We humans and our bodies have a nifty reciprocal arrangement. We, of course, need our bodies to do the things we want and need to do in our lives, such as getting around, performing our jobs and skipping rope, just for starters. In turn our bodies need for us to take care of them by feeding them with nutrients that they are unable to produce for themselves. Those nutrients include the inorganic substances found in foods, known as minerals.
These aren’t the kinds of minerals we mine for in a quarry or in the mountains and streams of California or Nevada; it’s not about us acting as miners, prospectors, and rock hounds, armed with pick axes, sluice boxes and gold pans, looking to stake a claim that will make us instant millionaires. These minerals are for something much more important and valuable – our good health and the precision of our body’s functionality.
It is true, though, that the minerals we are discussing here in the context of feeding and caring for our bodies are found in soil and rocks, as healthyeating.sfgate.com points out. The minerals we consume – even though we aren’t picturing them at the time – are provided by the plants we eat and the animal meat that we consume (after said animals themselves have grazed on plants). These are plants, mind you, that grow in soil.
Several these minerals are considered essential in that they provide vital nutrients to our daily diets. They keep us healthy while performing a variety of roles beyond our own capacity to do ourselves – roles such as building strong bones and teeth, maintaining proper nerve functionality and for driving the metabolic processes that turn the food we consume into the energy that we burn.
7 Major Essential Minerals for Health
Of course, not all minerals perform the same roles – each are assigned different tasks in our bodies. Here are seven of the minerals, commonly referred to as “major minerals,” most essential to our health:
- Calcium. Best known for keeping our bones and teeth strong, calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, per livestrong.com, also performs other tasks that include helping in relaxing and contracting our muscles, blood clotting and regulating blood pressure. Sources include milk and milk products, canned fish with bones, such as salmon; legumes; and green veggies such as broccoli.
- Chloride. Per webmd.com, it is needed for proper balance of bodily fluids as well as stomach acids. Found in table salt, processed foods and, to a lesser degree, in milk, meats, breads and vegetables.
- Magnesium. A producer of protein, magnesium also plays a part in muscle contraction, nerve transmission and the health of our immune system. Can be found in a few edibles that sound especially appealing, such as chocolate, seafood, and nuts and seeds, as well as leafy, green vegetables.
- Phosphorous. Per healthyeating.sfgate.com, phosphorous, like calcium, plays a key role, in building (and rebuilding) strong bones and teeth while also producing cells and proteins. Found in dairy foods, meat and whole grains.
- Potassium. It controls the electrical activity of the heart, meaning it is paramount to maintaining a normal heart rhythm. Potassium is also involved in building proteins, breaking down and using carbohydrates, moving nutrients into cells and then moving waste out of cells (per livestrong.com), and regulating the pH balance of blood. Sources include beef, fish, chicken, cantaloupe, potatoes, tomatoes and lima beans.
- Sodium. Similar to chloride, sodium is necessary for the proper balance of fluids. It also plays a role in nerve transmission and muscle contraction. Look for it in table salt, soy sauce and unprocessed meats, as well as milks, breads and vegetables.
- Sulfur. The third most abundant mineral in the human body, sulfur makes up vital amino acids, per healthfree.com, that are used to create protein for cells and tissues and for hormones, enzymes and antibodies. Sulfur food sources include meats, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes and nuts.
Our bodies also make good use of trace minerals, albeit in small amounts. These other minerals include chromium, cobalt, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, silicone, vanadium and zinc.