Minerals are inorganic, or carbon-free nutrients. Minerals are
needed in small amounts to support human life.
People get minerals from food. There are 7 major minerals and 10 trace
minerals. There are 4 minerals required in ultratrace amounts that might be
Among the 7 major minerals, calcium and phosphorous are
the most common. These are found in skeletal bone, teeth and muscle. Magnesium
is found in much smaller amounts but is also important to bones. Other major
minerals are the fluid-regulating electrolytes: sodium, potassium, and
chloride. Sulfur is present as a part of proteins and vitamins.
The trace minerals are: chromium, selenium, fluoride,
zinc, copper, iodine, iron manganese, molybdenum and cobalt. These are
required in smaller amounts. Many of these minerals are parts of other
compounds in the body. For example, iron is an important part of hemoglobin,
which keeps oxygen in the blood. Iodine is a part of the thyroid hormones, and
selenium is part of the important antioxidant, glutathione peroxidase.
The four ultratrace minerals are: nickel, arsenic,
silicon and boron. These are present in such small amounts it is hard to study
if they are truly essential to life.
Minerals are more stable than vitamins. Vitamins dissolve in water and/or break
down in light and air. The mineral content of certain foods is influenced by
the mineral content of the soil in which the foods are grown. Cooking utensils
can also add minerals to food. The 17 minerals listed here are essential to
life but are needed in very small amounts. Getting too much of any of these
minerals can be toxic.