Minerals

Minerals are similar to vitamins in that they are calorie free, essential molecules, but are inorganic, small elements that initiate many biological functions. Mineral content in our diet varies greatly depending on the types of foods consumed and the soil conditions in which plants have grown. Tables 3 and 4 describe how these minerals keep you healthy; their function, sources, and effects of getting too little.7

Table 3. Minerals for Bones and Teeth.

MineralSource Deficiency
Calcium: (Ca)
  • Most abundant mineral in the body
  • 99% stored in teeth and bones
  • Responsible for muscle contraction, nerve transmission, requires vitamin D for absorption
  • Dairy products, broccoli, dark leafy green vegetables, fortified orange juice and soy milk
  • Osteopenia/Osteoporosis
  • Rickets
  • Incomplete calcification of teeth
  • Susceptibility to dental caries
  • Increased tooth mobility
  • Convulsions
Phosphorus: (P)
  • 80-90% in bones and teeth
  • Favors vitamin D absorption. Formation of bone and teeth, acid-base balance
  • Dairy products, poultry, whole grains, nuts, legumes
  • Demineralization of bone, calcium loss
  • Incomplete calcification of teeth
  • Susceptibility to dental caries
  • Periodontal disease
Fluorine: (F)
  • Stored in bones and teeth
  • Fluoridated water, tea, seafood
  • Decreased resistance to dental caries
Magnesium: (Mg)
  • 60% in bones and teeth
  • Responsible for homeostasis
  • Green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains
  • Muscle tremors, convulsions
  • Gingival hypertrophy

Table 4. Microminerals Needed in Smaller Amounts.

MicromineralSource Deficiency
Iron:(Fe)
  • 20% stored in bone marrow
  • Carries oxygen to cells
  • Absorption aided by Vitamin C
  • Heme iron: meat, fish, poultry
  • Non-heme iron: plants, legumes
  • Anemia, decreased immunity
  • Angular cheilosis, pallor of lips and mucosa, glossitis, candidiasis, dysphagia
Zinc: (Zn)
  • Normal growth and development, taste and smell receptors
  • Non-heme iron: plants
  • Protein rich foods
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Xerostomia, increased candidiasis, periodontal disease, and caries
Copper
  • Shellfish, liver, nuts, legumes
  • Osteoporosis, arthritis, lesions with in the connective tissue
Manganese
  • Whole grains, legumes, nuts, tea, leafy greens
  • Growth retardation, congenital malformations, poor reproduction
Selenium
  • Animal products
  • N/A