Last updated on November 3, 2023
Although minerals are found in meager amounts in foods, they are vital components for health. Minerals cannot be produced in the body and therefore must be taken from outside with food.
Minerals have different roles and functions in the body. Therefore, many various ailments and diseases can occur in their deficiencies. In this respect, it will be helpful to examine each mineral separately.
1. Calcium (Ca)
There is 1.2–1.5 kg of calcium in the body of a healthy adult individual. While almost all of this amount is found in the structure of bones and teeth, 12–15 grams are found in other tissues. Approximately 200–400 mg of calcium is removed from the body daily.
An adult should take daily calcium an average of 800 mg. The daily need of individuals in the growth and youth (11-24 years) is 1.2 grams. The need for women during pregnancy, lactation and menopause is 1.3–1.5 grams per day. Likewise, the daily need for individuals over 65 is 1.3–1.5 grams.
The richest source of calcium is milk and dairy products. The calcium absorption in milk and dairy products is also higher than in other foods. Among dairy products, the food with the highest calcium absorption is yogurt. There is approximately 250 mg of calcium in 100 mL of milk.
Other rich sources of calcium are sesame, nuts, almonds, molasses, seafood, green leafy vegetables, legumes and dried fruits. Meat, cereal products and fruits are calcium-poor foods.
Functions of calcium in the body;
1. The essential function is to ensure the development and health of bones and teeth.
2. Takes part in nerve conduction in the nervous system,
3. Effective in regular and healthy functioning of the muscles,
4. Has a role in blood coagulation,
5. Necessary for the activation of hydrolytic enzymes,
6. Effective on blood pressure,
7. Effective in maintaining electrolyte balance,
8. Has a positive effect on the risk of colon cancer.
The calcium level in the blood is 8.8–10.8 mg/dL. Cramps, muscle contractions and tremors can be observed when the blood level falls below these values. Symptoms can disappear immediately after calcium intake.
An inadequate diet can cause calcium deficiency. Calcium deficiency can be also caused by insufficient vitamin D intake. In case of insufficient vitamin D intake, even if enough calcium is taken, the calcium taken cannot be absorbed sufficiently from the intestines.
As a result, deficient vitamin D intake leads to the inability to meet the calcium requirement. On the other hand, high protein, salt and caffeine intake also causes excessive calcium to be excreted from the body.
Calcium deficiency causes bones and teeth to become brittle and unhealthy. The bone disease manifests itself as rickets in children, osteomalacia and osteoporosis in the elderly. Lack causes irregular work, cramps and contractions in the muscles.
A high intake of calcium in the diet can cause constipation, kidney stone formation and disorders in bone development. On the other hand, heavy calcium intake can also reduce the absorption of minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus. The daily intake of calcium should not be over 2.5 grams.
2. Phosphorus (P)
There are approximately 700 grams of phosphorus in the body of an adult individual and 85% of this amount is in the structure of bones and teeth.
Functions of phosphorus in the body;
1. Vital for bone and tooth development and health,
2. Involved in the structure of cell membranes and protective sheaths of nerve cells,
3. Imperative in terms of energy metabolism; It takes place in the structure of ATP (adenosine triphosphate),
4. Provides activation of some enzymes.
The daily phosphorus requirement of the body is 0.8–1.2 grams. Since it is found in almost all foods, its deficiency is rare. Generally, foods high in protein are also high in phosphorus. The primary sources of phosphorus are; meat and meat products, eggs, legumes, nuts, milk and dairy products and oilseeds. Phosphorus found in animal foods is superior to phosphorus found in plant foods in terms of bioavailability.
Phosphorus deficiency can be seen in premature infants who are breastfed for a long time and in patients who take aluminum hydroxide for a long time. Phosphorus deficiency can cause bone loss, weakness, anorexia, kidney failure and intestinal problems.
On the other hand, excessive phosphorus intake increases the amount of urinary excretion of calcium, magnesium and potassium. As a result, excessive phosphorus consumption can cause osteoporosis and secondary hyperparathyroidism.
3. Sodium (Na)
There are about 100 grams of sodium in the body of an adult individual. Sodium is usually found in extracellular fluids.
A sodium intake of at least 500 mg per day is required. However, since it is found in almost all foods, its deficiency is not uncommon. Animal foods contain more sodium than plant foods.
Table salt (NaCl), pickled olives, cheese, water and liquid foods are the richest sources. Since salt use is high in our society, excess intake rather than sodium deficiency poses a risk to health. Daily salt consumption should not exceed 6 grams.
Functions of sodium in the body;
1. Regulates osmotic pressure in the body,
2. Provides activation of some enzymes,
3. Effective on the absorption of nutrients from the membrane,
4. Necessary for the health of the nervous system and muscle tissue.
The kidneys take over the control of the sodium amount in the body. Sodium deficiency can be seen in cases of intense vomiting and diarrhea and excessive sweating. As a result of deficiency, disorders such as vomiting, mental confusion, cramps, weakness and coma may occur.
If sodium is taken in excess, it causes an increase in blood pressure and edema formation. In this case, especially salt consumption should be reduced.
4. Chlorine (Cl)
There are approximately 80 grams of chlorine in the body of an adult individual. Depending on sodium in extracellular fluids, it is found in relation to potassium in intracellular fluids.
It is recommended to take chlorine at a level of at least 750 mg per day. However, its deficiency is not uncommon. Salt consumption easily meets the daily chlorine need. On the other hand, it is present in more or less almost all foods.
This way, approximately 5-12 grams of chlorine intake per day is obtained. The removal of chlorine from the body is also very rapid.
Functions of chlorine in the body;
1. Plays a vital role in maintaining the body’s water balance,
2. Effective in regulating the osmotic pressure balance of the body,
3. Acts as a buffer in the creation of acid-base balance,
4. Necessary to produce hydrochloric acid (HCl), which is stomach acid; Therefore, it is extremely important in maintaining stomach acidity.
5. It helps to transport carbon dioxide in blood cells.
Conditions such as intense sweating, constant diarrhea and vomiting can cause chlorine deficiency. As a result, conditions such as loss of appetite, weakness and fatigue may occur.
5. Potassium (K)
There are approximately 150 grams of potassium in the body of an adult individual. Almost all foods contain more or less potassium. Therefore, its deficiency is not very common. Although the daily need is 1.6-2.0 grams, 2-6 grams of potassium is taken into the body daily in a standard diet.
The richest sources are dried fruits and vegetables, tomatoes, juices, coffee, tea, green leafy vegetables, meat and meat products, milk and dairy products, cereals and nuts.
Functions of potassium in the body;
1. Regulates intracellular osmotic pressure,
2. Helps maintain cell integrity,
3. Takes part in glycogen metabolism; necessary for the production of glycogen,
4. It is vitally important for the continuous functioning of the heart,
5. Takes a role in the regulation of blood pressure,
6. Affects the order of muscle movements.
Potassium deficiency is called hypokalemia. Vomiting, diarrhea, strenuous activity, kidney disorders and the use of certain diuretic drugs can cause potassium deficiency.
In its deficiency;
1. Anorexia, nausea and vomiting,
2. Cramps, problems in the nervous system and fatigue,
3. Disorders such as heart rhythm disorder and palpitations can be seen.
Potassium excess is called hyperkalemia. Hyperkalemia can lead to heart problems and kidney failure, leading to death.
6. Magnesium (Mg)
There are about 25 grams of magnesium in the body of an adult individual. It is found in almost all foods, especially plants with chlorophyll. Therefore, its deficiency is rare. The daily magnesium requirement is an average of 300 mg.
The magnesium requirement of the body increases in cases of high calcium and vitamin D intake and intense stress. The richest sources are coffee, tea, cocoa and nuts.
Functions of magnesium in the body;
1. Provides the activation of more than 300 enzymes involved in the digestion of foods and synthesis reactions,
2. Has an important role in cell growth and regeneration,
3. Has an active role in muscle work,
4. Helps nerve conduction,
5. Plays a role in maintaining osmotic pressure and acid-base balance in the body.
Magnesium deficiency is not encountered under normal conditions. However, magnesium deficiency can be seen in alcoholic individuals and individuals with kidney and intestinal disorders.
In its deficiency;
1. Nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite,
2. Growth retardation,
3. Involuntary muscle movements and tremors,
4. Problems in the nervous system,
5. Decreased calcium absorption,
6. Coma can be seen.
7. Zinc (Zn)
There are approximately 2 -4 grams of zinc in the body of an adult individual. While the daily requirement is 10 mg in children aged 1 to 10 years, it is 15 mg in individuals over 10.
The daily zinc requirement increases in the elderly, pregnant women and individuals who follow a strict diet and vegetarianism. Its deficiency can cause serious health problems and high doses have toxic effects.
The richest food sources in terms of zinc; are seafood, meat and offal, eggs, milk, dairy products, oilseeds and legumes. The absorption of zinc found in animal foods is higher than that found in plant foods.
On the other hand, phytates in the bran part of cereals prevent the body from benefiting from zinc. This situation is eliminated mainly in sourdough bread.
Functions of zinc in the body;
1. Activates more than 100 enzymes in the body,
2. Takes part in nucleic acid synthesis,
3. Has a role in protein and carbohydrate metabolism,
4. Effective in making the immune system strong,
5. Has important roles in growth and reproduction.
Zinc deficiency can occur with malnutrition and in individuals with intestinal absorption problems and in vegetarians.
In its deficiency;
1. Weakness in the sense of taste and smell,
2. Delay in the healing of wounds,
3. Weakening of the immune system,
4. Forgetfulness and difficulty in movement, problems in the nervous system,
5. Growth retardation, dwarfism,
6. Underdevelopment of the sex organs,
7. Liver and spleen enlargement,
9. In advanced insufficiency, anemia, heart failure, tumor formation, kidney disorders and jaundice can be seen.
Taking more than 2 grams of zinc per day can have a toxic effect. Toxic effects can be seen as metallic taste, diarrhea, hair loss, nail breakage, nausea and vomiting.
8. Iron (Fe)
There are 4-5 grams of iron in the body of an adult individual and about 60% in the structure of hemoglobin in the blood. Most of the remaining amount is stored in the liver.
The most critical function of iron in the body is oxygen transport. Iron participates in the structure of hemoglobin in the blood and provides oxygen from the lungs to the cells and carbon dioxide from the cells to the lungs. However, iron also participates in the structure of many enzymes. Iron is also a vital mineral for the immune system and mental activities.
In general, 0.9 mg of iron is excreted from the body daily. As a daily need, the iron that is thrown should be replaced with a diet every day. However, only 5-35% of the iron taken can be absorbed. Therefore, much more than the 0.9 mg requirement should be taken daily with the diet.
The recommended amount is 10 mg for adult men and 15 mg for adult women. The daily need increases in individuals who make the intense effort, pregnant women and individuals of developmental age.
Almost all foods contain more or less iron. The rate of absorption of iron found in animal foods is higher than that of iron found in plant foods. While 35% of the iron in meat can be absorbed in the intestines, this rate is between 5-10% in plant foods. Phytic acid in the structure of plants reduces the absorption of iron in plant foods.
Meat consumption is significant in increasing the absorption rate of iron found in other foods eaten with meat and being high in iron absorption. The best sources of iron in terms of the amount and absorption rate are liver and other offal, meat, eggs, molasses, tahini, green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, legumes, nuts, peanuts and sesame.
On average, 100 grams of liver contains 9 mg; 100 grams of meat 2.5 mg; one egg contains 1.4 mg; 25 grams of tahini contains 2.2 mg of iron.
Another critical point is; Dietary vitamin C and citric acid increase the absorption rate of iron. From this point of view, consuming citrus fruits such as oranges with meat in the meal can provide a higher absorption of the iron taken into the body. The consumption of tea and coffee reduces the bioavailability of the iron taken.
Iron deficiency is common in our society, especially in women. It can be recommended that individuals with iron deficiency be fed liver, offal, eggs, molasses, and nuts. However, these individuals have oranges and tangerines in their meals; It is recommended to stay away from tea and coffee to eliminate iron deficiency.
The most critical consequence of iron deficiency is anemia. In iron deficiency, discomfort such as dizziness, weakness, loss of appetite, easy fatigue, sleep disturbance, shortness of breath, palpitations, hair loss and nails becoming unstable can be seen.
It has been reported that excessive iron intake does not have a toxic effect. However, excessive consumption can cause health problems such as vomiting, stomach cramps and liver cirrhosis.
9. Copper (Cu)
There are approximately 100–150 grams of copper in the body of an adult individual. Deficiency is rare because it is found in many foods. However, taking too much has a toxic effect.
The recommended daily intake is 1.5–3.0 mg. The richest sources are liver, offal, seafood, sesame, hazelnut, peanut, legumes and meat. Only 5% of the copper taken with food can be absorbed by the body.
Copper has essential functions in the body;
1. Takes part in the activation of many enzymes,
2. Takes part in the production of collagen, which is connective tissue,
3. Effective on the skin, hair and eye color,
4. Takes part in cholesterol metabolism,
5. Takes place in the structure of hemoglobin in the blood,
6. Effective on immunity.
As a result of copper deficiency, conditions such as anemia, edema formation and deterioration of bone health can be seen.
Toxic effects occur in the individual due to excessive dietary intake of copper or consuming highly acidic foods prepared in materials such as copper pots. Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can be seen as toxic effects.
10. Manganese (Mn)
There are about 10–40 mg of manganese in the body of an adult individual. Deficiency is rare. Its primary sources are tea, green leafy vegetables, grains, nuts and walnuts. The recommended daily intake is 2–5 mg. The daily requirement is met with a regular diet.
Manganese acts as a catalyst in some reactions in metabolism. In its deficiency, development and growth problems can be seen in the skeleton.
Manganese excess is generally seen in workers exposed to manganese salts and fumes as an occupational disease. In excess, nervous disorders such as schizophrenia may occur.
11. Selenium (Se)
There are about 15 mg of selenium in the body of a healthy individual. The most important function of selenium for the body is its antioxidant effect in close relationship with vitamin E. It protects cells against cancer. In cases where there is enough vitamin E in the body, selenium affects growth positively.
The richest sources of selenium are seafood and meat. During the preparation of food, some selenium is lost by evaporation. The recommended daily intake of selenium is 0.05–0.1 mg.
Selenium deficiency is rare. Lack is generally seen in local people whose soil is poor in selenium. In selenium deficiency, extreme weakness occurs in the muscles. There may be a decrease in the elasticity of the heart and vessels.
Daily intake of selenium of more than 1 mg may cause nausea, vomiting, hair loss and skin lesions.
12. Cobalt (Co)
There is about 1 mg of cobalt in the body of an adult individual. Cobalt is found in almost all foods, albeit in small amounts. Its wealthiest sources are meat and dairy products.
Since it is in the structure of vitamin B12 (cobalamin), there is no deficiency in vitamin B12 when enough vitamin B12 is taken. It is known that cobalt is involved in the metabolism of sulfur-containing amino acids (cysteine and methionine) in the body.
However, it affects iron, the synthesis of thyroid hormones and hypertension. Excess cobalt intake has a toxic effect. It can cause fatal cases in workers exposed to too much cobalt in their work life, in patients who are constantly on dialysis and in individuals who drink beer contaminated with cobalt.
13. Iodine (I)
An adult individual has 10 to 20 mg of iodine in his body and about 70% is in the thyroid glands. Iodine participates in the structure of T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine) hormones secreted by the thyroid gland. For the thyroid gland to work correctly, there must be enough iodine in the body continuously.
The daily iodine requirement of the individual is directly proportional to the body weight and in general, two µg iodine intake per kilogram is recommended. For example, the daily iodine requirement of an individual weighing 80 kg is approximately 160 µg.
The body’s need for iodine increases in young people of developmental age, pregnant women, lactating women and in menopause. The richest sources of iodine are iodized salt, seafood, milk and eggs. One hundred grams of fish is about 30 µg; 1 gram of iodized salt contains between 7 and 70 µg of iodine.
Iodine is not naturally found in “iodized” salt. Since there is not enough iodine in the soil and waters of some regions, potassium iodide (KI) is added to the produced salts as an iodine additive.
Salt consumption is necessary for iodine intake; however, it is extremely important not to exceed 6 grams per day. Adding salt to the food from the beginning during cooking causes a significant part of the iodine contained in the salt to be lost by evaporation during cooking.
Therefore, adding salt after the food is cooked and ready may be advisable. Thus, the loss of iodine in the salt can be prevented.
Goiter occurs in iodine deficiency. Goiter is the enlargement of the thyroid glands, causing swelling in the front of the neck. Generally, an iodine intake of fewer than 50 µg per day can result in goiter.
Adequate iodine intake is very important for regulating and healthy functioning of basal metabolism. However, iodine is also necessary for healthy growth and nervous system development.
In iodine deficiency, “cretinism” disease, which has consequences in the form of mental retardation and visual disturbance, may also occur. Cretinism is especially seen in children born to pregnant women with iodine deficiency.
Daily intake of more than 2 mg of iodine can have a toxic effect.
14. Fluorine (F)
There are approximately 2.5 grams of fluorine in the body of an adult individual. Fluorine intake is extremely important, especially during childhood and developmental periods. The fluoride taken at these ages ensures that the teeth are protected against caries throughout life.
Adequate fluoride intake in the body also protects against osteoporosis in the elderly. However, fluoride intake cannot cure the disease after osteoporosis occurs. Therefore, the regular presence of fluoride in a healthy individual’s diet is necessary for dental and bone health.
A fluoride intake of 1.5–4 mg per day is recommended. The richest source of fluorine is water, tea and seafood. There is approximately 0.7–1.2 mg of fluorine in one liter of water.
If there is less than 0.7 mg/L fluoride in the drinking water of a region, the complaints of tooth decay are seen intensely in the local people. On the other hand, if there is more than 2 mg of fluoride per liter in drinking water, local people experience yellowness and brown spots (fluorosis) on the teeth.
Taking more than 20 mg of fluoride per day has a toxic effect.
15. Chromium (Cr)
There are approximately 6–12 mg of chromium in the body of an adult individual. The most critical task of chromium in the body is to increase the effectiveness of insulin and help carbohydrate and fat metabolism.
The recommended daily intake of chromium for adults and individuals of developmental age is 50–200 µg. The richest sources are liver, offal, whole grains, honey, cultivated mushrooms and nuts. In chromium deficiency weight loss, nervous system disorders and problems in sugar metabolism can be seen.
No side effects have been reported due to excessive dietary intake of chromium. However, diseases such as allergic dermatitis, skin ulcers and lung cancer can be seen in individuals exposed to industrial air waste and in workers who are heavily exposed to chromium-containing dust.
16. Nickel (Ni)
Nickel is present in the body at the nanogram level. The tissues with the highest concentration are hair, bone, heart, kidney and liver. Nickel increases the effectiveness of insulin. However, it is thought to affect blood formation, cell membranes and RNA synthesis.
The recommended daily intake for nickel is 100–300 µg. It is found in much higher amounts in plant foods than in animal foods. The richest sources are nuts, grains, legumes and chocolate.