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Minerals

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Along with vitamins, minerals are vital nutrients found in food which help the body to convert food into energy, control body fluids and build strong bones and teeth.

The main minerals

Minerals are found in a wide variety of foods including fruit, vegetables, cereals, milk and dairy products, meat and fish. The following are the main minerals which are essential to maintaining a healthy body:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Phosphorous

Calcium

Calcium is one of the most important minerals in the body. For more information on calcium visit Calcium.

Iron

What does iron do?
Iron is necessary for healthy blood. A lack of iron can lead to iron deficiency anaemia which is associated with frequent infections, tiredness and low moods.

Good sources of iron

  • Red meat
  • Oily fish
  • Liver
  • Dried apricots
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Wholegrains
  • Fortified breakfast cereals

Iron from plant foods is not absorbed as well as it is from animal sources. Vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron from foods so serve plenty of fruit and vegetables at mealtimes.

How much do I need?
By eating a healthy and varied diet most people should be able to obtain all the iron they need. Women need 14.8mg per day and men need 8.7mg per day. Women who have heavy periods and teenage girls starting their periods are especially vulnerable to iron deficiency. Contact your GP for advice on iron supplements if necessary.

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Magnesium

What does magnesium do?

Magnesium has several functions, it helps the parathyroid gland, which produces vital hormones for bone health, to work normally and it helps the body turn food into energy.

Good sources of magnesium:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Bread
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Dairy foods

How much do I need?
Magnesium is found in a variety of foods, so by eating a healthy, varied diet you should be able to obtain the recommended amount: 300mg a day for men and 270mg a day for women.

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Potassium

What does potassium do?
Potassium is an important mineral and has a variety of functions. It controls the balance of fluids within the body and is thought to help lower blood pressure.

Good sources of potassium:

  • Fruit (especially bananas) and vegetables
  • Beef
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Nuts, seeds and pulses
  • Milk
  • Fish and shellfish

How much do I need?
As with most minerals you should be able to obtain sufficient potassium in your diet (3500mg a day for adults) by eating a wide variety of healthy foods.

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Phosphorous

What does phosphorous do?
Phosphorous has a variety of roles in the body, it helps release energy from food and it works in conjunction with calcium to build strong bones and teeth.

Good sources of phosphorous

  • Fish
  • Dairy foods
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Red meat
  • Nuts

How much do I need?
Adults need 550mg of phosphorous a day; by eating a well balanced, healthy diet you should be able to get this amount from dietary sources.

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Sodium

Sodium is found in the diet as sodium chloride or salt. For more information on salt in your diet visit: Salt

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For more information

Visit The Food Standards Agency  for some more useful advice on vitamins and minerals (this link opens a new window).

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