A complete list of minerals, their functions and deficiency symptoms

fresh strawberries lying on a table

What are minerals?

Minerals are essential nutrients involved in many bodily functions, some of which include:

  • Strengthening and Regulating Immune System
  • Growth and Healing
  • Tissue building eg. Muscle
  • Maintaining strong and healthy bones and teeth
full list of vitamins and minerals

Download the complete list of vitamins and minerals as well as their functions

As a holistic overview, minerals and vitamins are important for your overall health and wellbeing. You can also check out a complete list of vitamins, their functions and deficiency symptoms in this post. However, if you are reading this post because you are worried that your body is not getting enough of certain minerals then please check out our lab tests, especially the nutritional analysis test which checks for any vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about each mineral- what they do within your body, the recommended intake and its food sources. You can also download a full list of these minerals above!

Recommended intakes jargon

Throughout this article you may find the following nutrition jargon, so just to go over these before you read any further:

  • Dietary Reference Values (DRVs) provides a recommended range of nutritional intake for each nutrient. The DRV ranges meet the needs of every individual by providing lower, medium and higher average amount of each nutrient.
  • Lower Reference Nutrient Intake (LRNI) represents the lowest amount of each nutrient recommended for intake. It will only be enough for approx.2.5% of the population whose requirements are low.
  • Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) presents the upper amount of each nutrient recommended for intake.
  • Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) it is the estimated average and is sufficient for 50% of the UK’s population’s needs being met.

You can now identify these on food labels too!

Antioxidant minerals include:

Antioxidants are minerals that protect your body from a variety of toxins and harmful bacteria. These will collaborate together with other vitamins and minerals to boost your immune system. Antioxidant minerals include:

  • Zinc is essential in the production of superoxide dismutase, an enzyme that collects and removes free radicals (toxins)
  • Manganese and copper are utilised in the production of superoxide dismutase
  • Selenium is an element of glutathione peroxidase which is another free radical quenching enzyme.

What are two groups of minerals?

In addition to antioxidants, there are two groups of minerals – macro and micro-minerals.



Firstly, Calcium is needed for the creation and maintenance of strength and density of bones and teeth. Low calcium or failure to absorb calcium can lead to low bone density, osteoporosis and osteomalacia. You can obtain this mineral from;

  •  Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • canned fish
  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • cabbage
  • celery
  • Flour
  • Cereals
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Tofu

Moreover, a recommended intake varies on age, gender and certain medical conditions. For an average adult it is set at 700mg or 17.6 mmol per day. Excess may lead to kidney stones.

Sodium (salt)

Regulates body’s water content and works as part of nerve functioning. However, deficiency can lead to not only fatigue and nausea, but also to cramps and strong thirst. Sources of sodium are almost every day foods but mostly table salt. The DRV is set at 1600mg per day, an average person takes 2-10g per day. On another note, excess salt can cause high blood pressure so just be careful with how much you are having. Remember, purchased food will normally already have salt added to it.


In addition to other minerals, potassium is important for muscles, nerve cells and organs including the heart, kidneys and adrenal glands. Potassium combined with chloride and sodium regulates water and fluid within our body. Regular eating of potassium-rich foods can help body store carbs in a form of glycogen which is the preferred source of energy for your body.

The recommended DRV is set at 3500mg per day.

In contrast to benefits, deficiency can lead to muscle weakness, mental confusion, and heart failure in extreme cases. Whereas, excess may produce hyperkalaemia, with symptoms ranging from tiredness, weakness, numbness, tingling, nausea, trouble breathing to chest pains. You can obtain potassium from;

  •  all meats
  •  broccoli
  •  peas
  •  lima beans
  •  tomatoes
  •  potatoes
  •  banana
  •  citrus fruits
  •  Apricots.


Phosphorous is another mineral found in every cell in the body and is used in all the energy pathways.

High levels are very rare and mainly occur in people with severe dysfunction which disables calcium regulation. Some Sources of may include;

  •  Milk
  •  Cheese
  •  Fish
  •  Eggs

Recommendation based on report 41 is (RNI) 17.5 mmol per day.


Plays a vital role in the formation and strengthening of bones and teeth and helps to manage the levels of calcium within the blood. Magnesium can be used to reduce irregular heart rhythms and muscle contractions as it is involved in making of proteins and helping blood circulate smoothly.

Deficiency can lead to hypomagnesemia and can be heightened by starvation, alcoholism, acute pancreatitis and prolonged diarrhoea. You can obtain Magnesium from;

  •  Meat
  •  animal products
  •  wholegrain cereals
  •  nuts & seeds (almonds, peanuts, pumpkin sunflower seeds)
  •  spinach
  •  broccoli
  •  green beans
  •  cucumber
  •  celery

The recommended RNI is set to 270mg per day for women and 300mg per day for men.



This is an important component of haemoglobin and myoglobin and gives them their oxygen carrying capability. In other words, Iron enhances oxygen distribution throughout the body. It is also an important component of many enzymes, helping to keep immune system healthy and the body to produce energy.

Infants, toddlers, adolescents, pregnant women and people who drink tea regularly may be more vulnerable to deficiency. As a result, this may lead to anaemia. It may be worth consuming foods high in vitamin C which you can find in this list of vitamins. Vitamin C enhanced absorption of Iron.

The RNI for women is set to 14.8mg per day and male 8.7mg per day. Over consumption is rare unless they have a condition called hemochromatosis which leads to excessive absorption and storage of the mineral.


Is present in every tissue of the body but it’s mainly stored in liver. It is a component of two enzymes that form part of the body’s antioxidant defense system that protects your body from  tissue damage caused by free radicals.

Deficiency is mostly seen in infants and they may suffer from anemia, skeletal fragility and infections. Defects in adults may cause problems with cardiovascular functions.

Foods that contain copper are;

  •  Liver
  •  Shellfish
  •  whole grains
  •  spinach
  •  green beans
  •  asparagus
  •  squash
  •  Tomatoes.

The DRV for adults is set to 1.2mg per day. High intakes may cause vomiting and diarrhea and build up copper can be fatal.


Zinc is present in all tissues, essential for growth, repair and sexual maturation. It is involved in the major metabolic pathways that contribute to the metabolism of Carbs, fats, proteins, and energy and amino acids, and acts as an antioxidant.

Deficiency is rare but may lead to delayed puberty and retarded growth.

The sources include;

  •  red meats (beef, venison, lamb)
  •  Offal (liver)
  •  Cereals
  •  Bread flour
  •  Vegetables (pumpkin, spinach, broccoli, greens, peas and asparagus.

Recommended intake is 9.5mg per day for men 7mg per day for women. High intakes can affect iron and copper absorption.


Selenium is an essential ingredient of an enzyme called glutathione peroxidase, which is an important part of the body’s antioxidant defence system. This enzyme protects the cell structure against the harmful effects of free radicals. Deficiency can contribute to the formation of cancer and coronary disease.

It can be obtained from:

  •  Fruit
  •  Veg
  •  Cereals
  •  Meat
  •  Fish
  •  Eggs
  •  Brazil nuts.

In this case, the DRV for adults is 75mcg per day for men and 60mcg per day for women. However, excess may result in nail dystrophy or poor nail growth.


Fluoride is found in bones and teeth where it strengthens them through increasing tooth mineralization and bone density, and it can also reduce tooth decay. However, deficiency may lead to poor dental health and may lead to increased cavities, weak bones and teeth. Sources include;

  •  tap water
  •  tea
  •  Sea food

As well as toothpastes, some water companies add fluoride to their products to support teeth and bones. Despite the symptoms of deficiency, the recommended DRV does not exist as there is no physical requirement for it.


This is a trace element found in seawater, rocks and some types of soil. The mineral forms an important part of the hormones called thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These two hormones are the major contributors to controlling the body’s metabolic rate. They also play a role in the integrity of connective tissues and cellular metabolism. Deficiency is quite rare but has large effects for pregnant women. In the first 3 months of pregnancy, it is vital for the baby’s development of the nervous system. On the contrary, a baby with Iodine deprivation may suffer from dwarfism and mental retardation. Conditions also known as cretinism. You may find Iodine in:

  •  Milk
  •  Yogurt
  •  Eggs
  •  seafood’s (dried seaweed) sea fish, sea bass, haddock and perch are good sources)

Also, RNI is set to 140mg per day. However, excess may cause swelling of the neck due to enlargement of the thyroid gland


Chromium helps maintain insulin levels, it’s important because Insulin is a hormone that helps to regulate blood sugar levels. For instance, insulin will move sugar into the body tissues where it needs to produce energy. However, deficiency effects are currently under study. Sources include;

  •  Brewer’s yeast
  •  Meat especially liver
  •  Nuts
  •  Whole grains,
  •  Bran cereals
  •  Potatoes.

NO RNI is set but it is recommend to take 25mcg per day for adults.


In conclusion, all the minerals work better and more effectively together. Some foods provide high levels of some minerals but low of another, hence why we need to have a balanced diet. If you have enjoyed this post, please join our community of like minded people! Sign up below to be notified of future posts, nutrition tips and exclusive discounts! Also, if you subscribe today you can download 20 FREE nutrition and exercise tips as well as 6 fat loss recipes. Subscribe below to download.


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Cho S, Dietrich M, Brown CJ, Clark CA, Block G. The effect of breakfast type on total daily energy intake and body mass index: results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). J Am Coll Nutr. 2003;22:296–302

Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation on Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases, Geneva, 2002

Yu ASL. Disorders of magnesium and phosphorus. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 120

NHS – https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-keep-your-teeth-clean/

Paula Moynihan and Poul Erik Petersen (2004). Diet, nutrition and the prevention of dental diseases Public Health Nutrition: 7(1A), 201–226.

Walker et al (2000) National Diet and Nutrition Survey: young people aged 4-18 years. Volume 2: Report of the Oral Health Survey. London: The Stationary Office.

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