Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are important macronutrients in our diet, while minerals, along with vitamins, are considered micronutrients that also play an important role in metabolism and overall human health.1 Although current research is yet inconclusive about the role of minerals and vitamins in improving metabolic health, minerals should be adequately consumed as a part of a healthy diet as they are essential for various cellular processes in the body.2
Calcium is an essential mineral needed for various functions in the body, including the development and structural integrity of bones and teeth.1 Calcium can be found in dairy products, vegetables, legumes, and cereals. Deficiency in calcium, or hypocalcemia, can be a result of inadequate intake of calcium, poor calcium absorption, excessive loss of calcium, inadequate vitamin D, or lack of parathyroid hormone. Hypocalcemia can lead to loss in bone mass and osteoporosis in the long term.
Iodine is an essential mineral with an important role in synthesizing thyroid hormone.1 Iodine can be consumed through meats and plants. Additionally, iodized salt is a key source of iodine in regions with low iodine content in soil. Deficiency in iodine can decrease the synthesis of thyroid hormone and lead to hypothyroidism, which can enlarge thyroid glands.
Iron is an essential mineral that plays a significant role in energy metabolism and oxygen transport.1 The main source of iron is meat. Green leafy vegetables and fortified grains also contain iron but in less bioavailable forms. Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies around the world. If untreated, iron deficiency can affect endurance capacity, cognition, immune function, and growth in children.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays various roles in the body such as glucose and lipid metabolism, bone development, neuromuscular function, energy storage and transfer, and various signaling pathways.1 Sources of magnesium include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, legumes, meat, and fortified foods. Deficiency in magnesium can result in muscle spasms, cramps, weakness, and tremors. High magnesium intake can result in diarrhea, vomiting, and headaches, while extremely high intake can become life-threatening.
Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte with important functions in creating water balance, blood pH balance, muscle contraction, and nerve innervation.1 Potassium is rich in various kinds of fruits and vegetables. However, studies show that most Americans do not consume the recommended amount of potassium. Deficiency in potassium, or hypokalemia, can result in muscle weakness, complications of the heart function, and glucose intolerance. In addition, adequate potassium intake has been shown to be moderately associated with reductions in blood pressure.
Sodium is an essential mineral and electrolyte with important roles in water balance, nerve innervation, cellular membrane transport, and muscle contraction.1 Sodium is found in salt and is found in high contents in processed foods. Meat, eggs, vegetables, and eggs also contain sodium. Unlike other minerals and/or electrolytes, sodium is known to be consumed in excess. On average, sodium is consumed two to three times the daily recommended amount in industrialized countries. Deficiency in sodium is thus rare but can result in lethargy, confusion, and loss of body fluid.
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