Your body is made up of a long list of elements. The big ones you probably know about – oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen. That accounts for about 96%. The remaining 4%, however, is a bunch of different minerals that your body can’t produce on its own. It needs to find them elsewhere, generally from your diet.
Minerals sit alongside vitamins, essential fatty acids and essential amino acids as what are known as essential nutrients. That means you can’t survive without them, and each one has a different but very important role in ensuring your body keeps working.
At the top of the list of minerals needed by humans are calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and magnesium. Then there are what are known as trace elements – iron, zinc, manganese, cobalt, copper, iodine, chlorine, sulfur, selenium and molybdenum. Some authorities include chromium here as well. Trace elements are only present in the smallest amounts, but they still have a vital role to play.
If we were plants, we’d absorb most of the minerals we need from the soil. As humans, many of the minerals in our diet come from plants. Other animals can also provide minerals through meat and dairy products. There are even some minerals in drinking water. That means that if you eat a relatively balanced diet, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find all of the minerals you need.
Some minerals are particularly associated with certain foods. You’ve probably heard that milk contains calcium, or red meat is a good source of iron. In other cases, authorities may take steps to fortify common foods (like cereal) with particular minerals to make up for a wider deficiency in the population. Dietary supplements may also be available for individuals who have trouble reaching their required intake.
Should you have concerns about your mineral levels and whether you need supplements, you should talk to your doctor first. Like I said, most people should be able to get what they need through their diet. You could damage your health if you end up with an excessive amount of a certain mineral in your system.
There are plenty of guides online breaking down the different minerals in the human body, the best foods for topping up your levels and what those minerals will do. Like all the other nutrients, it’s an important part of a balanced diet.