What is a mineral?
Antonia Ridley, Afghanistan
Minerals are inorganic elements that originate in the earth and sea and cannot be made by living systems. Plants obtain minerals from the soil. Over 3000 minerals are known and most of them are complex salts.
The human body requires minerals for a variety of functions. About 20 different minerals are important though not all functions are discovered yet. Minerals are essential elements because the body cannot produce them. Most of the minerals in our diets come directly from plants or indirectly from animal sources and water.Minerals are component of enzymes, hormones and body cells. They are essential for all the body functions: functions of nerves and muscles (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride), the construction of bone and teeth (phosphate, magnesium, calcium), the regulation of body water (sodium, potassium), the energy utilisation (sodium, magnesium), etc. Minerals are separated into the amount how they are needed. Some minerals are needed in larger amounts than others e.g. calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium and chlorine. Others are required in smaller quantities and are called trace minerals, eg iron, zinc, iodine, fluoride, selenium and copper. Despite being required in smaller amounts, trace minerals are no less important than other minerals.
UK FSA on minerals:
British Nutrition Foundation: