11.1 – Introduction to Major Minerals

Learning Objective

  • Describe the  role, intake recommendations and sources of major minerals


He puko`a kani `aina


A coral reef strengthens into land.


Figure 11.1.1: Choy Sum by pxhere.com / CCO.


Major minerals are classified as minerals that are required in the diet each day in amounts larger than 100 milligrams. These include sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and sulfur. These major minerals can be found in various foods. For example, in Guam, the major mineral, calcium, is consumed in the diet not only through dairy, a common source of calcium but also through the mixed dishes, desserts, and vegetables that they consume. Consuming a varied diet significantly improves an individual’s ability to meet their nutrient needs. 1

1 Pobocik RS, Trager A, Monson LM. Dietary Patterns and Food Choices of a Population Sample of Adults on Guam. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008; 17(1), 94-100. http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/APJCN/17/1/94.pdf. Accessed June 30, 2019. 


Figure 11.1.2: The Major Minerals. Image by Allison Calabrese / CC BY 4.0.
Major minerals listed: Sodium, Potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur. Trace minerals listed: Iron, copper, zinc, selenium, iodine, chromium, fluoride, manganese, molybdenum.



Minerals are not as efficiently absorbed as most vitamins and so the bioavailability of minerals can be very low. Plant-based foods often contain factors, such as oxalate and phytate, that bind to minerals and inhibit(interfere with) their absorption. In general, minerals are better absorbed from animal-based foods. In most cases, if the dietary intake of a particular mineral is increased, absorption will decrease. Some minerals influence the absorption of others. For instance, excess zinc in the diet can impair iron and copper absorption. Conversely, certain vitamins enhance mineral absorption. For example, vitamin C boosts iron absorption, and vitamin D boosts calcium and magnesium absorption. As is the case with vitamins, certain gastrointestinal disorders and diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and kidney disease, as well as the aging process, impair mineral absorption, putting people with malabsorption conditions and the elderly at higher risk for mineral deficiencies.


A table that summarizes Major Minerals via a row in this table
Micronutrient Sources Recommended Intake for Adults Functions Deficiency Diseases and Symptoms Groups at Risk of Deficiency Toxicity U.L.
Calcium Yogurt, cheese, sardines, milk, orange juice, turnip 1,000 mg/day Component of mineralized bone, provides structure and microarchitecture Increased risk of osteoporosis Postmenopausal women, those who are lactose intolerant, or vegan Kidney stones 2,500 mg
Phosphorus Salmon, yogurt, turkey, chicken, beef, lentils 700 mg/day The structural component of bones, cell membrane, DNA and RNA, and ATP Bone loss, weak bones Older adults, alcoholics None 3,000 mg
Magnesium Whole grains and legumes, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, beets, collards, and kelp 420 mg/day Component of mineralized bone, ATP synthesis and utilization, carbohydrate, lipid, protein, RNA, and DNA synthesis Tremor, muscle spasms, loss of appetite, nausea Alcoholics, individuals with kidney and gastrointestinal disease Nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure 350 mg/day
Sulfur Protein foods None specified Structure of some vitamins and amino acids, acid-base balance None when protein needs are met None None N D
Sodium Processed foods, table salt, pork, chicken < 2,300 mg/day; ideally 1,500 mg/day Major positive extracellular ion, nerve transmission, muscle contraction, fluid balance Muscle cramps People consuming too much water, excessive sweating, those with vomiting or diarrhea High blood pressure 2,300 mg/day
Potassium Fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, milk 4700 mg/day Major positive intracellular ion, nerve transmission, muscle contraction, fluid balance Irregular heartbeat, muscle cramps People consuming diets high in processed meats, those with vomiting or diarrhea Abnormal heartbeat N D
Chloride Table salt, processed foods < 3600 mg/day; ideally 2300 mg/day Major negative extracellular ion, fluid balance Unlikely None None 3,600 mg/day


Key Takeaways

  • See the Table above for a summary of the major minerals.



The University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Food Science and Human Nutrition Program: Allison Calabrese, Cheryl Gibby, Billy Meinke, Marie Kainoa Fialkowski Revilla, and Alan Titchenal


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Nutrition 100 Nutritional Applications for a Healthy Lifestyle Copyright © by Lynn Klees and Alison Borkowska is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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