What is a Dietary Mineral?

Susan Grindstaff

The term dietary mineral is used to describe nutrients provided by certain foods. Even though the nutrients are referred to as minerals, they are completely different from minerals found in the earth. Earth minerals are chemical compounds, while dietary minerals are chemical elements. Some of the more common of these nutrients are iron, zinc, and calcium.

Red meat is a good source of iron, an important dietary mineral.
Red meat is a good source of iron, an important dietary mineral.

Calcium is believed to be the most necessary dietary mineral. It is needed to promote bone and nerve health and to strengthen muscles. Calcium can be found in several different types of food, including dairy products, sesame seeds, and broccoli. Common health conditions that can be caused by inadequate amounts of calcium include rickets and brittle bones. The body needs vitamin D to properly metabolize calcium.

Salt containing iodine, a dietary mineral.
Salt containing iodine, a dietary mineral.

Magnesium is a dietary mineral that works in conjunction with calcium to help promote bone health. In addition, magnesium helps the body absorb other nutrients. Inadequate amounts of magnesium can cause tiredness, irregular heartbeat, and stomach pain. Some of the best food sources for magnesium include nuts, cocoa, and shredded wheat.

Iron is essential for building proteins and enzymes found in blood. When blood does not contain sufficient amounts of iron, the ability to transport oxygen is diminished. Symptoms of iron-poor blood include lethargy, light-headedness, and shortness of breath. Most nutritionists recommend red meats and dark green vegetables as good sources of dietary iron.

Iodine is necessary for the body to be able to produce adequate amounts of hormones and to rid the body of toxins. In addition, iodine plays an important role in brain function. Most people get their daily supplement of iodine by adding iodized salt to their meals. Those who are on salt restricted diets can get iodine from seafood and sea plants such as seaweed and kelp.

Zinc is one of the most important dietary minerals, because it is necessary for a healthy immune system. For children, zinc is even more crucial because it can affect muscle growth and development. Some research indicates that zinc may also be necessary for the skin to reproduce new cells. Zinc can be found in many types of seeds and nuts and many organ meats. Zinc deficiency often causes vision problems, infertility, and hair loss.

Many people may find it difficult to incorporate the necessary amounts of dietary minerals into their daily diet. Vitamin and mineral capsules can be purchased at pharmacies that include the daily recommended dosages of these important nutrients. In addition, separate supplements for each individual dietary mineral are also available.

Kelp contains iodine and is normally consumed in soups and shredded in salads.
Kelp contains iodine and is normally consumed in soups and shredded in salads.

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Discussion Comments


Thankfully I don't take any prescription medications, but to take a handful of vitamin supplements every day.

One mineral supplement that I take that many people are not familiar with is alfalfa tablets. Alfalfa is helpful because it contains a lot of trace minerals that are hard to find in other supplements and food sources.

Taking an alfalfa supplement can have many benefits, but it really helps keep my joints from getting stiff. If I miss a few days of alfalfa, my hands feel stiff in the morning.

I think it is just as important to make sure our bodies get the proper amount of minerals as other vitamins and anti oxidants we know are good for us.


I try to eat healthy on a regular basis, but know there is no way I can get all the dietary minerals I need from the foods I eat.

I take a multi-vitamin everyday, but want to make sure and get extra calcium. I also take a mineral supplement with calcium and magnesium to ensure that I get the recommended amount of calcium I need every day.

Having magnesium in a calcium supplement helps with the absorption of the calcium.

It seems like we don't think about the importance of minerals very often. Many minerals are just as important as vitamins for our overall health and well being.

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