Minerals are elements from the earth that we take in through our foods. They are essential nutrients because they are not made by living things; but are used by living things for growth, development, and functioning.
They serve structural and functional roles and some (electrolytes) are constituents of body fluids. Plants take up minerals from the soil. Animals receive minerals chiefly from the plants they consume and also from eating other animals and from drinking.
Some of the important functions of minerals in the human body are for building strong bones, for brain and nerve function, for the functioning of the heart; and for making various hormones that regulate and maintain body functions.
There are two kinds of minerals: macrominerals needed in large amounts and microminerals in trace amounts. The macrominerals include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, (the five major minerals in the human body), chloride, and sulfur. Trace minerals include iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, selenium and molybdenum.
Foods that serve as minerals
If you want to ensure you get enough minerals in your diet, there are foods that are certain sources of multiple minerals.
Nuts may have up to eight minerals including calcium, copper, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. A handful a day is good, healthy snack.
Beans (and bean foods such as moin moin, bean cakes, and tofu), and lentils are equally rich in variety of minerals including copper, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. All economic classes can benefit from the richness of beans and lentils which are also rich in vegetable protein and fibre.
Dark leafy green vegetables contain a rich array of minerals too, such as calcium, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. The minerals are not destroyed by cooking, therefore vegetable soups made from such leaves are rich in minerals.
Fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel contain minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and selenium. Eating canned sardines and mackerel which contain the fish bones is a good sources of calcium from the bones. Fish is good for all economic classes and is a rich source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids which are good for cardiovascular health.
Seeds such as almond seeds, pumpkin seeds, egusi, and sunflower seeds, are rich in minerals such as copper, iron, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc. Including them in meals regularly is a source of good health.
Shellfish such as oysters, scallops, mussels, and clams contain minerals such as copper, iron, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc. They also tend to contain omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin B12.
Whole grains in oatmeal and other breakfast cereals, breads, swallows, and other foods are a sources of a variety of minerals including iron, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc, and should be included in our diet regularly. They are also a good source of energy and fibre.
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Other foods that we can add to our diet regularly; because they have a variety of minerals are meat (for iron, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc); milk and yogurt (for calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium).
Cocoa (for iron, magnesium, and zinc); avocado pears (for copper, potassium, and magnesium); cheese (for calcium, copper, and phosphorus).
Mushrooms (for copper, potassium, selenium, and zinc) and dried fruits such as raisins, dates, figs, prunes and apricots (for copper, potassium, and magnesium).