Minerals: functions and why they are important for the body
Table of contents
Minerals are a kind of micronutrient that are important for keeping your body functioning properly, ensuring you stay healthy. Some common minerals include calcium, iron, zinc and selenium, and you will often find them included in dietary supplements and multivitamin products. But with so many minerals, it can be confusing to know which ones you need and what they do.
We’ve put together a guide on what minerals are, why they’re important and which ones are essential to your health.
What are minerals?
Minerals, alongside vitamins, are essential nutrients that are needed by your body. Together, minerals and vitamins are known as micronutrients, because you need them in much smaller quantities than you do other nutrients (like carbohydrates and proteins, which are called macronutrients).
Your body cannot make minerals itself, which means you have to get them from your diet. All foods have varying levels of vitamins and minerals and of course some of other macronutrients also, which is why it’s important to eat a balanced, varied diet which includes all the food groups and plenty of fruits, vegetables, and plants (like spinach) which have micronutrients.
While many foods contain minerals and you should be able to get all you need from your diet, some people choose to add dietary supplements to their daily routine for a little extra support. If you’re worried, you’re not getting enough minerals, you should talk to your doctor or pharmacist who can give you nutrition advice that’s tailored to your needs.
You can also find some minerals in certain kinds of mineral water. Mineral water, also known as spring water, comes from natural springs and is sold bottled in most shops or supermarkets. The mineral content of different brands of mineral water can differ quite a lot, but in general you can expect it to contain minerals like calcium and potassium.
Why are minerals important for our bodies?
Minerals are important to your overall health and wellbeing as they ensure that your body can carry out essential functions and processes (for example magnesium helps to naturally convert food into energy). They’re also important for both your physical and mental health, as some of them support normal brain function (for example iron helps support normal cognitive function).
If you have a poor diet or a pre-existing health condition, vitamin deficiency these can also result in lower mineral levels. If you have any questions or concerns about vitamin deficiency you should contact your pharmacist for dietary advice or doctor for specific testing or diagnosis.
What types of minerals are essential?
The following minerals are all essential minerals. They are needed in different amounts to support your body’s functions and your overall health. Minerals are divided into two categories: major minerals, which are used and stored in large quantities, and trace minerals, which are needed in smaller amounts.
The essential minerals recommended by the NHS are:
- Sodium chloride (salt)
Functions of each mineral in the body
Each mineral is unique and is involve in many different functions in your body.
We’ve listed a few of each mineral’s functions below, as well as some foods in which you can find them.
- Calcium – maintains strong, healthy bones and teeth and helps generate energy from your food. Calcium can be found in dairy like milk and cheese and leafy green vegetables.
- Iodine – contributes to cognitive function, helps your body to release stored energy and maintains normal skin.
- Iron – helps to support your immune system and contributes to the normal function of red blood cells. Iodine is found in dairy, eggs, sea fish and shellfish.
- Chromium - helps with the metabolism of macronutrients and maintaining normal blood glucose levels. Meats, nuts and cereal grains are all good sources of chromium.
- Copper – has antioxidant properties to protect cells from oxidative stress and contributes to normal iron transport in the body. You can find copper in shellfish and nuts, as well as seeds, liver and dark chocolate.
- Magnesium – helps your body to release stored energy, reduce tiredness and fatigue and helps to maintain healthy bones and teeth. You can find it in food like wholemeal bread, spinach and nuts.
- Manganese – helps your body to release stored energy and maintains normal bones. It’s found in several kinds of food, include cereal (especially wholegrain), bread, nuts, and green vegetables.
- Molybdenum – contributes to normal sulphur and amino acid metabolism. Molybdenum can be found in legumes (like beans), dairy products, and whole grains.
- Phosphorus – helps your body to release energy from your food and helps maintain normal teeth. Some good sources of phosphorus include oats, brown rice, fish, and red meat.
- Potassium – contributes to normal muscle function and helps to maintain normal blood pressure. You can find potassium in some vegetables, beef, poultry like chicken and turkey and bananas.
- Selenium – helps to maintain normal hair and nails and has antioxidant properties. Selenium can be found in eggs, fish, and meat.
- Sodium chloride (salt) – needed in small amount, helps to keep the levels of fluid in your body balanced. Salt is found in all foods, but it’s also added to a range of processed foods and to add flavour to meals.
- Zinc – helps to support your immune system and helps to maintain normal skin, hair, nails and vision. You can get zinc from meat and shellfish, as well as dairy and cereal products.
Because each mineral does a different job, it’s important that you ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need to keep yourself well in your diet.
If you want a little extra support, why not add a Berocca to your daily routine? Berocca contains the essential minerals magnesium, zinc to support your health as well as a range of vitamins such as vitamin B1 to help support energy release. Simply drop a Berocca tablet into a glass of water, wait for it to fizz, and enjoy!