By second grade, most of us learned that minerals are the stuff rocks are made of. But now that we’re old enough to biohack our bodies, a deeper understanding of minerals might be useful.
Which minerals do you need and why?
There are two key types of minerals:
- Macrominerals are the ones you need more of — think potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
- Trace minerals are the ones you need smaller amounts of — things like zinc, selenium, iron, copper, and fluoride.
Minerals are elements that (in addition to making rocks) build your body parts and help your body carry out internal processes necessary to life. Minerals help your bod do what it needs to do, from heart health to hormone production.
The following minerals are essential for human health:
Here’s a quick guide to mineral-rich foods.
|Food||Serving size||Key minerals||Key vitamins|
|nuts and seeds||1/4 cup||copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, selenium, zinc||choline, niacin, thiamin, vitamin E|
|shellfish||6 oz||copper, iodine, iron, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc||niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, vitamin B12|
|cruciferous vegetables||1 cup||calcium, chromium, iron||biotin, choline, pantothenic acid, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K|
|organ meats||4 oz||copper, iron||biotin, choline, vitamin B12, folate|
|eggs||1 egg||iron, selenium, phosphorus||biotin, choline, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D|
|beans||1/2 cup cooked||copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, zinc||choline, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, thiamin, vitamin B6|
|cocoa||1 Tbsp||copper, iron, magnesium, potassium|
|avocados||1/3 medium avocado||magnesium||biotin, folate, pantothenic acid|
|berries||1 cup||calcium, copper, iron, manganese, potassium||biotin, vitamin B6, vitamin C|
|milk, yogurt, and cheese||1 cup milk or yogurt|
2 oz cheese
|calcium, iodine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc||choline, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, vitamin A, vitamin B12|
|tomatoes||1 cup||chloride, potassium||vitamin C|
|sardines||1 can||calcium, iron||vitamin B12, vitamin D|
|spirulina||1 Tbsp||copper, iron, magnesium||vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3|
|whole grains||1/2 cup cooked||chromium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, zinc||biotin, niacin, pantothenic acid, thiamin|
|starchy vegetables||1/2–1 cup||iodine, magnesium, manganese, potassium||pantothenic acid, vitamin A, vitamin B6|
|tropical and citrus fruits||1 cup||chromium, magnesium, manganese, potassium||folate, vitamin C|
|leafy greens||1 cup||calcium, chloride, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium||choline, folate, riboflavin, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K|
|fortified foods||varies; check labels||calcium, iron, phosphorus, selenium, zinc||folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin E|
|seaweed||1 cup||calcium, chloride, iodine, iron, magnesium||vitamin K|
|meat, poultry, and fish||3 oz||chromium, iodine, iron, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc||biotin, choline, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D|
|tofu||3 oz||calcium, iron||choline|
Eating a variety of nuts and seeds will boost your mineral intake, and their protein, fiber, and fat make them a satisfying snack.
Depending on which nuts and seeds you choose, you could get a healthy dose of copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, selenium, or zinc.
Try pumpkin seeds for magnesium or Brazil nuts for selenium, a key nutrient for thyroid function, reproduction, and DNA production. You can simply snack on nuts (a great daily nosh), sprinkle them on your morning oatmeal, or blend them into smoothies.
Maybe you’ve heard that cruciferous veggies are superstar foods, but do you know exactly what they are? Behind the fancy name are goodies like broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, kale, brussels sprouts, and cabbage.
Research has shown that these tasty, versatile veggies are rich in sulfur, which helps your cells function and assists your body in creating glutathione, a powerful antioxidant. They also provide the minerals calcium, chromium, and iron, along with a bunch of vitamins.
There are soooo many ways to enjoy these veggies — add them to stir-fries, toss them into salads, or just dip them in hummus and call it a snack!
In a word, eggs ROCK. They’re a terrific source of protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants, along with iron and many other vitamins and minerals like zinc, biotin, choline, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamins A, B12, and D.
Just remember: Most of that goodness is in the yolk, so don’t leave it out! Add a scramble to your morning routine or toss a hard-boiled egg on your salad. Eggs are also great or turning your ho-hum ramen into a rich and magical soup.
Shrimp, lobster, crawfish, oysters, clams, mussels, and crab make up the delicious party platter we call shellfish. They contain copper, iodine, iron, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and zinc.
Shellfish are a good low fat source of protein. Try spicy boiled shrimp, crab cakes, or an easy paella made with any shellfish variety.
Was there ever any doubt that beans belong in your life? They’re full of protein and fiber, they taste awesome, and they provide all these minerals: copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.
There’s no reason to get bored with beans when you have so many to choose from: black, red, white, pinto, garbanzo, and on and on. Add them to soups and grain bowls or blend them into dips.
Bonus: They’re inexpensive, so loading up on minerals doesn’t cost a bundle.
Mmmm… what’s better than a big bowl of purple, red, and blue berries, bursting with sweetness?! In addition to being yummy, berries contain calcium, copper, iron, manganese, and potassium.
Some studies have shown that eating berries (or their bioactive compounds) lowers the risk of inflammation, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Add them to smoothies or snack on ’em straight from the fridge.
Good ol’ ahhhh-vocados. Sure, they’re delicious on toast, but did you know avocados are also a good source of potassium and magnesium?
Research suggests that potassium helps regulate blood pressure and boost heart health. And magnesium is an all-star player among minerals. It helps your muscles and nerves work and helps regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. It’s also important for making bone, protein, and DNA.
Get in the habit of spreading and adding avocado wherever you can — the possibilities are endless!
You’ve probably gotten the memo: Greens are a nutrient phenom that will power up your diet.
Leafies like kale, spinach, chard, collards, and turnip greens will give you a healthy blast of calcium, chloride, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, choline, folate, riboflavin, and vitamins A, E, and K.
Add baby greens to salads and sandwiches or sauté a big bunch of greens with a little oil, vinegar, salt, and garlic. They each taste a little different, so experiment until you find your favorite.
Set off for the tropics! Or at least pretend you’re on vacation by adding tropical fruits and citrus to your daily routine.
Research suggests that fruits like oranges, pineapples, mango, papaya, and grapefruit can help you meet your mineral goals by providing chromium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.
They also contain vitamin C and folate and are packed with fiber and antioxidants.
Satisfy your tropical urges with basic bananas or citrus-infused smoothies. Or try a fruit you may not have eaten before, like jackfruit or rambutan.
A tin of little fish may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but sardines offer a bunch of minerals and vitamins your body needs, including iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
A standard (3.75-ounce) can of sardines is packed with anti-inflammatory omega-3s, along with a whopping 27 percent of your daily calcium, 36 percent of your daily phosphorus, and 88 percent of your daily selenium.
Not sure where to start with sardines? The most basic way to enjoy them is on a cracker (with some good mustard). Look for Mediterranean and Italian recipes to see how those cultures have perfected the use of sardines over centuries.
One word of caution: Sardines may not be your best bet if you have gout or kidney problems or need to watch your sodium intake.
Keep it creamy with milk, yogurt, and cheese. Dairy products are renowned for their calcium game, but they’re also a source of minerals like iodine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.
Let’s talk about the benefits of calcium: You’ve probably heard that it makes your bones and teeth stronger. But it’s also important for sending messages throughout your nervous system, releasing hormones, and pumping your muscles and blood vessels. So don’t forget your daily dose of dairy!
Foodies know not to let anything go to waste. If you haven’t tried liver and other organ meats, it might be worth experimenting, since they’re packed with the minerals copper and iron. Your body needs iron for oxygen transport, cell growth, and hormone production.
Don’t know where to start? Search for organ meat recipes and you’ll find techniques from cooks who have figured out the tastiest ways to prepare these nutritious bits.
Tomatoes contain the minerals chloride and potassium (along with fan favorite antioxidant vitamin C). Potassium helps with blood pressure regulation, cell hydration, heart rhythm, and digestion. Chloride helps you maintain fluid balance.
Tomatoes are pretty easy to add to meals because they come in so many forms. Enjoy them fresh on salads and sandwiches or add canned tomatoes to soups and sauces.
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that contains a wealth of nutrients: protein, fat, vitamin B12, beta carotene, iron, copper, potassium, magnesium, manganese, calcium, and phosphorus.
Adding algae to foods can be especially helpful for vegans who struggle to get those vitamins and minerals with a plant-based diet. You can buy spirulina as a powder, which is easy to mix into beverages and foods.
Need an excuse to consume some cocoa? How about a nutrient boost of copper, magnesium, iron, and potassium?
Try a bite of dark chocolate or some homemade hot cocoa or add a scoop of cocoa powder to your smoothie or oatmeal.
Bonus points: Research suggests the flavanols in cocoa may help with blood pressure regulation and metabolism.
Whole grains are grains with their bran, endosperm, and germ intact — like brown rice, whole wheat, corn, oats, quinoa, and rye. They’re good sources of the minerals chromium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.
Not convinced to load up on grains? Research suggests there’s a link between whole grains and reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and death from respiratory disease, diabetes, and infection.
Starchy vegetables are those carby, comforting goodies you probably associate with fall and winter feasts: potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, and parsnips.
They’re good sources of fiber, potassium, magnesium, iron, manganese, calcium, copper, and iodine. Yes, even plain, garden-variety white potatoes have this nutritional goodness. Plus, carbs = energy.
Taste the ocean — eat more seaweed! Seaweed is another solid choice for our vegan friends who need a nutrient boost. It contains calcium, chloride, iodine, iron, and magnesium.
Nori, the type of dried seaweed used to make sushi, contains vitamin B12, which may be lacking in your diet if you don’t eat animal products.
Look for dried sheets of seaweed in the grocery store or order a seaweed salad the next time you’re picking up sushi.
If you’re an animal consumer, including a variety of meats, poultry, and fish in your diet can give you a broad range of minerals, including chromium, iodine, iron, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and zinc.
Meat, poultry, and fish are also good sources of protein, biotin, choline, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamins B6 and B12. If you lean toward eating more fish, you’ll get extra omega-3 fatty acids too.
You know tofu, the OG plant-based protein. Made from soy milk, it’s a rich source of calcium and iron. It tastes pretty plain on its own, so you can tailor tofu to the flavors you like by marinating it or adding your favorite sauces.
Add some veggies and grains and you have a whole meal. It’s also amazing in scrambles in place of eggs.
Some foods may not naturally boast a high mineral content, but manufacturers give them a little boost by adding nutrients. When nutrients are added, foods are called “fortified.”
Grain foods, nondairy milks, juices, and other beverages may be fortified with minerals. Check the labels for nutrient content.
Fortified foods may be a good option for kids, pregnant people, and older adults who tend not to comsume enough vitamins and minerals, or for people who don’t eat many fruits or vegetables.
From calcium for building bones to potassium for regulating fluid balance, minerals are important for many essential functions in your body. Fortunately, you should be able to find all the minerals you need in a variety of plant- and animal-based foods.