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A List of Essential Minerals

by
author image Jill Corleone, RDN, LD
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.
A List of Essential Minerals
Nonfat milk being poured into a glass; nonfat milk has several essential minerals. Photo Credit Chris Warren/iStock/Getty Images

While you may be familiar with the minerals calcium and iron, you may not know that much about cobalt or manganese. There are 15 essential minerals your body needs to function properly. These minerals help build bones, make hormones, maintain fluid balance and keep your muscles moving.

Calcium for Bones

Of all the minerals, calcium is found in the greatest amount in your body, according to the editors of "Krause's Food, Nutrition and Diet Therapy," L. Kathleen Mahan and Sylvia Escott-Stump. Most of the calcium in your body is found in your bones, and its primary role is to promote healthy bones and teeth. Milk, yogurt, broccoli and salmon with the bones are all good sources of calcium.

Phosphorus Is Everywhere

Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body. Like calcium, a large majority of the phosphorus in your body is found in your teeth and bones and is important for bone health. But phosphorus, which is found in every cell throughout your body, is also needed to make DNA and energy. Almonds, milk, oatmeal and tofu are all good sources of phosphorus.

Magnesium Makes Protein and Fats

Magnesium is found both in your bones and muscles. It supports the formation of proteins and fatty acids. Magnesium also serves as a cofactor for more than 300 enzymes. Cashews, halibut and spinach can help you meet your magnesium needs.

Iron: The Oxygen Transporter

Iron transports oxygen throughout your body. It is also needed to make hemoglobin, which is the part of the red blood cell that carries the oxygen. Meat, fish, beans, eggs and leafy greens are good sources of iron.

Copper Gets Iron Ready

Copper is needed in only very small amounts. This trace mineral is necessary for the oxidation of iron before it transports oxygen in your blood. Cashews, sunflower seeds and black-eyed peas can help you meet your copper needs.

Potassium for Fluid Balance

Potassium helps maintain fluid balance in your body. It is also important for muscle growth and neuromuscular activity. Bananas, oranges and potatoes supply potassium.

Your Muscles Need Sodium

Sodium aids in the contraction of your muscles and the conduction of nerve impulses. Sodium is also important for fluid balance. Unfortunately, most Americans get more sodium in their diet than they need. A high intake of sodium increases both blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.

Chloride Assists Sodium

Chloride works with sodium to balance fluids. It also helps maintain pH balance in your body. Most of the chloride in your diet comes from sodium chloride, also known as salt.

Sulfur for Healthy Skin

The mineral sulfur is found in every protein in your body but is concentrated in the keratin of your skin, hair and nails. Chicken, fish and broccoli are good sources of sulfur.

Iodine and Your Metabolism

You need iodine to make thyroid hormones, which control your metabolic rate. Seafood, specifically saltwater fish, is your best source of iodine. Iodized salt helps most Americans meet their daily iodine needs, according to Mahan and Escott-Stump.

No More Cavities With Fluoride

Fluoride is found in both your teeth and bones but is most notable because of its effect on tooth enamel and its ability to help prevent dental caries. Most people meet their fluoride needs through their drinking water or from food made with fluoridated water.

Building Cells With Cobalt

Cobalt, a trace mineral, is actually part of vitamin B-12, and they work together to help form red blood cells. Cobalt is only found in animal foods. Strict vegetarians who avoid meat products may need to supplement their diets to meet their needs for cobalt and vitamin B-12.

Selenium Protects Against Cancer

You only need it in small amounts, but it is essential for life. Selenium is necessary for reproduction and the synthesis of DNA. It is also an antioxidant that may protect you against cancer, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Sources include Brazil nuts, yellow fin tuna and cottage cheese.

Manganese for Growth and Reproduction

Manganese has a number of functions in your body, including enzymatic reactions, formation of tissue, growth and reproduction, as well as the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Whole grains, beans and tea are your best sources of manganese.

Fight Off Illness With Zinc

You need adequate intakes of zinc to support immune health and fight infection. It also helps your body heal cuts. Good food sources include beef, chicken, nuts and beans.

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