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.
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.
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.