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Major Minerals



Functions: Principal skeletal mineral in bones and teeth, muscle contraction and relaxation, heart function, nerve function, intracellular regulation, extracellular enzyme cofactor, blood clotting, blood pressure. May decrease urinary elimination of vitamin C.

Deficiencies: Osteoporosis, stunted childhood growth, muscle cramps, weight gain, calcium deposits around body, possible hypertension, pre-eclampsia, and colon cancer.

Toxicity: Rare. Possible imbalance of other minerals, most notably iron, magnesium, and zinc. Excessive amounts of calcium supplements, particularly calcium carbonate, can lead to chromium deficiency. Taking large amounts of calcium supplements can also cause constipation (this can be alleviated with concurrent supplementation of magnesium).

Interfering factors: Large quantities of fat, oxalic acid and phytic acid, and excess phosphorus can reduce absorption of calcium. Deficiency in vitamin D, magnesium, or zinc can impair absorption as well.

Animal Food Sources: Milk, cheese, yogurt, fish (with bones)

Plant Food Sources: Tofu, legumes, kale, broccoli, turnip greens, acorn squash, butternut squash, sesame seeds, almonds, okra, blackstrap molasses, watercress, walnuts, dried figs, carob, oatmeal, fortified foods (soy milk, orange juice, cereal, etc). Note: Spinach, rhubarb, chard, and beet greens contain calcium, but because they also contain oxalates, they are not reliable sources.



Functions: Mineral component of bones and teeth, acid-base balance, DNA/RNA structure, energy (as part of ADP/ATP), enzyme cofactor, found in every cell as part of phosopholipid structures, assimilation of niacin, transfer of nerve impulses, metabolism of fats and starches.

Deficiencies: Unknown. Most Americans should worry more about getting too much.

Toxicity: Relative deficiency of calcium (>2:1 ratio of phosphorus:calcium could lead to hypocalcemia).

Animal Food Sources: Milk, yogurt, cheese, fish, beef, poultry, eggs

Plant Food Sources: Legumes, nuts, broccoli, pumpkin, grains, carbonated beverages, processed foods (as phosphates), fortified foods (as calcium phosphate).



Functions: Bone mineralization, protein synthesis, converting blood sugar to energy, muscular contraction and relaxation, proper heart function, nerve transmission, absorption of calcium, vitamin C, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium.

Deficiencies: Rare in non-disease state; prevalent in chronic alcoholism, renal dysfunction, hyperparathyroidism, and diabetes. May cause weakness, confusion, hypertension, arrhythmia, depressed pancreatic hormone secretion, heart arrhythmia, growth failure, behavioral disturbances, muscle spasms.

Toxicity: Unknown. High doses of supplemental magnesium may lead to diarrhea.

Interfering factors: Excessive consumption of alcohol, coffee, tea, oxalates, phytates, sodium chloride, and vitamin D. Athletes are at an increased need for magnesium.

Animal Food Sources: Beef, tuna, scallops, milk, yogurt

Plant Food Sources: Legumes, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, soy beans, tofu, nuts, kiwi, corn, pumpkin, squash, dark green vegetables, chocolate.

Other Sources: Mineral water, hard water.


Functions: Principal electrolyte. Acid-base balance, fluid retention, muscle contraction, involved in nerve impulse transmission.

Deficiencies: Not commonly seen in the typical Western diet. Cramping, apathy, depressed appetite.

Toxicity: Possible hypertension, dehydration, relative deficiency of potassium.

Interactions/interfering factors: Readily lost during excessive sweating, diarrhea, and vomiting. Athletes often need more sodium than sedentary people but generally get adequate amounts.

Animal Food Sources: All meat products, fish, dairy products, and especially canned, pickled, or processed meats.

Plant and Other Food Sources: Table salt, soy sauce, pickled foods, canned foods, processed foods, foods prepared with MSG (mono sodium glutamate), sea vegetables, baking soda, moderate amounts in some vegetables and breads.



Functions: Major electrolyte. Fluid balance, acid-base balance, aides digestion in stomach

Deficiencies: Rare in Western diets. Growth failure, muscle cramps, apathy, depressed appetite

Toxicity: Rare. Possible vomiting, disturbed acid-base, hypertension.

Interactions/interfering factors: Lost readily in sweat, feces, and vomit.

Food Sources: Usually consumed as table salt (sodium chloride, NaCl), also found in soy sauce, meats, sea food and sea vegetables, milk, tomatoes, celery, eggs, processed foods, bananas, cantaloupe, low sodium or sodium-free salt substitutes (potassium chloride, KCl)



Functions: Major electrolyte. Protein synthesis, fluid balance, muscle contraction, nerve transmission

Deficiencies: Weakness, paralysis, mental confusion, possible death

Toxicity: Rare, except from excessive supplementation or renal disease. Muscular weakness, possible vomiting.

Interfering factors: Diuretics (including coffee and alcohol) and sugar can deplete the body of potassium. Excess sodium can also cause a relative deficiency.

Food Sources: Abundant in whole (unprocessed) foods, best sources are potatoes, avocado, milk, yogurt, raisins, cantaloupe, orange juice, squash, lentils, oranges, kiwi, broccoli, tomatoes, fish, low sodium or sodium-free salt substitutes (KCl)


Trace Minerals



Functions: Hemoglobin formation in red blood cells, myoglobin formation in muscle, oxygen carrier, energy utilization, needed to convert beta-carotene to vitamin A.

Deficiencies: Anemia, weakness, headaches, depressed immunity, behavioral abnormalities, reduced cognitive function.

Toxicity: Infections, liver damage, possible increased cancer and heart disease risk. Excessive iron intake may interfere with absorption of copper and zinc.

Interfering factors: Iron is best absorbed as heme iron (animal sources), but vitamin C helps non-heme iron more bioavailable. Deficiency in copper, manganese or vitamin C limits iron absorption. Excessive amounts of zinc or calcium taken at the same time as iron may also inhibit absorption. Women (particularly pregnant women and lactating women) and athletes are at an increased risk of iron deficiency.

Animal Food Sources (heme iron): Beef, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs.

Plant Food Sources (non-heme iron): Farina, legumes, oatmeal, dried fruits, beets, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, broccoli, tomatoes, brewer's yeast, enriched pasta, pumpkin, fortified cereals, foods cooked in cast iron pots.



Functions: Transport of vitamin A, sense of taste, wound healing, sperm production, fetal development, muscle contraction, immune health. Plays a part in many enzymes, hormones (most notably insulin), genetic material, and proteins.

Deficiencies: Decreased appetite, impaired taste, growth failure in children, delayed development of sex organs, reduced immune function, poor wound healing, metabolic disturbances. Zinc deficiency may be one of the causes, or at least a perpetuating factor, in the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.

Toxicity: Fever, vomiting, diarrhea, gastric distress, dizziness. Excessive zinc intake may interfere with absorption of iron.

Interfering factors: Excessive amounts of iron, deficiency in copper, large intake of phytic acid. Zinc is best absorbed from animal sources. Athletes and pregnant women are at a special need for zinc. And men take note: a large amount of zinc is lost in seminal emissions.

Animal Food Sources: Beef, fish, poultry, milk

Plant Food Sources: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, green peas, broccoli, other green vegetables, oatmeal, whole grains (preferably from leavened breads), yogurt, brewer's yeast, peanut butter, almonds.



Functions: Absorption of iron, part of many enzymes, necessary for formation of collagen, regulate oxygen levels, essential to utilization of vitamin C.

Deficiencies: Rare. Anemia, bone changes

Toxicity: Unknown, except in the rare hereditary condition known as Wilson's disease

Interfering factors: Excessive iron or zinc intake

Animal Food Sources: Beef, shrimp, fish, shellfish

Plant Food Sources: Dried beans, peas, lentils, whole wheat, oatmeal prunes, green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, cocoa and chocolate, bananas, eggplants, soy products, oranges, raisins, coffee.



Functions: Component of the hormone thyroxin which aids in metabolism regulation and fetal development

Deficiencies: Goiter, cretinism.

Toxicity: Depressed thyroid activity

Interfering factors: Eating large amounts of foods containing goitrogens (e.g. vegetables from the cabbage family, soybeans) can interfere with iodine?s activity if eaten at the same time.

Animal Food Sources: Fish, shellfish, milk

Plant and Other Sources: Major source in U.S. and Canada is iodized salt (salt is generally not iodized in the United Kingdom). Also found in bread, sea vegetables, and foods grown in iodine rich soil. Sea salt is not a reliable source, as the drying process actually turns naturally occurring iodide to a gas.



Functions: Energy release, sugar and fat metabolism, aids the action of insulin as part of the glucose tolerance factor, protein transport.

Deficiencies: Marginal deficiency may be common in the United States. Impaired glucose tolerance (may lead to diabetes), elevated circulating insulin, disturbed fat metabolism.

Toxicity: Limited primarily to occupational exposure (non-dietary) in hexavalent chromium.

Interfering factors: Excess calcium interferes with chromium absorption. Eating large quantities refined carbohydrates and other high glycemic foods can deplete the body of chromium.

Food Sources: Chicken, ham, some varieties of cheese, vegetable oils, whole grains, seeds, black pepper, green peppers, potatoes, brewer's yeast, wine, beer, brown rice, lettuce, dulse, stevia, peaches.



Functions: As part of two important antioxidant enzymes (Coenzyme Q10 and glutathione peroxidase), acts as a free radical scavenger and protects against oxidation.

Deficiencies: Anemia (rare), possible increased risk of heart disease and cancer

Toxicity: Rare. Digestive disorders, dermatologic lesions

Interfering factors: Athletes are at an increased need for selenium. Too much vitamin E taken at the same time can cause a relative deficiency.

Food Sources: Seafood, meats, eggs, milk, whole grains, wheat germ, torula yeast, legumes, Brazil nuts, tomatoes, onions, broccoli (if grown in selenium-rich soil).



Functions: Component of a several of enzymes including those needed for proper use of biotin, thiamin and vitamin C, component of thyroid hormone, needed for digestion and utilization of food, may be needed to help build bones.

Deficiency: Marginal deficiency may be common in the United States, though clinical deficiency has not been recorded.

Toxicity : Rare. In occupational exposures: Nervous system disorders, schizophrenia

Interfering factors: Large calcium and phosphorus intake can inhibit manganese absorption.

Food Sources: Tea, vegetables, legumes, pecans, peanuts, fruit juice, oatmeal, rice, lettuce, grapefruit, apples, pineapple, brewer?s yeast, tofu, peaches, figs, nuts, ginger, coffee.



Functions: Component of a several of enzymes. Helps the body use iron and burn fats.

Deficiency: None recorded

Toxicity: Enzyme inhibition, gout

Food Sources: Legumes, cereals, meats, organ meat, leafy vegetables



Functions: Bone and teeth formation, decreases dental caries

Deficiencies: Tooth decay, bone loss

Toxicity: Fluorosis (discolored teeth).

Food Sources: Drinking water (if fluoridated), tea, seafood, toothpaste.


Minerals you probably don?t need to worry about not getting enough of

Amounts of these minerals needed by the body are so tiny, you?d have to try hard NOT to get enough.



Functions: As a component of vitamin B12, aids in nerve function and blood formation

Food Sources: Meat, dairy, eggs, green leafy vegetables, sea vegetables



Functions: Helps the absorption and controls the balance of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, thus is essential to good bone health.

Food sources: Green leafy vegetables, nuts, grains, fruits, beer, cider, wine.



Functions: Component of: biotin, thiamin, insulin, some amino acids, important to cell respiration.

Food Sources: All protein-containing foods (meats, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts), onions, garlic, cabbage, brussels sprouts, turnips, kale, lettuce, kelp and other seaweed, and raspberries




Functions: Cellular respiration, formation of bones and teeth, utilization of blood sugar, glycogen synthesis.

Food sources: Fish, liver, olives, seafood, vegetable oils, whole grains



Functions: Metabolism of glucose, lipids, and hormones, present in DNA and RNA.

Food sources: Beans, cereals, grains, nuts, seafood, seeds, vegetables.

Non-food sources: Automobile exhaust, cigarette smoke, manufacturing by-products



Functions: Bone structure, collagen formation, improves calcium absorption.

Food sources: Alfalfa, beet's, bell pepper's, brown rice, dulse, Echinacea root, goldenseal root, green leafy vegetables, horsetail grass, liver, soybeans, whole grains.



Functions: Involved in the transport of sodium within muscles and nerves, especially the autonomic nervous system. Low levels of lithium may cause mood disorders such as bipolar disorder or depression (which is why lithium carbonate is often prescribed for these conditions), but this has not been proven.

Sources: Seafood, seaweed, sugarcane, eggs, dairy, tomatoes, potatoes, drinking water, mineral water, food grown in mineral rich soil