybdenum is found in legumes, breads and grains, leafy green vegetables, milk, and liver. It is part of some enzymes.

Manganese is found in most plant foods and functions as part of many enzymes.

Flouride is found in water, fish and tea. It’s also added to many municipal water systems because of its important role in the formation of bones and teeth and preventing tooth decay.

By Lynn Grieger RDN, CDE, CPT, CWC


  1. Minerals. Medline Plus. updated 7-11-14. Accessed 8-1-14.
  2. in collaboration with Harvard Health Publications. Accessed 8-1-14
  3. Facts About Minerals. University of Florida IFAS Extension. 2013. Accessed 8-1-14.
  4. Bioavailability of iron, zinc, and other trace minerals from vegetarian diets. Janet R. Hunt. Am J Clin Nutr September 2003 vol. 78 no. 3 633S-639S
  5. Iodine Deficiency. American Thyroid Association. Published 6-2-12. Accessed 8-3-14.

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