Minerals are central to human nutrition and are part of uncountable functions in our bodies. There are certain minerals that are found in greater abundance in the body, and these are called macro minerals.
Although we don’t yet have one standard definition of what makes a mineral a “macro mineral”, there are seven minerals that are generally accepted in this category. These are: calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur.
When we think of calcium, we tend to think of bones. It is true that calcium is an important structural component of our bones and teeth, but calcium is also involved in processes that go on in our cells: blood clotting, enzyme activation, and it is central to muscle contraction.
Good food sources of calcium are milk and dairy products, sardines, clams, oysters, greens (like turnip and mustard greens), broccoli, beans, and dried fruits.
Chloride is an electrolyte in the fluid outside our cells, along with sodium. Just as a reminder, potassium is the major electrolyte inside our cells. Chloride helps maintain pH balance. It’s involved in enzyme activation and it is a major component of gastric acid.
We get plenty of chloride from salt in our foods. Table salt is sodium chloride, and most of us get a lot of salt from added salt in our meals and in processed foods. There is also plenty of chloride in seafood, milk, meat, and eggs.
Magnesium is a component of our bones and it is involved with the transmission of nerve impulses. It’s a part of protein synthesis and of enzyme activation. Good sources of magnesium are cereal grains (including brown rice and corn), nuts, beans, and peas (including soy beans), parsnips, chocolate, molasses, carrots, and seafood.
Phosphorus is a structural component of bones and teeth and it’s part of cell membranes, nucleic acids, and nucleotides, and it’s involved in ATP, ADP, phosphate transfer, and pH regulation.
Sources of phosphorus are meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and milk products, nuts, beans and peas, cereal grains, and chocolate.
Potassium is the major electrolyte of the fluid inside our cells. It helps maintain fluid balance and pH balance and it is involved in cell membrane transfer. Good sources of potassium are avocados, bananas, dried fruits like raisins, oranges, peaches, potatoes, dry beans, tomatoes, wheat, bran, dairy products, and eggs.
Sodium as mentioned is the other electrolyte in the fluid outside our cells along with chloride. It’s involved in fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction. You don’t need to go looking for sodium in your diet – you probably get more than enough. It is, of course, in table salt (or sodium chloride) and it is abundant in meat, seafood, cheese, milk, bread, and vegetables. In fact, about the only foods that don’t contain a good amount of sodium are fruits.
Sulfur is involved in some detoxification mechanisms in the body, but its main role is as a structural component of certain amino acids, and as a part of thiamine, biotin, and lipoic acid. Since sulfur is a part of most animal proteins, high-protein foods are a good source of sulfur. These include meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and cheese, beans, peas, and nuts are also good sources.