Minerals are inorganic, or carbon-free nutrients. Minerals are needed in small amounts to support human life.
Minerals are important to many parts of the body. They are an important part of the bones. They maintain the body's fluid balance. They control the balance between acids and bases. They are parts of other important compounds, such as iron in blood, and iodine, which is a part of the thyroid hormone.
People get minerals from food. There are 7 major minerals and 10 trace minerals. There are 4 minerals required in ultratrace amounts that might be essential.
Among the 7 major minerals, calcium and phosphorous are the most common. These are found in skeletal bone, teeth and muscle. Magnesium is found in much smaller amounts but is also important to bones. Other major minerals are the fluid-regulating electrolytes: sodium, potassium, and chloride. Sulfur is present as a part of proteins and vitamins.
The trace minerals are: chromium, selenium, fluoride, zinc, copper, iodine, iron manganese, molybdenum and cobalt. These are required in smaller amounts. Many of these minerals are parts of other compounds in the body. For example, iron is an important part of hemoglobin, which keeps oxygen in the blood. Iodine is a part of the thyroid hormones, and selenium is part of the important antioxidant, glutathione peroxidase.
The four ultratrace minerals are: nickel, arsenic, silicon and boron. These are present in such small amounts it is hard to study if they are truly essential to life.
Minerals are more stable than vitamins. Vitamins dissolve in water and/or break down in light and air. The mineral content of certain foods is influenced by the mineral content of the soil in which the foods are grown. Cooking utensils can also add minerals to food. The 17 minerals listed here are essential to life but are needed in very small amounts. Getting too much of any of these minerals can be toxic.