Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, is found in some foods, added to others, available as a dietary supplement, and present in some medicines (such as antacids). Calcium is required for vascular contraction and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling and hormonal secretion, though less than 1% of total body calcium is needed to support these critical metabolic functions Serum calcium is very tightly regulated and does not fluctuate with changes in dietary intakes; the body uses bone tissue as a reservoir for, and source of calcium, to maintain constant concentrations of calcium in blood, muscle, and intercellular fluids.
The remaining 99% of the body’s calcium supply is stored in the bones and teeth where it supports their structure and function. Bone itself undergoes continuous remodeling, with constant resorption and deposition of calcium into new bone. The balance between bone resorption and deposition changes with age. Bone formation exceeds resorption in periods of growth in children and adolescents, whereas in early and middle adulthood both processes are relatively equal. In aging adults, particularly among postmenopausal women, bone breakdown exceeds formation, resulting in bone loss that increases the risk of osteoporosis over time.
Iron is a mineral vital to the proper function of hemoglobin, a protein needed to transport oxygen in the blood. Iron also has a role in a variety of other important processes in the body.
A shortage of iron in the blood can lead to a range of serious health problems, including iron deficiency anemia. Around 10 million people in the United States have low iron levels, and roughly 5 million of these have been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia.
- The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) varies between ages, but women who are pregnant require the most.
- Iron promotes healthy pregnancy, increased energy, and better athletic performance. Iron deficiency is most common in female athletes.
- Canned clams, fortified cereals, and white beans are the best sources of dietary iron.
- Too much iron can increase the risk of liver cancer and diabetes.
Iron is best sourced from foods, and the recommended daily allowance varies.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for elemental iron depends on a person's age and sex. Vegetarians also have different iron requirements.
- 0 to 6 months: 0.27 milligrams (mg)
- 7 to 12 months: 11 mg
- 1 to 3 years: 7 mg
- 4 to 8 years: 10 mg
- 9 to 13 years: 8 mg
- 14 to 18 years: 11 mg
- 19 years and older: 8 mg
- 9 to 13 years: 8 mg
- 14 to 18 years: 15 mg
- 19 to 50 years: 18 mg
- 51 years and older: 8 mg
- During pregnancy: 27 mg
- When lactating between 14 and 18 years of age: 10 mg
- When lactating at older than 19 years: 9 mg
Iron helps to preserve many vital functions in the body, including general energy and focus, gastrointestinal processes, the immune system, and the regulation of body temperature.
The benefits of iron often go unnoticed until a person is not getting enough. Iron deficiency anemia can cause fatigue, heart palpitations, pale skin, and breathlessness.
Phosphorus is the second most plentiful mineral in your body. The first is calcium. Your body needs phosphorus for many functions, such as filtering waste and repairing tissue and cells.
Most people get the amount of phosphorus that they need through their daily diets. In fact, it’s more common to have too much phosphorus in your body than too little. Kidney disease or eating too much phosphorus and not enough calcium can lead to an excess of phosphorous.
Phosphorus levels that are too high or too low can cause medical complications, such as heart disease, joint pain, or fatigue.
- build strong bones and teeth
- filter out waste in your kidneys
- manage how your body stores and uses energy
- grow, maintain, and repair tissue and cells
- produce DNA and RNA — the body’s genetic building blocks
- balance and use vitamins such as vitamins B and D, as well as other minerals like iodine, magnesium, and zinc
- assist in muscle contraction
- maintain a regular heartbeat
- facilitate nerve conduction
- reduce muscle pain after exercise
- meat and poultry
- milk and other dairy products
- nuts and seeds
- whole grains
- dried fruit
- carbonated drinks (phosphoric acid is used to produce the carbonation)
The amount of phosphorus you need in your diet depends on your age.
Adults need less phosphorus than children between the ages of 9 to 18, but more than children under 8 years old.
- adults (19 years and older): 700 mg
- children (9 to 18 years): 1,250 mg
- children (4 to 8 years): 500 mg
- children (1 to 3 years): 460 mg
- infants (7 to 12 months): 275 mg
- infants (0 to 6 months): 100 mg
Magnesium plays a role in over 300 enzymatic reactions within the body, including the metabolism of food, synthesis of fatty acids and proteins, and the transmission of nerve impulses.
The human body contains around 25 gram (g) of magnesium, 50 to 60 percent of which is stored in the skeletal system. The rest is present in muscle, soft tissues, and bodily fluids.
- Magnesium is vital for the proper functioning of hundreds of enzymes.
- Consuming adequate magnesium might help reduce premenstrual symptoms.
- Sunflower seeds, almonds, and shrimp are some of the foods high in magnesium.
- Magnesium supplements can interact with different drugs, so it is best to check with a doctor before taking them.
- Spinach is a good source of magnesium.
- Magnesium is one of seven essential macrominerals.
- 19-30 years, 400 mg (men) and 310 mg (women)
- 31 years and older, 420 mg (men) and 320 mg (women)
- For pregnant women age 14-18 years, the RDA is 400 mg; 19-30 years, 350 mg; 31-50 years, 360 mg.
Zinc is an essential mineral that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. Zinc is also found in many cold lozenges and some over-the-counter drugs sold as cold remedies.
Zinc is involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism. It is required for the catalytic activity of approximately 100 enzymes and it plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division. Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence and is required for proper sense of taste and smell. A daily intake of zinc is required to maintain a steady state because the body has no specialized zinc storage system.Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Zinc
|0-6 months||2 mg*||2 mg*|
|7-12 months||3 mg||3 mg|
|1-3 years||3 mg||3 mg|
|4-8 years||5 mg||5 mg|
|9-13 years||8 mg||8 mg|
|14-18 years||11 mg||9 mg||12 mg||13 mg|
|19+ years||11 mg||8 mg||11 mg||12 mg|
Selenium is an essential trace mineral that is important for many bodily processes, including cognitive function, a healthy immune system, and fertility in both men and women.
- Selenium is a mineral that plays a role in many bodily functions.
- It may protect against cancer, thyroid problems, cognitive decline, and asthma, but more research is needed.
- Brazil nuts, some fish, brown rice, and eggs are good sources.
- The best source of nutrients is food. Any supplement use should first be discussed with a doctor.
Copper is an essential trace mineral necessary for survival. It is found in all body tissues and plays a role in making red blood cells and maintaining nerve cells and the immune system.
- Copper is necessary for a range of bodily functions.
- Copper deficiency is rare except in specific conditions, such as Menkes disease.
- Copper supplements are not usually necessary and may lead to an imbalance.
- A copper imbalance has been linked to Alzheimer's disease.
- Anyone who is considering copper supplements should first speak to a doctor.
Manganese is a trace mineral, which your body needs in small amounts.
Chromium is a mineral that humans require in trace amounts, although its mechanisms of action in the body and the amounts needed for optimal health are not well defined. It is found primarily in two forms: 1) trivalent (chromium 3+), which is biologically active and found in food, and 2) hexavalent (chromium 6+), a toxic form that results from industrial pollution.
Table 2: Adequate Intakes (AIs) for chromium
|Age||Infants and children
|0 to 6 months||0.2|
|7 to 12 months||5.5|
|1 to 3 years||11|
|4 to 8 years||15|
|9 to 13 years||25||21|
|14 to 18 years||35||24||29||44|
|19 to 50 years||35||25||30||45|
Sodium is an element that the body needs to work properly. Salt contains sodium. The body uses sodium to control blood pressure and blood volume. Your body also needs sodium for your muscles and nerves to work properly.
Sodium occurs naturally in most foods. The most common form of sodium is sodium chloride, which is table salt. Milk, beets, and celery also naturally contain sodium. Drinking water also contains sodium, but the amount depends on the source.
- High blood pressure in some people
- A serious buildup of fluid in people with heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, or kidney disease
- Infants younger than 6 months: 120 mg
- Infants age 6 to 12 months: 370 mg
- Children ages 1 to 3 years: 1,000 mg
- Children ages 4 to 8 years: 1,200 mg
- Children and teens ages 9 to 18 years: 1,500 mg
Potassium is one of the seven essential macrominerals. The human body requires at least 100 milligrams of potassium daily to support key processes.
- Adults should be consuming 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium a day. However, fewer than two percent of people in the U.S. consume enough potassium.
- Potassium supports blood pressure, cardiovascular health, bone strength, and muscle strength.
- Beet greens, white beans, soy beans, and lima beans are the foods highest in potassium.
- Potassium deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, and constipation. It can escalate to paralysis, respiratory failure, and painful gut obstructions.
- Hyperkalemia means that there is too much potassium in the blood, and this can also impact health.
- Potassium is available in supplements, but dietary sources are most healthful.