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Nutrition Basics: Part 4: Minerals

Welcome to the final installment of these posts rounding up some more “basic” nutrition around macro and micronutrients. To reiterate from previous posts (which can be found here: Nutrition Basics: Part 1: Macronutrients, Nutrition Basics: Part 2: Water Soluble Vitamins and Nutrition Basics Part 3: Fat Soluble Vitamins), focusing on taking in enough nutrition (calories in general) needs to be the number one priority. Then we can take a more fine tuned look at someone’s intake of macronutrients to ensure meals are balanced, filling, and satisfying. The final piece would then be to see where the micronutrients are coming from. All too often diet culture and disordered eating sort of flips these priorities upside down under the guide of a focus on “nutrition”, and vitamins/minerals without ensuring adequate intake of macronutrients and energy in general! Through the lens of gentle nutrition and Intuitive Eating, though you are able to honor your body and your hunger and use your nutrition ally voice to make choices that are enjoyable and satiating to you.

I really like this advice from Harvard Health website: “So how can you make sure you fulfill your micronutrient needs? It can be confusing (and unrealistic) to break down your daily meals into quantities of macronutrients and micronutrients… Instead of routinely buying the same foods and rotating through a stable of dishes, focus on "eating a rainbow": add more colorful foods in red, green, orange, and yellow to almost every daily meal.” (Source: The larger role of micronutrients).

So let’s talk about macro and microminerals. Macrominerals or major minerals are things such as phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, calcium, and potassium. These microminerals play a vital role in various bodily functions including maintaining and formation of bones, teeth, and muscle strength as well as contraction; blood pressure maintenance; immune function; energy production; and overall electrolyte and fluid balance in the body.

Food sources of major minerals:

  • Milk and milk products

  • Soy sauce

  • Table salt

  • Fruits and vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables)

  • Whole grains

  • Legumes

  • Eggs

  • Seafood (especially salmon and sardines)

Microminerals or trace minerals include iron, copper, zinc, selenium, and manganese. Just like with macro and micronutrients, the word micro indicates that the body needs trace amounts of these minerals. Roles of the trace minerals include: carrying oxygen throughout the body; components of many enzymes; regulating growth development and metabolism; and roles as an antioxidant to defend against free radicals.

Food sources of trace minerals:

  • Meat

  • Shellfish and seafood

  • Eggs and egg yolks

  • Grains

  • Legumes

  • Fortified breads and cereals

So that is it, folks! Remember as above - do not get too bogged down the minutiae of each individual nutrient; in general, a balanced diet will provide the average person with an adequate intake of all of these essential nutrients. Food is so much more than the sum of its parts. Nutrition is certainly important, but so is food accessibility, our relationship to food, and finding pleasure and satisfaction with our eating experiences.


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