You’ve probably heard that fruits and vegetables contain important vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to be healthy. But what’s the difference between these two nutrients? Because vitamins and minerals are often spoken about together, it’s not uncommon for these two nutrients to get mixed up. Although they’re both incredibly important for our health, they’re actually quite different! Vitamins are made by plants and animals, while minerals are found in the earth, soil, rock, and water, and are absorbed by plants and eaten by animals.
Minerals can be categorized into 2 groups: trace minerals (which we need in smaller amounts) and macrominerals (which we need in larger amounts).
- Iron helps transport oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our body. It’s found in foods like meat, eggs, whole grains and some fortified cereals.
- Manganese is an important part of many metabolic enzymes. Metabolic enzymes are responsible for making our food into useable energy for our bodies. It’s found in beans, nuts, whole grains and leafy greens.
- Copper works with iron to produce red blood cells. Not to mention, copper helps our bodies absorb more iron. It also contributes to the health of our blood vessels, nerves, bones and immune system. This mineral is found in shellfish (like shrimp, crab and lobster), nuts and seeds, dark chocolate, and leafy greens.
- Iodine is needed to produce thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone controls metabolism and how our bodies are able to use food as energy. This hormone is also responsible for your heart rate, digestion, energy levels and mood. Iodine is found in salt labeled “iodized”, tuna, cod, shrimp and dairy products.
- Zinc is needed for proper immune function, wound healing, and DNA and protein production. It’s found in beef, pork, chicken, legumes and some fortified breakfast cereals.
- Fluoride helps strengthen our teeth and fights against cavities. Although fluoride is found in tiny amounts in some foods, we mostly get it from our local water supply, toothpaste and mouth wash.
- Selenium promotes a strong immune system as well as proper brain function. It’s found in eggs, brown rice, bread, brazil nuts and tuna.
- Calcium builds strong bones and teeth. Without it, we’re more likely to break or fracture our bones (ouch!). It’s found in dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt. It’s also found in leafy greens, seeds and canned salmon.
- Phosphorus repairs various tissues and cells throughout our bodies, keeps our bones strong and healthy, and helps get rid of waste. It’s found in whole grains, potatoes, meat, dairy products and eggs.
- Magnesium is a big helper when it comes to protein formation, muscle movement, and converting food into useable energy. Foods like dark chocolate, avocados, nuts, legumes and tofu are all rich in magnesium.
- Sodium is responsible for balancing the amount of water that is present inside and outside of our cells. It also works to keep our muscles (including our heart!) and nerves working properly. It’s found in lots of different foods (salt, cured meats, packaged foods, some frozen foods, canned foods, etc.), making deficiencies uncommon.
- Potassium is important for muscle contraction and nerve function. This mineral is found in bananas, tomatoes, potatoes and oranges.
- Chloride balances the fluid inside and outside of your cells (similar to sodium!). It also works to maintain stable blood pressure. Seaweed, rye, tomatoes, lettuce, celery and olives are all high in chloride.
- Sulfur helps turn our food into energy and plays a role in making proteins and DNA. It’s found in meat, fish, dried fruit, legumes and eggs.
Now that you know a little more about the importance of minerals and where to find them, how about whipping up a mineral-rich snack or meal for yourself? Here are a few thought starters:
- yogurt topped with banana slices and nuts (rich in calcium, potassium and copper)
- whole grain toast topped with avocado and a hard boiled egg (rich in iron, selenium and magnesium)
- salad made of leafy greens, legumes, tuna, and tomatoes (rich in manganese, sulfur, iodine and potassium)
Your turn! Show us your yummy, mineral-rich creations by clicking the link here!