Minerals in Food | Essential Nutrients
Minerals in food are not the same as mineral stones found in the ocean. They are essential nutrients for your body. Calcium, fibers, magnesium—these words may ring a bell. But why do we need minerals anyway?
What are minerals?
There are a lot of minerals, but we don’t need all of them. Think about lead or nickel: the minerals we don’t need and are often even poisonous!
There are two types of minerals that we do need: macro and micro minerals. Macro minerals are also called essential minerals, while micro minerals are also called trace minerals.1 In comparison, we need a lot more macro minerals than micro minerals, but both are equally important.
|Macrominerals (Essential Minerals)||Microminerals (Trace Minerals)|
Where can you find minerals?
Sufficient intake of minerals is as crucial for your bodily functions as is getting the whole range of them.2 Here are a few of the most commonly lacking minerals in many of our diets, and where to find more of them in our day-to-day foods.
Magnesium protects our immune system and is important for both nerve transmitters and muscles. A magnesium deficiency can lead to stress, bowel disorders and palpitations of the heart.2 A good dose of magnesium is therefore important. The mineral can be found in dark leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes and, yes, also in dark chocolate.
Iron deficiency is quite common and results in symptoms like fatigue.2 You’ll find iron in meat and fish, but also in non-animal products like dark green, leafy vegetables.
Calcium can be found in more food products than just milk. Consuming fish and broccoli will provide your daily calcium dose. This mineral is very important for children and teenagers, because it helps with the development of your teeth and bones.2
Calcium deficiency is quite common, for which alcohol, caffeine and salt consumption are to blame. You see, alcohol interferes with the ability of the pancreas to absorb and the liver to activate calcium and vitamin D.5 High sodium and caffeine consumption lead to more frequent urinating, which means that both the salt and the calcium leave your body, ultimately leading to calcium deficiencies.6,7 The main calcium deficiency symptom is bone loss or osteoporosis.
In short, a varied and balanced diet ensures you get a sufficient mineral intake.
What happens if you go overboard with your mineral consumption?
A wide range of minerals and vitamins is also added to food to enrich or “fortify” food products. This is often because some nutrients can also be lost during processing.8 But, the European Commission has evoked a lot of regulations to make sure food manufacturers stay within the maximum amounts that may be added.3 Sometimes, adding minerals to food is even mandatory if there is a public health need. For example, it’s not uncommon to add extra magnesium to cereals.
Be careful with mineral supplements
When your mineral intake is too high, it can be harmful to your body in the long term.1 With minerals in food, it’s very unlikely that you will ever overconsume on minerals in a normal diet. But, if you take mineral supplements, it’s possible for your body to intake too much. When consumed in moderation, however, mineral supplements aren’t necessarily harmful and can even be beneficial.
Two groups who more commonly benefit from mineral supplements are pregnant women and vegetarians (who lack certain minerals like iron because they avoid meat and/or fish).4
Make the most out of your mineral-dense food
It’s important to keep in mind that processed fruit and vegetables do not always preserve their minerals. Minerals can dissolve if cooked in water, so it’s better to steam vegetables. It’s the best way to make sure all nutrients and minerals stay preserved while preparing them.
Which foods do you eat to meet your body’s mineral needs? Let us know below!