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Minerals in a nutshell

Mineral nutrients are inorganic elements found in food which the body cannot synthesise. Mineral nutrients are essential and vital components of all living cells and are involved in the metabolism of the body.

Mineral Nutrients: In Depth

Mineral nutrients make up about 4% of the weight of the human body.

Mineral nutrients are differentiated according to the amounts needed by the body. Macro minerals are nutrients which are required in larger quantities (generally more than 50mg per kg of the body weight). Trace elements or micro minerals are needed in smaller quantities (less than 50mg per kg of the body weight). Macro minerals are often (as on this page) called mineral nutrients in order to differentiate them from trace elements.

The human body needs mineral nutrients for many functions e.g. composition of body substances (bones, muscles) and the maintenance of enzymatic activities.

The Role of Mineral Nutrients in the Body:

  • Mineral nutrients are components of the skeleton and teeth. They strengthen the bones.
  • Mineral nutrients, in a dissolved form as electrolytes, influence vital characteristics of the bodily fluids e.g. maintenance of the osmotic pressure.
  • Mineral nutrients are essential elements of organic bonds in the body. Iodine is an element of the thyroid gland, cobalt from vitamin B12, iron from haemoglobin etc.

Mineral Nutrients in Food:

The amount of mineral nutrients that food contains is dependant on the fertility of the soil, i.e., how many mineral nutrients the soil had on which the plants grew or what type of food the livestock was fed. It should also be taken into consideration that certain nutrients can have stimulating or debilitating effects on the intake of other mineral nutrients.