Minerals are micronutrients necessary for many reactions occurring in the body. They are essential for effective functioning of the immune system, growth, brain development, important reactions, and many other functions.1 Fifteen major minerals are required for the proper functioning of the body.
Calcium is one of the most important minerals in the body. It is required for strong bones, muscles, teeth, and cellular functions. Calcium is especially important for women because the calcium level in the bones decreases after menopause.2 Decreased calcium levels predisposes women to osteoporosis and fractures, including hip fractures, one of the leading causes of death in aged women. Dairy products are a good source of calcium. Other sources include shellfish, almonds, figs, broccoli, calcium-fortified soy, rice milk, kale, and collard greens. Adequate vitamin D levels are required for optimal calcium absorption in the intestines.
|Pregnant or lactating women||All Others|
|under 18 yrs||1,300||14-18 yrs||1,300|
|18-50 yrs||1,000||19-50 yrs||1,000|
|Over 50 Yrs||1,200|
Phosphorus and Magnesium
Phosphorus and magnesium deficiency is rare because many foods contain high levels of them. Phosphorus and calcium help strengthen the bones, while magnesium is a co-factor for many enzymatic reactions occurring in the body.
Iron is required for many cell functions and plays a key role in carrying oxygen through red blood cells.3 Menstruation may cause a 3 mg per day loss of iron. Therefore, pregnant and premenopausal women need a higher amount of iron daily. Care should be taken to avoid taking too much iron because having excess iron in the body may lead to a condition called hemochromatosis.
Selenium is a natural antioxidant. For good health, our bodies require 50–70 mg daily. If your diet includes grains, the required amount of selenium is met easily, so no selenium supplementation is required. Research has shown selenium to be effective in cancer prevention.4 Selenium deficiency is rare. Excessive selenium may lead to hair and nail loss.
Chromium plays a role in regulating blood sugar levels. Chromium reacts with vitamin C and other antioxidants to produce DNA changes in the body. Normally, no supplementation is required if whole grains are included in the diet.
Adequate zinc levels are essential in maintaining the senses for smell and taste. It is also good for the immune system.5 Zinc is commonly used for preventing the common cold. Research has shown good results for using zinc in prevention of Alzheimer's disease and as a cure for impotence. The average requirement of zinc is 12–15 mg per day. Vegetarians are more prone to zinc deficiency, so they should consider zinc supplements as part of their daily regimen.
Potassium is the most common mineral in the body. Normally, potassium supplementation is not required. Citrus fruit juices can provide adequate amounts of potassium. Studies show that a high potassium diet helps avoid stroke and treats high blood pressure.
Iodine deficiency was once a common problem, but has become almost non-existent because of FDA efforts to add iodine to table salt.
Fluoride is essential for healthy teeth and protection from cavities. Fluoride deficiency is shown to lead to cavities at an older age. Fluoride is added to municipal water in many cities to avoid deficiency. If needed, supplementation is available in the form of pastes and liquid mouth rinses.
Sodium and Chloride
Sodium and chloride are common minerals found in blood and body fluids. Sodium is abundantly available in our foods, so you should be careful regarding toxicity instead of deficiency. Hypertension and heart patients should limit sodium and chloride intake to less than 2 grams daily.
Copper, Manganese, and Molybdenum
These lesser known minerals are required in minute amounts, so their deficiencies are rare. However, care should be taken towards their toxicity if taken as supplements.
- Weyh C, Krüger K, Peeling P, Castell L. The Role of Minerals in the Optimal Functioning of the Immune System. Nutrients. 2022;14(3). doi:10.3390/NU14030644
- Weaver CM, Heaney RP. Calcium. Princ Bone Biol. Published online July 4, 2022:1643-1656. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-814841-9.00070-1
- Tenenbein M, Huang X. Iron. Handb Toxicol Met Fifth Ed. 2022;2:391-417. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-822946-0.00016-7
- Nessel TA, Gupta V. Selenium. StatPearls. Published online April 9, 2022. Accessed August 8, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557551/
- Saper RB, Rash R. Zinc: An Essential Micronutrient. Am Fam Physician. 2009;79(9):768. Accessed August 8, 2022. /pmc/articles/PMC2820120/