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Fitness and Nutrition

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Minerals

Like vitamins, minerals are substances found in food that your body needs for growth and health. There are two kinds of minerals: macrominerals and trace minerals. Macrominerals are minerals your body needs in larger amounts. They include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and chloride. Your body needs just small amounts of trace minerals. These include iron, copper, iodine, zinc, fluoride, and selenium.

Minerals, some of their actions, and good food sources
MineralActionsSources
Calcium
  • Needed for forming bones and teeth
  • Helps nerves and muscles function
Canned salmon with bones, sardines, milk, cheese, yogurt, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, broccoli, and calcium-fortified orange juice.
Chloride
  • Needed for keeping the right amounts of water in the different parts of your body
Salt, seaweed, rye, tomatoes, lettuce, celery, olives, sardines, beef, pork, and cheese.
Copper
  • Helps protect cells from damage
  • Needed for forming bone and red blood cells
Organ meats, shellfish (especially oysters), chocolate, mushrooms, nuts, beans, and whole-grain cereals.
Fluoride
  • Needed for forming bones and teeth
Saltwater fish, tea, coffee, and fluoridated water.
Iodine
  • Needed for thyroid gland function
Seafood, iodized salt, and drinking water (in regions with iodine-rich soil, which are usually regions near an ocean).
Iron
  • Helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to body tissues
  • Helps muscles function
Red meats, poultry, fish, liver, soybean flour, eggs, beans, lentils, peas, molasses, spinach, turnip greens, clams, dried fruit (apricots, prunes, and raisins), whole grains, and fortified breakfast cereals.
Magnesium
  • Needed for forming bones and teeth
  • Needed for normal nerve and muscle function
Green leafy vegetables, nuts, bran cereal, seafood, milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Phosphorus
  • Needed for forming bones and teeth
  • Needed for storing energy from food
Milk, yogurt, cheese, red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, peas, and some cereals and breads.
Potassium
  • Needed for normal nerve and muscle function
  • Needed for keeping the right amounts of water in the different parts of your body
Milk, bananas, tomatoes, oranges, melons, potatoes, sweet potatoes, prunes, raisins, spinach, turnip greens, collard greens, kale, most peas and beans, and salt substitutes (potassium chloride).
Selenium
  • Helps protect cells from damage
  • Needed for thyroid gland function
Vegetables, fish, shellfish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken, liver, garlic, brewer's yeast, wheat germ, and enriched breads.
Sodium
  • Needed for normal nerve and muscle function
  • Needed for keeping the right amounts of water in the different parts of your body
Salt, milk, cheese, beets, celery, beef, pork, sardines, and green olives. (Many people get too much sodium. For tips on cutting back, see Reducing your sodium.)
Zinc
  • Needed for healthy skin
  • Needed for wound healing
  • Helps your body fight off illnesses and infections
Liver, eggs, seafood, red meats, oysters, certain seafood, milk products, eggs, beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, nuts, whole grains, fortified cereals, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds.

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Content last updated: June 17, 2008.

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