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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.