Growth, metabolism, blood formation, the function of nerves and muscles – none of these could function without minerals. For example, sodium and potassium regulate our body’s fluid balance. Calcium helps build strong bones and teeth. Iron is important in blood formation.
A balanced diet covers the need for minerals
It is important to be supplied with sufficient quantities of all essential minerals, as it is not possible for one mineral to take the place of another. If you eat a balanced, varied diet as described in the South African food-based Dietary Guidelines, this should present no problem.
The following table will give you information about the reasons we need minerals and which foods contain them.
|Mineral||Important for…||Plentiful in…|
|Calcium||Building bones and teeth, blood clotting, nervous system function||Milk, yogurt, cheese, green vegetables, calcium-rich mineral water|
|Phosphorus||Building bones, metabolism||Milk, cheese, meat, sausage, fish|
|Sodium||Fluid balance, nerve and muscle function||Potatoes, vegetables, bananas, dried fruit, pulses|
|Potassium||Fluid balance, transmission of nerve and muscle signals||Wholegrain products, pulses, potatoes, pork, milk, vegetables, fruit, fish|
|Magnesium||Building bones, energy metabolism, enzymes, nerve and muscle function||Whole-grain cereal products, milk and milk products, green vegetables, berries, oranges, bananas|
|Iron||Blood formation, oxygen transport in the blood||Meat, egg yolk, sausage, whole-grain cereal products, oat flakes, millet|
|Iodine||Synthesis of thyroid hormones||Ocean fish, sea food, foods prepared with iodized salt|
|Fluorine||Resistance of teeth to cavities, for hardening tooth enamel||Fish, cereals, walnuts, black tea, mineral water|
|Selenium||Cellular protection||Liver, fish, meat, nuts, legumes, cereals|
|Zinc||The body’s defences, wound healing||Meat, shellfish, cheese|
There are a host of minerals contained in our foods – and of course, many other valuable nutrients. Gentle preparation is recommended to make sure that these ingredients actually reach their destination. Thoroughly but only briefly wash fruit, vegetables and salad ingredients, and only cut them after washing. Another tip: keep the cooking time short and use the cooking water along with the minerals dissolved in it to prepare tasty sauces or soups.
This page contains general information and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional for specific advice for your personal situation.