Minerals are chemical elements required by humans and other forms of life.
Although most living organisms need
the same minerals as humans, the amounts and even types required vary from organism to organism.
Some microorgansims (eg. bacteria, fungi) can easily thrive without the minerals we require because their metabolisms
can be shifted to utilise other biochemical pathways in order to use what's available to them.
Aside from minerals, we also require oxygen, nitrogen, hydrgen and
carbon, which are chemical elements as well. However, we don't classify these as dietary minerals because we
obtain the carbon, hyurogen, oxygen and nitrogen i large amounts sonsidering it's contained in almost
everything we consume.
Don't confuse the term mineral with that used for rocks and other substances mined from the ground.
Dietary minerals come from the ground as well, and we use this term to refer to these nutritional
or dietary minerals as 'minerals' as well. The word mineral comes from the latin word
mineralis (mine, or, to mine). Thus, we can understand why the
term mineral that we use in the dietary, or nutritional sense, has its 'roots' in geology and mining.
How do we obtain these minerals?
Minerals in the ground, are absorbed by plants and their root systems. Roots are specially designed to
absorb water, mierals and other nutrients from the soil. Many plants even have the ability
to break down or decompose rock via chemicals contained in their root systems. Once
the minerals and other nutrients are absorbed into the roots, they are circulated into the plant and
incorporated into its stucture.
When we eat the plant in question, we obtain the minerals contained in that plant. Keep in mind that
different species of plants store different concentrations of minerals and even different types.
This is why a balanced diet is important.
We can also acquire minerals from meat sources, since many animals eat plants, or other animals
that have already eaten plants. This is the food chain and how we obtain nutrients.
Last but not least, we can also obtain minerals from supplements. This is good if our diet, lifestyle
prevents us from obttaining minerals, or medical conditions prevent us from properly
The essential and non essential elements. Note:
The elements in
represent essential elements. Those in
that MAY be essential but have not yet been proven to be.
The elements designated in PURPLE
are essential and found in abundance in all foods, and therefore, never need to be supplemented,
except in medical circumstances (ie., oxygen supplementation)
The elements designated in
are not essential and most are either very dangerous or have some toxic effect. Some source
plance Fluorine in the GREEN category. However, since it a) has not been shown to be included
in any biochemical pathway, and b) accumulation in the skeletal system can cause bone necrosis
and is tumorigenic, it is placed in the RED here.