Minerals in food – what are they?

Minerals are inorganic substances (chemical elements) that your body needs for sustaining various functions. Human body needs various nutrients to function at its best, these nutrients are categorized into so called macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients.

Minerals together with vitamins fall into micro-nutrient category. Unlike vitamins, they do not contain carbon, which means they are inorganic. Varying amounts of minerals are contained in almost every food.

If you are an athlete or someone who needs to achieve performance in sports, you should definitely pay attention to your daily income of minerals. Especially Iron and Calcium deficiency may negatively impair the endurance and strength of your body.

Minerals are not destroyed by cooking and heat in general, you can get the same quality minerals from salad as well as your favorite cooked, boiled or baked dish as long as the individual food components contained these minerals before being affected by heat. This is not true for vitamins as their numbers and composition may be considerably affected by heat. We will cover this topic in a dedicated article.

There is a further categorization of minerals to remember. Minerals are divided into so called macro minerals and trace minerals (alternative name is trace elements).


Macro minerals

Following are the substances belonging to macro minerals category.

Magnesium, Mg

Recommended daily intake

Men: 400 mg

Women: 310 mg

Maximum daily allowance

Not established

Functions in human body

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals as magnesium protects our health

and helps to produce and regulate serotonin. Hence, magnesium influences our mood

and emotions. It participates as co-enzyme for more than 80 percent of all enzymes.

Dietary sources of Magnesium

Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale), Nuts and seeds (almonds, peanuts, cashews), Avocado, Soy

beans, Fish, Dark chocolate, Bananas

Calcium, Ca

Recommended daily intake

Men/Women: 1000 mg

Men/Women 50+: 1200 mg

Maximum daily allowance

Men/Women: 2500 mg

Men/Women 50+: 2000 mg

Functions in human body

Calcium is needed for muscle, heart and digestive system health. It is essential for

building bones, supports synthesis and function of blood cells.

Dietary sources of Calcium

Milk, Cheese ( parmesan, romano, gruyere .. ), Cereals

Sodium, Na+

Recommended daily intake

Men/Women: 1500 mg

Men/Women 50+: 1300 mg

Maximum daily allowance

Not established

Functions in human body

A systemic electrolyte and is essential in regulating ATP with potassium. Part of

sodium-potassium pump – process allowing neuronal signal transmission in the brain.

Dietary sources of Sodium

Table salt, Seaweed, Cheese, Soups, Celery, Many other vegetables

Note: almost every food contains some amount of sodium

Chloride, Cl-

Adequate intake (AI)

Men/Women 14 – 50:  2300 mg  (2.3 g)

Men/Women 50+: 2000 mg (2 g)

Men/Women 70+: 1800 mg (1.8 g)

Maximum daily allowance

Not established

Functions in human body

Chloride is needed to regulate and maintain balance of body fluids, it’s a component

of stomach acid used to digest food.

Dietary sources of Chloride

Table salt, Seaweed, Tomatoes, Celery, Olives, Many other vegetables

Iodine, I

Recommended daily intake

Men/Women: 150 mcg

Maximum daily allowance

Men/Women (! adults over 18) :  900 mcg

Functions in human body

Iodine makes up large part of thyroid gland hormones – T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4

(thyroxine). These hormones play important roles in human body, including metabolic

rate regulation and energy production. Iodine has important role in pre-natal

development and certain studies show that insufficient iodine intake during pregnancy

may affect childs intelligence.

Dietary sources of Iodine

Sea weed (Kelp, Kombu, Wakame), Yogurt, Strawberries, Navy beans, Potatoes

Phosphorus, P

Recommended daily intake

Men / Women (adults over 18): 700 mg

Maximum daily allowance

Men / Women (adults over 18): 3000 mg

Functions in human body

Phosphorus is a component of bones and cells. It is required for energy processing, in

DNA and ATP (as phosphate) besides many other functions.

Dietary sources of Phosphorus

Rice bran, Hemp seeds, Sunflower seeds, Whey, Cereals, Egg yolk, Chia seeds

Potassium, K

Recommended daily intake

Men/Women: 4700 mg

Maximum daily allowance

Not established

Functions in human body

Potassium plays important role in cells and as an electric agent – one of main body

electrolytes. Another important function of potassium is regulation of water balance and acidity of blood and tissue, moreover it is essential part of sodium-potassium pump – process allowing neuronal signal transmission in the brain.

Dietary sources of Potassium

Parsley, Tomatoes / Dried tomatoes, Cocoa powder, Peppers, Beans, Bananas


Trace minerals

Following elements fall under trace minerals category.

Iron, Fe

Recommended daily intake

Men: 8 mg

Women: 18 mg

Maximum daily allowance

Men/Women: 45 mg

Functions in human body

In human body, iron plays important role in transporting oxygen as it’s the essential

part of hemoglobin – protein molecule found in red blood cells.

Dietary sources of Iron

Tumeric,  Parsley, Poultry, Red meat, Fish

Selenium, Se

Recommended daily intake

Men/Women: 55 mcg

Maximum daily allowance

Men/Women:  400 mcg

Functions in human body

Selenium is an essential trace mineral – body needs to take it from food. Body uses

selenium for creating antioxidant enzymes, so it plays role in protecting cells from

oxidative damage. Selenium is also needed for proper function of the thyroid gland as

it activates and deactivates certain thyroid hormones.

Dietary sources of Selenium

Brazilnuts, Eggs, Fish, Mollusks

Manganese, Mn

Recommended daily intake

Men: 2.3 mg

Women: 1.8 mg

Maximum daily allowance

Men/Women: 11 mg

Functions in human body

Manganese plays role in bone development, has antioxidative function and helps

wound healing among other functions. It is present in various enzymatic reactions as it

is part of some enzymes and can activate some other enzymes

Dietary sources of Manganese

Teas, Ginger, Spices (saffron, cardamon, tumeric, black pepper), Wheat germ, Nuts (hazelnuts, filberts), Oats

Copper, Cu

Recommended daily intake

Men/Women: 900 mcg

Maximum daily allowance

Men/Women: 10 mg (10000 mcg)

Functions in human body

Copper is essential trace element, it plays important role in sustaining the proper

function of organs and metabolic processes.  Amount of copper in human body is

regulated by complex homeostatic mechanisms. Copper is important component of

many redox enzymes.

Dietary sources of Copper

Goose liver, Molusks, Shitake mushrooms, Seaweed (spirulina), Cocoa powder

Chromium, Cr

Recommended daily intake

Men: 35 mcg

Men 50+: 30 mcg

Women: 25 mcg

Women 50+: 20 mcg

Maximum daily allowance

Men/Women: 1000 mcg

Functions in human body

Importance of chromium is significant. It plays very important role in

blood sugar regulation as chromium regulates insulin. High blood

pressure and vision loss result from insufficient amount of chromium.

Symptoms of deficiency may resemble diabetes.

Dietary sources of Chromium

Whole grain products, Broccoli,  Potatoes, Grape juice, Oranges

Molybdenum, Mb

Recommended daily intake

Men/Women: 45 mcg

Maximum daily allowance

Men/Women: 1500 mcg

Functions in human body
Molybdenum is important factor in keeping optimal sulfur balance, it plays role in the activity of sulfite oxidase enzyme that is responsible for conversion of sulfite to sulfate (these are 2 different forms of sulfur). It is probable, although not fully established that molybdenum has antioxidative role and helps in liver detoxification. It may also play certain roles in  neurotransmitter formation, especially epinephrine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Molybdenum plays role in formation of amidoxime reducing proteins (mARC), these  have important roles in mitochondria – parts of the cell responsible for energy production.

Dietary sources of Molybdenum

Cereals, Beans, Lentils, Green leafy vegetables

Zinc, Zn

Recommended daily intake

Men: 11 mg

Women: 8 mg

Maximum daily allowance

Men/Women:  40 mg

Functions in human body

Zinc plays role in regulating immune system – activates T lymphocytes. It positively

affects wound healing , helps to maintain skin integrity and structure. Zinc plays certain

function in neuron communication, it’s important element in learning and memory

formation. Moreover, zinc is important for proper reproductive system function.

Dietary sources of Zinc

Mollusks, Cereals, Pumpkin seeds, Hemp seeds

Fluoride, F-

Recommended daily intake
Men: 3.8 mg

Women: 3.1 mg

Maximum daily allowance

Men/ Women (!adults): 10 mg

Functions in human body

It is present in human bones and teeth, reduces teeth decay and helps to maintain bone



There is certain controversy about potential negative effects of fluoride on

human brain. Thus it’s probably better to keep fluoride intake in check by not swallowing

tooth paste, using only the necessary amount of fluoride paste. You may

potentially  consider buying  tooth paste without  fluoride as it’s being added to water


Dietary sources of Fluoride

It is typically added into water in developed countries. Food prepared in such water

contains fluoride and it’s is also present in teas.