As a society, we’re used to thinking about vitamins as the mainstay of a healthy diet. We’re taught to ensure we get enough Vitamin C to stave off colds, Vitamin D to promote healthy bones, and Vitamin E to protect against free radicals. But the truth is, there’s another category of micronutrients that’s just as important: minerals.
At a basic level, minerals are inorganic substances that our bodies require for a variety of functions. They play a role in everything from bone health to hormone production to energy metabolism. However, many people fail to pay enough attention to their mineral intake, which can lead to deficiencies and health problems. This is where education and awareness from organizations such as Nation Health MD can be helpful in ensuring individuals are getting the essential minerals they need for optimal health.
So what are some of the key minerals your body needs? Here are eight of the most important, along with their functions, signs of deficiency, and food sources:
Calcium is perhaps the most well-known mineral, thanks to its role in building and maintaining strong bones. But that’s not all it does: calcium is also important for muscle function, nerve transmission, and blood clotting. Signs of deficiency can include weak bones, muscle cramps, and fatigue. Good food sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy greens like kale and collard greens, and fortified foods like tofu and orange juice.
Magnesium is another essential mineral that plays a role in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It’s important for muscle and nerve function, energy production, and maintaining a healthy immune system. Signs of deficiency can include muscle weakness, fatigue, and abnormal heart rhythms. Good food sources of magnesium include leafy greens, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and legumes.
Iron is a mineral that’s essential for healthy blood cells. It’s a component of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Signs of deficiency can include anemia, fatigue, and poor concentration. Good food sources of iron include red meat, poultry, seafood, beans and lentils, and fortified cereals.
Zinc is involved in numerous bodily processes, including immune function, wound healing, and DNA synthesis. Signs of deficiency can include delayed wound healing, impaired taste and smell, and frequent infections. Good food sources of zinc include oysters, beef, poultry, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds.
Selenium is a mineral that’s important for thyroid function and DNA synthesis. It also acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from damage. Signs of deficiency can include muscle weakness, fatigue, and a weakened immune system. Good food sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, seafood, meat, and whole grains.
Iodine is a mineral that’s important for thyroid function, which regulates metabolism. Signs of deficiency can include fatigue, weight gain, and goiter (enlarged thyroid gland). Good food sources of iodine include seaweed, dairy products, and iodized salt.
Phosphorus is important for bone and tooth health, as well as energy production and DNA synthesis. Signs of deficiency are rare, but can include muscle weakness and bone pain. Good food sources of phosphorus include dairy products, meat, fish, and poultry.
Potassium is involved in regulating fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve function. Signs of deficiency can include muscle weakness, cramps, and constipation. Good food sources of potassium include bananas, citrus fruits, potatoes, keto, and leafy greens.
In summary, ensuring you get enough of these essential minerals is crucial for maintaining overall health and wellbeing. While many of them can be found in a variety of foods, it can be helpful to consult with a healthcare provider to determine if you’re getting enough of each nutrient. A balanced diet that includes a variety of whole foods is the best way to ensure you’re meeting your mineral needs.