110. A Miniguide to Minerals

Nutrients like calcium, iron, and zinc are just as essential as vitamins.  The table below shows, in capsule form, how much you need, what foods supply significant amounts, and the functions various minerals perform.  Use it to plan a mineral-rich menu. (As with vitamins, however, sometimes diet alone can’t satisfy the need for certain minerals. Pregnancy, menstruation, illness, crash dieting, food allergies, use of medication, or other circumstances may call for mineral supplements.)

Chapter 4
  1. Eating for Better Health


* Reference Daily Intake (RDI) is a value set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in nutrition labeling. It is based on the highest Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for each nutrient, to assure that needs be met for all age groups.

U.S. Reference Daily Intake (RDI)*


1,000 milligrams

Milk and dairy products, sardines, salmon eaten with bones, oysters, tofu, green leafy vegetables, clams, citrus fruit.

Food Sources

Primary Functions

Deficiency Symptoms

Needed for building strong bones and teeth and maintaining strong bones throughout life. Required for normal muscle contraction and relaxation, heart action, nerve function and blood clotting.

Stunted growth in  children,

weakened bones in adults, bones that break easily. (Deficiency disease:  osteoporosis.)











120 micrograms

2 milligrams

150 micrograms

18 milligrams

400 milligrams

1,000 milligrams

3,500 milligrams

70 micrograms

2,400 milligrams

15 milligrams

Brewers yeast, meat, clams, whole grains, unrefined foods, cheeses, nuts.

Works with insulin to take sugar into cells. Involved in breakdown of sugar to release energy.

Impaired glucose metabolism. (May lead to adult onset diabetes.)

Organ meats, shellfish (especially oysters), whole grains, nuts, legumes, lean meat, fish, fruits, vegetables.

Needed for hemoglobin and to make red blood cells. Forms protective coverings for nerves. Part of several enzymes. May be involved with vitamin C in forming collagen. Needed in respiration and release of energy.

Anemia, bone defects, retarded growth, impaired metabolism.

Iodized salt, sea salt, seafood, seaweed, foods grown in iodine-rich soil, dairy products from animals fed iodine-rich feed.

Part of thyroxide, a hormone secreted by the thyroid gland, which helps to regulate growth, development, reproduction, and metabolic rate (rate at which calories are burned.)

Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), sluggishness, and weight gain.  Can cause severe retardation of developing fetus during pregnancy.

Organ meats, red meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, enriched breads and cereals, egg yolks, legumes, leafy green vegetables, dried fruits, blackstrap molasses.

Part of hemoglobin which carries oxygen to cells. Part of

myoglobin which makes oxygen available for muscle contraction.  Needed for use of energy by the cells.

Anemia, fatigue, muscle weakness, headaches, pale skin, inability to concentrate.

Whole grains (especially wheat germ and bran), nuts, legumes, dark green vegetables, seafood, chocolate, cocoa.

Builds protein. Needed to release energy from food. Helps relax muscles after contraction. Helps resist tooth decay. Needed for transmission of nerve impulses.

Confusion, nervousness, disorientation, hallucinations.  Muscle weakness can progress to convulsions, and ultimately tetany.  (Deficiencies are unlikely unless another medical problem exists.)

Milk and dairy products, fish, meat, poultry, egg yolks, nuts, legumes, peas, whole grains, processed foods, soft drinks.

Aids in building strong bones and teeth.  Activates vitamins for use.  Needed to release energy from food.  Needed for trans-mission of nerve impulses.

Muscle weakness, loss of appetite, bone pain. (Deficiencies are un-likely unless another medical problem exists.)

Lean meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, milk and dairy products, nuts, legumes, most salt substitutes.

Needed for muscle contraction, heart action, nerve transmission, fluid balance. Involved in making proteins. Needed for maintenance of acid-base balance.  Required for formation of glycogen (short-term storage of energy).

Muscle weakness, irregular heartbeat, apathy, confusion and loss of appetite. (Deficiencies are un-likely, unless excessive water loss occurs through vomiting, diarrhea, extreme sweating, or use of diuretics.)

Organ meats, seafood, lean meats, eggs, whole grains, wheat germ.

Works with vitamin E to act as antioxidant and protect cell membranes.

Heart muscle abnormalities, anemia (rare).

Salt, soy sauce, monosodium glutamate (MSG)., most processed foods (especially regular soups, sauces, and cured meats), milk and dairy products.

Needed for normal fluid balance, both inside and outside cells; nerve transmission, acid-base balance, and muscle contraction.

Muscle cramps, weakness, mental apathy, loss of appetite.  (Deficiencies unlikely, unless another medical problem exists.)

Liver, egg yolks, oysters, lean meat, fish, poultry, milk and dairy products, whole grains, vegetables.

Works as part of many enzymes.  Present in insulin. Needed for making reproductive hormones, normal sense of taste, and wound healing.

Retarded growth, prolonged wound healing, slow sexual development, loss of taste (as a result, loss of appetite).