The Minerals In The Body

2. The Minerals In The Body

2.1 A List of Major and Trace Minerals

We still do not know all the minerals that are present and utilized within the body. We do, however, recognize twenty-eight minerals that have definite uses in the body, and twelve other minerals whose uses are not fully understood.

The following thirteen minerals are found in appreciable quantities within the body and are listed in the order of their total percentages of the body’s composition:

Mineral Percentage of total body weight
Calcium 2.00%
Phosphorus 1.00%
Potassium 0.40%
Sulfur 0.25%
Chlorine 0.25%
Sodium 0.25%
Fluorine 0.20%
Magnesium 0.05%
Iron 0.008%
Manganese 0.003%
Silicon 0.002%
Copper 0.00015%
Iodine 0.00004%

The other following minerals are sometimes referred to as “trace minerals” because of the minute amounts present in the body:

Trace Minerals
Zinc  Titanium Argon
Cobalt  Tin Beryllium
Molybdenum  Silver Boron
Aluminium Rubidium Cerium
Chromium Nickel  Helium
Lead Mercury  Lanthanum
Neodymium Neon Scandium
Selenium Strontium Vanadium

2.2 Traditional Approach to Mineral Nutrition

Of the twenty-eight recognized minerals, recommended dietary allowances have been determined for only six: Calcium, phosphorous, iodine, iron, zinc and magnesium. The rest of the minerals are also important to the functioning of the body, but the exact body needs are too indeterminate to list.

We will discuss all the major minerals and some of the trace minerals as to their uses in the body, the recommended daily allowance (if known), the deficiencies caused by their absence and the Food Sources of these minerals.

This is the traditional approach to studying minerals and is a basis for understanding some of the other facts in this lesson. However, this approach does have some shortcomings, and we should note them.

First, their use in the body: No mineral is used in isolation within the body. All minerals interact with other minerals, vitamins, enzymes and so on. It is overly simplistic to say that “iron builds rich blood” or “calcium makes strong bones.” For instance, copper must also be present for the iron to be used in blood-building. Likewise, a certain amount of phosphorus must also be present along with the calcium to build bones. However, it is also a fact that certain minerals are utilized by the body as nutrients for specific organs moreso than other organs. Also, the body uses certain minerals in performing certain body functions. Nonetheless, in studying an individual mineral, keep in mind that it is only a part of a whole complex process.

Next, the effect of a mineral deficiency: A mineral deficiency rarely exists in a vacuum and is seldom the only cause for a condition exhibited by the body. Often, a mineral deficiency occurs even when there is an abundance of the needed mineral in the diet, but the body cannot digest nor assimilate the mineral. Mineral deficiencies are discussed at length later in this lesson.

The recommended allowance of a mineral: This can be almost meaningless. Mineral requirements depend upon individual constitution, climate, type of work, personality, age, sex, body weight, level of health and hundreds of other factors. There can never be one recommended allowance of a mineral that applies to everyone. All given Recommended Allowances may vary considerably and they should not be considered as “law.”

Finally, Food Sources of a mineral: Minerals are abundantly supplied in all foods natural to man’s diet (fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and sprouts). There are certain mineral-rich foods such as calf liver, clams, milk, etc. that are not suitable for the human organism, and any mineral content they may have is negated by the harmful effects they have on the body. Only suitable foods for man are listed in this lesson as sources of a particular mineral. Note also that the mineral contents of foods are calculated upon a fixed size portion (e.g., 100 grams, 4 ounces, etc.). This type of calculation unfairly favors the concentrated foods such as dried fruits, seaweed, nuts, seeds, etc. When choosing such foods keep in mind that ounce for ounce, a person normally eats a larger amount of the less-concentrated foods.

2.3 The Major Minerals in the Body

2.3.1 Calcium

Use in the Body: Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Almost 99% of the body’s calcium is in the skeletal structure and the teeth. Calcium is essential for the clotting of blood, the action of certain enzymes and the control of the passage of fluids through the cell walls. It is also essential to normal heart action and muscle contraction.

Effect of deficiency: Calcium deficiency results in retarded bone and tooth development and a fragile skeletal structure. Nervous irritability and muscle sensitivity are, also signs of calcium deficiency. Since calcium is needed for bone and tooth growth, children especially need an adequate calcium intake.

Recommended Allowances: The National Academy of Sciences has made the following recommendations for daily calcium intake:

Men and Women 800 milligrams
Children 800 milligrams
Teenagers 1200 milligrams
Infants 500 milligrams
Pregnant and Nursing Mothers 1200 milligrams

Food Sources: The following foods are high in calcium content:

Sesame seeds Oranges
Green vegetable leaves Strawberries
Almonds Papayas
Figs Most nuts
Sunflower seeds Most seeds
Broccoli Most green vegetables
Apricots Most fruits

2.3.2 Phosphorus

Use in the Body: Phosphorus occurs in the protoplasm and nucleus of every cell. It is used in more functions than any other mineral in the body. Phosphorus is necessary to metabolize fats, carbohydrates and proteins. It is used with calcium in the building of bones and teeth. The building of nerve tissue and brain cells requires phosphorus. Like calcium, the largest amount of phosphorus is found in the bones.

Effect of deficiency: A deficiency of phosphorus affects the skeletal structure similarly to a calcium deficiency. A lack of this mineral may also result in mental fatigue and a feeling of depression resulting from exhausted nerve energy.

Recommended Allowances: The following are the official Recommended Allowances for daily phosphorus intake (revised 1974):

Infants 400 milligrams
Children 800 milligrams
Teenagers 1200 milligrams
Adults 800 milligrams
Pregnant and Nursing Mothers 1200 milligrams

Food Sources: All seeds and nuts are excellent sources of phosphorus. In addition, the following foods contain a high percentage of phosphorus:

Coconuts Apples
Peaches Pears
Apricots Avocados
Broccoli Green vegetable leaves
Figs Carrots
Dates Mung bean sprouts
Cabbage Beets
Squash Persimmons

2.3.3 Potassium

Use in the Body: Potassium is a factor in tissue elasticity, healing injuries in the body, liver functioning, normal bowel activity and regular heart rhythm. It is used in regulation of nerve and muscle action and is needed for intercellular fluid balance.

Effect of deficiency: A lack of potassium often results in liver ailments, pimpling of the skin and the slow healing of sores. Weak muscular control and incomplete digestion also accompany a potassium deficiency.

Recommended Allowances: No official recommendations exist for potassium, but unofficial sources estimate the body’s daily potassium needs at about 3000 milligrams for adults and 1500 milligrams for children.

Food Sources: Potassium is abundantly supplied in a proper diet, and non-meat eaters should never have a problem in obtaining sufficient potassium. The following foods are especially rich in potassium:

Apricots Green vegetable leaves
Sunflower seeds Tomatoes
Peaches Bananas
Almonds Carrots
Raisins Beets
Dates Nectarines
Figs Cabbage
Avocados Lettuce
Pecans Almost all fresh fruits
Papayas Almost all fresh vegetables

2.3.4 Sulfur

Use in the Body: Sulfur is found in the hair, nails, cartilage and blood. It is essential in digestion and elimination, bile secretion, and the purification and toning of the system.

Effect of deficiency: The lack of sulfur may result in inhibition of functioning. It also results in restricted growth, eczema and poor growth of the nails and hair.

Recommendes Allowances: No official recommendations are made for sulfur. Almost all diets contain adequate amounts of this mineral.

Food Sources: The following foods are rich in sulfur:

All cabbage family members Cucumbers
Lettuce Pineapples
Avocadoes Peaches
Tomatoes Watermelon
Carrots Strawberries
Apples Oranges

2.3.5 Chlorine

Use in the Body: Chlorine is required for digestion and elimination. It is needed for normal heart activity and osmotic pressure in the blood and tissues.

Effect of deficiency: A lack of chlorine results in disturbed digestion and in waste retention. Also, a chlorine deficiency may manifest in pyorrhea.

Recommended Allowances: Unofficial estimates place daily chlorine needs at about 500 milligrams.

Food Sources: Sodium chloride (salt) and chlorinated drinking water are not sources of organic chlorine and are poisonous to the body. The following foods are good sources of organic chlorine:

Tomatoes Coconuts
Celery Bananas
Kale Pineapples
Turnips Raisins
Lettuce Mangoes
Avocados Strawberries

2.3.6 Sodium

Use in the Body: Sodium is utilized in the formation of digestive juices and in the elimination of carbon dioxide. It is needed in the osmotic pressure, maintenance of water balance and proper nerve function. Sodium is also necessary for the utilization of iron.

Effect of deficiency: A sodium deficiency can result in indigestion, arthritis, rheumatism and in gallbladder and kidney stones. Muscle cramps and nausea also accompany a lack of sodium.

Recommended Allowances: Sodium is usually plentiful in most diets. No official recommendations are made, but unofficial estimates of the body’s daily sodium needs are about 500 milligrams.

Food Sources: Sodium chloride (table salt) is not a source of organic sodium and is poisonous to the body. The following foods are good sources of organic sodium:

Strawberries Sunflower seeds
Celery Broccoli
Carrots Melons
Raisins Cabbage
Kale Lettuce
Beets Peaches
Sesame seeds

2.3.7 Flourine

Use in the Body: Flourine is found in the bones, teeth, blood, skin, nails and hair. It is essential to the body’s healing processes.

Effect of deficiency: A lack of flourine in the diet can result in tooth decay, weakened eyesight and spinal curvature.

Recommended Allowances: No recommended, allowances exist for flourine.

Food Sources: Flouridated water is not a source of organic flourine; it is injurious to the health. The following foods contain high amounts of organic flourine:

Almonds Carrots
Vegetable greens Exists in some quantities in all plants

2.3.8 Magnesium

Use in the Body: Magnesium is found in the blood albumen, bones and teeth. It is employed in carbohydrate metabolism and elimination. Magnesium is necessary for strengthening the nerves and muscles and in conditioning the liver and glands.

Effect of deficiency: A lack of magnesium contributes to nervous conditions and irritability. A poor complexion, heartbeat acceleration, digestive disorders and soft bones may also indicate a magnesium deficiency.

Recommended Allowances: The following reccommendations are made by the National Academy of Sciences:

Infants 60-70 milligrams
Children (1-4 years) 150 milligrams
Children (4-6 years) 200 milligrams
Children (7-10 years) 250 milligrams
Males (11-14 years) 350 milligrams
Males (15-18 years) 400 milligrams
Males (19 older) 350 milligrams
All females 300 milligrams
Pregnant and Nursing Mothers 450 milligrams

Food Sources: The following are good sources of magnesium:

Almonds Cherries
Dates Green vegetable leaves
Bananas Beets
Walnuts Avocados
Raisins Pears
Raspberries Broccoli
Mangoes Canteloupe

2.3.9 Iron

Use in the Body: Iron is found primarily in the hemoglobin of the body and is closely connected with the quality of blood. About two-thirds of all the body’s iron is in the bloodstream, with the remainder distributed in the marrow of the bone, the liver and the spleen. Iron is also used in the building of bones, brain and muscle and in the carrying of oxygen throughout the body.

Effect of deficiency: The most dramatic sign of an iron deficiency is anemia and paleness of complexion. A lack of sufficient iron also results in limited growth and a low vitality level.

Recommended Allowances: The Official recommended daily allowances for iron (revised 1974) are:

Children (1-3 years) 15 milligrams
Children (4-10 years) 10 milligrams
Males (11-18) 18 milligrams
Males, Adult 10 milligrams
Females (11-50 years) 18 milligrams
Females (51 and over) 10 milligrams

Food Sources: The following are good sources of organic iron:

Sesame seeds Figs
Peaches Green vegetable leaves
Apricots Lettuce
Raisins Mung bean sprouts
Walnuts Broccoli
Almonds Berries
Dates Cherries

2.3.10 Manganese

Use in the Body: Manganese is chiefly found in the liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, prostrate gland, adrenals, brain and bones. It is used in the metabolism of carbohydrates, and in strengthening tissue and bone. Manganese, like iodine, is used in thyroxine formation in the thyroid. It also seems to be connected with regulation of the blood sugar level.

Effect of deficiency: It should be noted that the National Academy of Sciences has officially stated that no one has observed a manganese deficiency in humans. In laboratory experiments with animals, an induced manganese deficiency produced restricted growth, glandular disorders and defective reproductive functions.

Recommended Allowances: No official recommendations are made for manganese. Unofficial sources place the body’s daily manganese needs at about 15-25 milligrams for adults and 2-15 milligrams for children.

Food Sources: Manganese is found in significant quantities in the following foods:

Bananas Leafy vegetables
Beets Carrots
Celery Squash
Cucumbers Nuts

2.3.11 Silicon

Use in the Body: Silicon is found in the blood, muscles, skin, nerves, nails, hair, connective tissue and teeth. The pancreas is especially rich in silicon. Silicon is also noted for its use in antiseptic action.

Effect of deficiency: Insufficient silicon in the body may result in baldness or the graying of hair. Skin irritations and rashes may develop easily. Hearing and vision may also be affected, and the teeth may decay.

Recommended Allowances: No official daily allowance has been determined for silicon.

Food Sources: Silicon is often concentrated in the skins and outer layers of vegetables and fruits. The following are good sources of silicon:

Lettuce Beets
Strawberries Carrots
Cucumbers Tomatoes
Sunflower seeds Cabbage
Celery Watermelon
Cherries Apples
Apricots Bananas
Figs Grapes

2.3.12 Copper

Use in the Body: Copper is found in the liver, gallbladder, lungs and heart. It is essential primarily for the absorption and metabolism of iron.

Effect of deficiency: A deficiency in copper results in the same effects as an iron deficiency, such as retarded hemoglobin production, general debility, limited growth, etc.

Recommended Allowances: No official recommendations are made for copper allowances. Some sources have estimated about 2 milligrams per day. Very few cases of copper depletion have been observed in humans.

Food Sources: All of the following foods contain a significant amount of copper:

Nuts Sunflower seeds
Raisins Sesame seeds
Leafy vegetables  

2.3.13 Iodine

Use in the Body: Iodine is found mainly in the thyroid gland. It is essential for the formation of an organic iodine compound called thyroxine which regulates some of the metabolic functions. Iodine is required in the oxidation of fats and proteins and for circulatory functioning.

Effect of deficiency: An iodine deficiency is partially responsible for goiter (the enlargement of the thyroid gland) and cretinism (a subnormal metabolism). A lack of iodine also leads to sensitivity to toxic accumulations, low

physical and mental activity and a susceptibility to nervous disorders.

Recommended Allowances: Daily iodine needs are very small. The following are the Daily Dietary Allowances (revised 1974):
Infants (0-5months) .035 milligrams
Infants (5-12 months) .045 milligrams
Children (1-3 years) .060 milligrams
Children (4-6 years) .080 milligrams
Children (7-10 years) .110 milligrams
Males (11-14 years) .130 milligrams
Males (15-18 years) .150 milligrams
Males (19-22 years) .140 milligrams
Males (23-50 years) .130 milligrams
Males (51 over) .110 milligrams
Females (11-18 years) .115 milligrams
Females (19-50 years) .100 milligrams
Pregnant & nursing mothers .125-.150 milligrams

Food Sources: Iodine is found in high amounts in all sea vegetation. The following are also good sources of iodine:

Swiss chard Kale
Turnip greens Strawberries
Squash Peaches
Mustard greens Lettuce
Watermelon Bananas
Cucumbers Carrots
Spinach Tomatoes
Pineapples Grapes

2.3.14 Zinc

Use in the Body: Zinc is found in the brain, genital organs, thyroid, liver and kidneys. It is needed in the healing of wounds and in the transfer of carbon dioxide from the tissue to the lungs. Zinc is also required in the manufacture of insulin and in the regulation of blood sugar.

Effect of deficiency: A lack of zinc may result in mental depression, prostrate troubles and absence of taste. A zinc deficiency may also result in defective intestinal absorption and restricted growth.

Recommended Allowances: The allowances for zinc as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences in 1974 are:

Infants (0-5 months) 3 milligrams
Infants (5-12 months) 5 milligrams
Children (1-10 years) 10 milligrams
Adults 15 milligrams
Pregnant and Nursing Mothers 20-25 milligrams

Food Sources: Zinc is found in the following foods:

All seeds and nuts, especially pumpkin seeds
Sprouted wheat
Most green and yellow vegetables


Other Minerals

The functions and daily allowances of the other minerals in the body have not yet been fully understood. All are important to the health of the human organism, however, and should not be disregarded.

These minerals, often called “trace minerals,” will usually be found in sufficient quantities in diets which contain adequate amounts of the major minerals. Like the major minerals, all requirements of the trace minerals are supplied in a varied diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouts.

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