Dietary minerals are chemical elements required by living organisms, other than the four elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen that are present in almost all organic molecules.
Many elements are essential in relative large quantities: you need to consume 200 milligrams or more of them each day. These “bulk minerals” or macro-minerals in order of the amount you need daily include:
- Potassium regulates muscle contraction, including heart rythym; regulates nerve transmission; stores carbohydrates for muscles to use as fuel, and promotes regular muscle growth; maintains proper electrolyte and acid-base (pH) balance; lowers blood pressure by counteracting the detrimental effects of sodium and regulating fluid balance; maintains the density and strength of bones by decreasing urinary calcium loss. Get 4700 milligrams per day* from chard, lima beans, potatoes, yams, soybeans, spinach, papaya, pinto beans, lentils, kidney beans, dried peas, avocado, dulse, sweet potato, winter squash, beets, cantaloupe, tomatoes, bananas, carrots, crimini mushrooms, peas, fennel, Brussels sprouts, blackstrap molasses, cauliflower, prunes, kale, summer squash, turnip greens, broccoli, mustard greens, asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, celery, oranges, onions, Romaine lettuce, kiwifruit, collards, strawberries, green beans, bell peppers, eggplant, raspberries, grapefruit, and grapes.
- Chloride is essential for maintaining osmotic pressure in your tissues, and regulating blood pH; it’s also essential for the production of hydrochloric acid in your stomach, which you need for proper protein digestion; and it’s involved in maintaining proper fluid and electrolyte balance. Get 2000 milligrams per day* from table salt (sodium chloride).
- Sodium controls blood pressure and volume and helps muscles and nerves to work properly. Get 1300 milligrams per day* from table salt (sodium chloride, the main source), sea vegetables, celery, and spinach.
- Calcium supports bone structure, vascular contraction and dilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling, and hormonal secretion. Get 1200 milligrams per day* from Green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, tofu, thyme, oregano, dill, and cinnamon.
- Phosphorus helps in the formation of bones and teeth; utilization of carbohydrates and fat and synthesis of protein; energy storage; muscle contraction; kidney function; heartbeat, and nerve conduction. Get 700 milligrams per day* from Legumes, nuts, and cereal grains.
- Magnesium helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong; helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure; and is involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis. Get 320 milligrams per day* from raw nuts, soybeans, cocoa, spinach, chard, sea vegetables, tomatoes, beans, ginger, cumin, and cloves.
Other elements are required in smaller amounts (less than 200 mg per day, and often in microgram quantities) and are called “trace minerals” or micro-minerals. Most trace minerals are used in enzyme processes to make important chemical reactions happen in the body. Some trace mineral elements are:
- Iron is required for oxygen distribution, energy production, immune system function, DNA synthesis, and a stable mood. Get 8 milligrams from soybeans, lentils, spinach, tofu, sesame seeds, chickpeas, lima beans, olives, navy beans, chard, kidney beans, black beans, thyme, asparagus, pumpkin seeds, cumin, black strap molassses, collards, peas, dulse, leeks, turmeric, oregano, Brussels sprouts, black pepper, basil, kale, turnip greens, green beans, mustard greens, Romaine lettuce, rosemary, dill, broccoli, sea vegetables, tomatoes, parsley, and cauliflower.
- Zinc helps balance blood sugar, stabilizes your metabolic rate, prevents a weakened immune system, and supports an optimal sense of smell and taste. Get 8 milligrams per day* from adzuki beans, wheat germ, sesame seeds, natto, lentils, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, spelt, oats, wild rice, black-eyed peas, wheat bran, black beans, cashews, peas, rye, spinach, sunflower seeds, mandarin oranges, palm hearts, tofu, crimini mushrooms, peanuts, shiitake mushrooms, almonds, blackberries, asparagus, summer squash, okra, chard, maple syrup, tomatoes, and miso,
- Manganese is a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase, which disarms free radicals produced within the mitochondria (the energy production factories within your cells); activates enzymes for using several key nutrients; helps synthesize fatty acids and cholesterol, and facilitates protein and carbohydrate metabolism and formation of bone. Get 1.8 milligrams per day* from spelt, brown rice, chickpeas, spinach, pineapple, pumpkin seeds, tempeh, soybeans, oats, cloves, wheat, lentils, lima beans, navy beans, cinnamon, almonds, sesame seeds, quinoa, walnuts, collards, raspberries, dried peas, pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, peas, peanuts, tofu, buckwheat, sunflower seeds, grapes, chard, sweet potato, cashews, strawberries, kale, blueberries, yams, turnip greens, millet, beets, maple syrup, leeks, mustard greens, winter squash, potatoes, blackstrap molasses, ground flax seeds, turmeric, bananas, garlic, Brussels sprouts, corn, black pepper, thyme, green beans, asparagus, tomatoes, onions, eggplant, summer squash, shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, cranberries, oregano, cauliflower, fennel, carrots, miso, Romaine lettuce, cumin, crimini mushrooms, cabbage, celery, mustard seeds, bell peppers, basil, peppermint, soy sauce, cucumber, dill, cayenne pepper, and figs.
- Copper works together with iron in the formation of hemoglobin and red blood cells; helps form superoxide dismutase (SOD), an antioxidant enzyme that disarms free radicals produced within the mitochondria (the energy production factories within your cells); reduces some of the pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis because it is important in a number of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant enzymes; helps synthesize collagen and elastin, the substances that provide structure, strength, and elasticity in blood vessels, bones, and joints; helps your body produce the pigment called melanin, which gives hair and skin its color; is important for the production of thyroxine, a hormone that keeps your thyroid gland functioning normally; helps preserve the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects your nerves; helps your mitochondria produce energy: and plays a role in the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine, which affects your body’s biological response to stress, and is also involved in pain, cognition, mood, emotions, movement, and blood pressure. Get 900 micrograms per day* from sesame seeds, cashews, soybeans, sunflower seeds, barley, tempeh, chickpeas, lentils, lima beans, crimini mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, spelt, almonds, walnuts, turnip greens, olives, spinach, chard, blackstrap molasses, asparagus, buckwheat, peas, tofu, kale, sweet potato, pineapple, flax seeds, winter squash, mustard greens, shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes, leeks, raspberries, and beets.
- Iodine is required for the synthesis of thyroid hormones, as an antioxidant, for mammary and salivary glands, gastric mucosa, and the immune system. Get 150 micrograms per day* from kelp, dulse, kombu, arame, cranberries, asparagus, wakame, iodized salt, potatoes, soy nuts, turnips, navy beans, beets, peppers, commercially baked bread, cucumbers, carrots, rice, leaf lettuce, cabbage, canned corn, dried prunes, strawberries, lima beans, barley, turnip greens, and oats.
- Selenium is incorporated into antioxidant enzymes that help prevent cellular damage from free radicals, help regulate thyroid function, and play a role in the immune system. Get 55 micrograms per day* from Brazil nuts, crimini mushrooms, mustard seeds, and shiitake mushrooms.
- Molybdenum helps in eliminating toxic substances, metabolizing fats and carbohydrates, mobilizing iron from your liver, which can prevent anemia, and preventing tooth decay. Get 45 micrograms per day* from navy beans, black-eye peas, lentils, split peas, lima beans, kidney beans, black beans, almonds, peanuts, chestnuts, cashews, green soybeans, and fresh tomatoes.
- Chromium enhances the actions of insulin; and is necessary for maintaining normal metabolism and storage of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Get 20 micrograms per day* from brewer’s yeast, corn, wheat bran, sweet potatoes, apples, rye bread, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, wheat germ, buckwheat, green pepper, bran cereals, parsnips, cornmeal, broccoli, spinach, banana, and puffed rice cereal.
- Cobalt is required by bacteria to synthesize vitamin B12. Get 8 micrograms per day* from Green leafy vegetables, miso, nuts, and oats.
*You can calculate your actual daily requirements here. Deficiency or excess of minerals can have serious health consequences. You can read about those on the pages for the individual minerals.
A diet rich in unrefined plant foods will keep you rocking with plenty of healthy minerals.
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