The best food sources for minerals

Want to increase your mineral intake? Discover the best food sources of minerals including magnesium and iron

Most of us know we should be getting certain vitamins every day, such as vitamin C, but minerals in food remain a bit of a mystery. And if we don’t know what they are, how can we make sure we’re eating enough?!

What are minerals?

Minerals are inorganic substances, meaning they’re not living plant or animal sources.1 They’re essential for a range of functions in the body, including maintaining strong bones and teeth, normal nerve function, and building body tissues.2

Which minerals do I need?

Minerals are divided into two groups: major and trace minerals. Major minerals are ones we need more than 100mg of a day, while trace minerals are ones we need less than 100mg of a day.3

Major minerals include:

  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • sodium

Trace minerals include:

  • iron
  • zinc
  • selenium

Food sources of essential minerals

Calcium

Our bodies contain more calcium than any other mineral. It’s vital for healthy bones and teeth, blood clotting and muscle contractions.5 Where to find it: Dairy products such as yoghurt and cheese, and green leafy veg including kale, broccoli and cabbage.6

Handpicked content: What can I do with kale?

Magnesium

Magnesium is involved in over 300 functions in the body, including helping bones absorb calcium, turning food into energy, and healthy nerve and muscle function.7,8 Where to find it: Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, nuts, brown rice, wholegrain bread and dairy products.9

Iron

We need iron to produce haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen around the body. Iron also supports our immune system.10 Where to find it: The richest food source is meat, but vegetable sources include dark green veg like spinach and broccoli, beans, nuts, and dried fruit such as apricots.11 Have some vitamin C with plant sources to help your body absorb the iron more efficiently.12

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Sodium

Sodium chloride – salt to the rest of us – is one mineral we’re eating too much of. Although we need it for balancing fluids and body salts, too much is linked to high blood pressure.13 Where to find it: Salt is often added to ready meals, bread, bacon, and some breakfast cereals. You shouldn’t eat more than 6g of salt a day – most of us are eating 8g – so keep an eye on your intake.14
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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Sources

1. Harvard Health Publishing. The best foods for vitamins and minerals. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-best-foods-for-vitamins-and-minerals
2. British Nutrition Foundation. Minerals and trace elements. Available from: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/nutrients-food-and-ingredients/minerals-and-trace-elements.html?showall=1&limitstart=
3. Netdoctor. Sources of minerals. Available from: https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-eating/a10839/sources-of-minerals/
4. As Source 2
5. As Source 1
6. NHS Choices. Vitamins and minerals. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/others/#magnesium
7. As Source 2
8. As Source 6
9. British Dietetic Association. Food fact sheet – iron. Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/iron_food_fact_sheet.pdf
10. As above
11. As Source 2
12. As Source 2
13. As Source 6

Nutrition