The 6 Major Minerals and Where to Find Them

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What Are the Major Minerals?

Major minerals are essential for your body to function.
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​We often refer to minerals as being major mineral or trace minerals. The six major minerals are the ones that are present in our bodies in the largest amounts. When it comes to health and normal body functions, dietary minerals are every bit as important as vitamins. They're necessary for many processes in your body, especially fluid balance, maintenance of bones and teeth, muscle contractions, and nervous system function.

For the most part, it's not too difficult to get sufficient amounts of these minerals from the foods you eat and as long as you eat a healthy balanced diet you should be getting enough of all six of these essential nutrients. But If you're concerned about possible deficiencies, most of these minerals are sold as dietary supplements. 

The major minerals include calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. Here's a look at the major minerals in a little more detail, including what they do in your body, and a few foods that you can add into your diet to ensure sufficient intakes.

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Calcium

Dairy products are rich in calcium.
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Calcium is probably best known for preventing osteoporosis, but it's necessary for much more than strong bones and teeth. Your body also needs calcium for blood clotting and normal nervous system and muscle function.

Calcium is found in the largest amounts in dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt. But it's also found in nuts, green leafy vegetables and fortified foods such as breakfast cereal and nut milks. Calcium is also one of the most popular dietary supplements.

Learn More About Calcium

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Chloride

Tomato juice with celery is a good source of chloride.
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Chloride is an interesting major mineral. Your body needs it to create gastric juices and it's found right alongside sodium in the fluid surrounding the cells. In fact, chloride works together sodium to help keep your body fluids in balance. 

Dietary chloride is found in table salt (sodium chloride) and many vegetables, including celery and tomatoes. There's rarely any reason to take chloride supplements.

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Magnesium

Nuts and seeds are rich in magnesium.
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Magnesium is necessary for biochemical functions that control many actions in your body, including proper muscle contractions and nerve impulses. It's also necessary for blood sugar control, regulation of blood pressure, and maintaining healthy strong bones. 

Magnesium is found primarily in nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes and dark green vegetables. It's also found in yogurt, salmon, fortified breakfast cereal, bananas, and potatoes. Although magnesium deficiency appears to be rare, magnesium supplements are fairly common and are often combined with calcium.

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Phosphorus

grilled meat
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Phosphorus is important for bone growth and normal cell membrane function. It works along with B-complex vitamins to convert the foods you eat into energy that your body needs for all your daily activities. 

Phosphorus is found in foods that are high in protein such as meats, nuts, seeds and legumes. Deficiency is rare and typically only happens with extreme malnutrition. Taking phosphorus supplements isn't necessary. 

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Potassium

Vegetables are rich in potassium.
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Potassium is needed for normal nervous system function and muscle contraction. It's found in the fluid inside your cells so it's essential for normal fluid balance throughout your body. Potassium can also counteract the impact of sodium on your blood pressure.

A healthy balanced diet should provide all the potassium you need. It's found primarily in fruits and vegetables, as well as in legumes, milk, nuts and meats. You may be able to find potassium supplements but don't take them without speaking with your medical doctor first.

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Sodium

Salt is high in sodium.
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Sodium works along with chloride to maintain fluid balance outside the cells. Sodium intake is important for regulating blood pressure. Sodium deficiency is rare, and in fact, getting too much sodium is a much more widespread problem.  Consuming too much sodium may elevate blood pressure in some people.

Sodium is found along with chloride in table salt and it's naturally found in small amounts in a variety of foods. But, most sodium comes from processed foods that contain salt or preservatives made with sodium. 

Learn More About Sodium

Sources:

Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center, Oregon State University. "Phosphorus." 

Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center, Oregon State University. "Potassium." 

Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center, Oregon State University. "Sodium (Chloride)." 

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. "Calcium Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet."

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. "Magnesium Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet." 

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