What are minerals? Why minerals are necessary in our diet?

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Our body needs organic compounds such as protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Besides these, our body also needs some inorganic substances such as metals, non metals and their salt though in small amounts. These metals, non metals and their salts are called minerals. There are several important minerals which are essential for our body like Iron, Iodine, Calcium, Phosphorus, Sodium, Potassium, Zinc, Copper, Magnesium, Chlorine, Fluorine, and Sulphur.

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Necessity of minerals in our diet:

Minerals are very important for a body to maintain heart rate, make strong bones, make hormones, and improve brain power. Our body can use minerals as a compound form. We cannot eat minerals in pure form. Our body needs mineral for its suitable performance, normal growth, and good health. Minerals are also used to build bones, teeth, formation of red blood corpuscles, coagulation of blood, functioning of muscles, nerves and thyroid gland.

There are some minerals which are essential for enzymes for their proper functioning. Minerals do not give any energy to our body. They are essential for the metabolic activities of the body and for the construction of certain tissues.

Important minerals and their functions:

Our body needs a large number of minerals but the more important ones are Iron, Iodine, Calcium, Phosphorus, Sodium and Potassium.

  • Iron – It is one of the most important mineral which is essential for our body. Iron is used to prepare a protein called haemoglobin present in blood. This haemoglobin is used in transferring oxygen from the lungs to the body cells through the blood. Thus iron is an important component of haemoglobin in the blood. Since iron is needed in the formation of blood, therefore the amount of iron should be increased during pregnancy and lactation. Some of the major sources are Bajra, Ragi, Eggs, Ground-nuts, Spinach and other green vegetables.
  • Iodine – Iodine is another important mineral which is essential for our body. Iodine is used in small quantities for the making of thyroid hormone called thyroxine. which is prepared in the thyroid gland and it maintains the physical, mental and sexual growth of the body. There are some sources of iodine in our body are fish, sea-food, and Iodized salt.  There is another mineral called fluorine that plays an important part in preventing dental decay.
  • Calcium – Calcium salts are used for making strong bones and teeth. It also helps in blood clotting, and the proper working of the muscles. Due to lack of calcium, our heart will not function properly, blood will not clot and muscles will not properly work. The salt of calcium needed by our body is calcium phosphate. Some important  sources of calcium in our diet are Milk, Cheese, Beans, Green Leafy vegetables, Cereals, Meat, Fish, Ragi, and Tapioca
  • Phosphorus – Phosphorus is also important for the formation of strong bones and teeth. It is also used for the conversion of carbohydrates into energy. Phosphorus is very important for our body because it is a component of A.T.P., D.N.A., and R.N.A. The important sources of phosphorus in our diet are Milk, Green Leafy Vegetables, Bajra, Ragi, and Nuts. Milk is one of the important food item which contains both calcium and phosphorus in good amount.
  • Sodium and Potassium – Salts of sodium and potassium like sodium chloride and potassium chloride are essential to maintain the osmotic pressure of body fluids. Sodium chloride is also used in the formation of hydrochloric acid of gastric juice which is present in the stomach and essential for digestion. Sodium ions are needed to initiate and maintain the contraction of heart.

    The important source of sodium chloride in our diet is the table salt or common salt used in cooking food. Sodium chloride is also present in small amounts in vegetables and even milk. Since large amounts of water, and some salts are lost by our body through sweat in hot summer days or during hard physical work. We should drink a lot of water containing a little amount of common salt to make up for this loss and prevent dehydration.
  • Copper – Copper is also necessary for nerve functioning, red blood cell formation etc. It is present in beans, raisins, nuts, meat, shellfish etc. So they are necessary in our diet. Other minerals required for body to prevent damage of cells, healing wounds etc. It is present in fruits, pea-nuts, potatoes, spinach, and chicken.
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