Minerals: Importance, Types, sources, Functions and Effects

Minerals are elements that are found in the earth and can be extracted from it. A mineral is a naturally occurring chemical element, such as calcium, iron, or zinc. The minerals in food definition usually take the form of salts and oxides. Minerals occur naturally in water and soil and can be obtained by mining or extracting them from rocks and sediments.

Minerals in food definition is a complex subject that is not well understood by many people. It is not just about understanding the different types of minerals and their functions, but also understanding what we eat and how it affects our health. The minerals we need to survive are called essential minerals. These include calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, chloride, phosphorus, sulfur and iron among others.

In this article, we will discuss the most common minerals in food and how they affect the body.

What are Minerals and Why are they Important?

Minerals are substances that come from the earth and cannot be made by living organisms. They are important because they provide a wide range of resources for humans. They can be used to create new products and materials. Minerals also provide the building blocks for life and help to keep our planet healthy.

“Minerals in food are the elements present in food that are required by our body to develop and function properly”.

From the above definition, it is possible to deduce that minerals are substances that are required by the human body to remain healthy. In order to maintain a healthy human body, the human body requires varying amounts of minerals every day. These minerals help to build strong bones and muscles as well as help with maintaining various bodily functions. One way to increase the intake of these nutrients is by eating foods that are rich in minerals.

When the body does not get enough of the right minerals, certain nutritional deficiency diseases may arise. These include goiter, osteoporosis, anaemia, hypomagnesaemia, and diarrhoea among others.

Minerals in Food

There are many examples of minerals in food; these include:

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Magnesium

The body also requires other minerals in trace amounts such as selenium, cobalt and molybdenum. These elements are known to a specific function in the human body.

Properties of Minerals

Minerals are essential for a healthy diet. They are important for a variety of functions, including bone development and metabolism. The most common minerals found in food are calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium and zinc. In order to know if the food is rich in minerals or not one should look at the label on the packaging of the food.

The role minerals play is plentiful. Minerals act as cofactors for enzymatic reactions, since enzymes refuse to work without minerals and all cells require enzymes to function. Minerals also give us our vitality, or in other words, it could be compared to the battery that keeps us charged. They are known to maintain the pH balance within the body. They also facilitate the transfer of nutrients across cell membranes and maintain proper nerve conduction. Not only this, they also help to contract and relax muscles and regulate our bodies tissue growth. They also provide structural and functional support for the body.

Types of Minerals in Food

Our body requires a variety of minerals to keep it running smoothly. Some of these minerals need to be ingested in very large doses, while others may only be required in small quantities. Consequently, minerals found in food are classified into two categories: those that must be ingested in large quantities and those that can be consumed in small amounts. Minerals are naturally occurring substances that are essential for the normal functioning of living organisms. They are often called “macrominerals” and “microminerals”.


  • Macrominerals are those minerals which are required in relatively large doses. Therefore, they are also called major minerals.
  • Macrominerals include sodium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and sulfur. These minerals are vital for the proper functioning and metabolism of the body. Our body cannot produce these minerals; hence, they need to be obtained from a food source.
  • The deficiency of these minerals results in severe ramifications for health. For example, calcium deficiency weakens the skeletal system, thereby increasing the risk of fractures. The deficiency of  Iodine results in goitre and other hormonal disorders, and the deficiency of sodium results in hyponatremia.


  • Microminerals are also called as trace minerals, these are minerals which are required in small amounts. Therefore, they are also called minor minerals.
  • Trace minerals include iron, copper, iodine, zinc, manganese, fluoride, cobalt and selenium.
  • If these trace minerals are taken in excessive quantities, mineral toxicity is induced. For instance, acute selenium toxicity is observed if an individual overdoses on dietary supplements. It can cause nausea, nail discoloration or brittleness, hair loss, and diarrhoea.

Also Read: Vitamins and Minerals

Functions of Minerals in Food

The most common function of minerals in food is providing essential nutrients to the body. Minerals also help maintain a healthy functioning of the human body by supporting bodily processes such as digestion or producing hormones that regulate blood pressure or blood sugar levels.

Minerals are an important part of our diet. They provide essential nutrients to the body and help maintain the healthy functioning of the human body.

The following are some of the common minerals in food and their functions in the body.

CalciumHelps blood clotting, muscle contraction and nerve function and essential for building strong and healthy bones.
ChlorideMaintains proper blood volume, blood pressure, and pH of our body fluids.
CopperHelps with the functioning of the nervous system and formation of red blood cells.
IodinePromotes the normal functioning of the thyroid gland and normal growth and development of cells.
Helps in the proper functioning of brain functions.
IronProduces and stores the energy for further metabolisms and helps in transporting oxygen to all parts of the body.
MagnesiumProvides structure for the healthy bones. Produces energy from the food molecules and maintains proper functioning of muscle and nervous system.
SodiumMaintains cellular osmotic pressure and helps in maintaining blood volume and blood pressure and the fluid balance in the body.
SulphurHelps in promoting the loosening and shedding of skin and protects cells from damage. Involved in protein synthesis.
ManganeseHelps maintain water balance and also controls nerve impulse transmissions.
PhosphorusHelps the body to store and use energy and works with calcium in the formation of strong, healthy bones and teeth.
PotassiumControls nerve impulses and muscle contractions, maintains fluid balance in the body and proper functioning of muscle and nervous system.
ZincHelps in the formation of strong bones, aids in wound healing, supports the immune system, controls the functioning of the sense organs in the nervous system and helps in the process of cell division and reproduction.

Sources of Minerals

There are 12 minerals which can be found in food: calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, selenium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc. These minerals can be found in different foods and their functions depend on the type of mineral and what it is doing for your body. Minerals are essential nutrients that the body needs to function. They are found in all foods and beverages, but some foods have more minerals than others.

  1. Calcium: Almonds, Carrots, Milk, Broccoli, Canned Fish, Papaya, Garlic, and Cashew.
  2. Chloride: Table Salt, Soy Sauce, liver Unprocessed Meat, Milk and Peanuts.
  3. Copper: Crab, Lobster, Mussels, Oysters, Nuts, Wholegrains and Yeast extract.
  4. Iodine: Seafood, Seaweed and Iodised salt.
  5. Iron: Meat, Eggs, Beans, Baked Potato, Dried Fruits, Green Leafy Vegetables, Whole and Enriched Grains.
  6. Magnesium: Honey, Almonds, Seafood, Tuna, Chocolates, Pineapple, Pecans, Artichokes, and Green Leafy Vegetables.
  7. Manganese: Cereals, Nuts, Oils, Vegetables and Wholegrains.
  8. Sodium: Table Salt, Cheese, Milk, Soy Sauce, and Unprocessed Meat.
  9. Sulfur: Cheese, Eggs, Nuts, Turnips, Onions, Fish, Wheat Germ, Cucumbers, Corn, Cauliflower, and Broccoli.
  10. Phosphorus: Mushrooms, Meat, Cashews, Oats, Fish, Beans, Squash, Pecans, Carrots, and Almonds.
  11. Potassium: Spinach, Apples, Oranges, Tomatoes, Papaya, Bananas, Lemons, Celery, Mushrooms, Pecans, Raisins, Pineapple, Rice, Cucumbers, Strawberries, Figs, Brussels Sprouts, and Legumes.
  12. Zinc: Beef, Pork, Dark Meat, Chicken, Cashews, Almonds, Peanuts, Beans, Split Peas, and Lentil.

Effect of Excessive Mineral Consumption

Excessive mineral consumption is a problem in many countries around the world including the US and India. In these countries there’s a high risk for people to develop health problems due to excessive intake of minerals in their diet.

We need a certain amount of each mineral to stay healthy. However, when we take in too much of a mineral it can be bad for us. For example,

  • Too much calcium in our diet may cause constipation and kidney problems.
  • Excess of zinc intake causes diarrhoea, heart problems, kidney malfunctioning, vomiting.
  • Too much sodium in blood cells increases the risk of stroke, other heart-related disorders and Hypernatremia.
  • Too much fluoride can lead to dental fluorosis or brittle bones.
  • Excess of iron can result in cardiovascular problems, liver disease, loss of interest in sex, infertility and impotence.

A balanced diet prevents mineral deficiencies. The use of vitamin and mineral supplements should be discouraged to prevent any adverse effects.


There are many different types of minerals found in food. Some minerals are more common than others, but they all perform different functions. Minerals can be classified by their chemical composition and their function within the body. These include electrolytes, trace minerals, and major minerals.

Electrolytes are substances that conduct electricity when dissolved in water; they maintain the body’s pH balance and fluid levels. Trace minerals are essential nutrients that the body needs to function properly but only need small amounts to do so.

Minerals are a key part of our diets. Minerals are found in many foods and help with many different bodily functions. Minerals can also be found in supplements, but it is important to know that not all minerals can be supplemented.

The human body contains many types of minerals. Minerals are the building blocks of our bones, teeth, and other tissues. They also help regulate our blood pressure and keep us from getting sick. Too much of anything is dangerous. Similarly, excess of minerals intake might lead to certain illnesses in the body.