Minerals In Food: The 20 Best Foods Rich In Minerals

The word ‘minerals’ often comes hand in hand with vitamins. They’re both types of micronutrients; this means we need them in smaller amounts compared to the macronutrients of protein, fats and carbohydrates.

The difference between vitamins and minerals mostly lies in their chemical bonding, and how the body can break these nutrients down and absorb them. Minerals are made of slightly sturdier stuff than vitamins and are more likely to hold onto their chemical structure. Vitamins can be broken down by heat, light, or acid (such as stomach acid).

In this article we’ll explain why minerals are important, and which foods are the most mineral-rich:

What Are Minerals In Food?

Minerals are organic compounds that can be found in soil and water, which are then absorbed into plants and the bodies of the animals that eat those plants. Minerals are used for growth and repair of tissues, energy and metabolism, and correct cellular functioning. A deficiency in any of the micronutrients may lead to a specific set of symptoms as well as general symptoms such as lack of energy, brain fog, and poor immune functioning.

Why Do We Need Minerals?

Most adults require up to 100 milligrams per day of any micronutrient, although the recommendations for each vitamin and mineral can vary. The body is unable to synthesise some minerals completely; other minerals can be synthesised but not in adequate amounts. Therefore, minerals must be obtained through dietary sources.

What Minerals Do We Need In Our Body?

The five most important minerals are calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and magnesium. Many of these are used for cellular reactions within the body; many cells contain gated channels that use these nutrients as the opening and closing mechanism. Trace elements are those that are considered to have specific functions and include iron, zinc, iodine, copper, sulphur, choline, cobalt, manganese and selenium.

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Foods Rich In Minerals

1. Natural yoghurt

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, with 98% of it being stored in bones. Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth, with low levels leading to brittle bones and increased risk of fractures. Dairy products such as natural yoghurt, cheese and cow’s milk are all excellent sources of calcium.

2. Table salt

Salt is the everyday name for sodium chloride. Sodium is needed for fluid regulation, especially within the kidneys. It’s also needed to help support stomach acid production. Sodium is found naturally in many foods, but excess consumption can lead to negative health consequences such as high blood pressure so add salt sparingly.

3. Dried apricots

Dried fruits, especially dried apricots are an excellent source of potassium. They also have the added benefit of being high in fibre, which can be beneficial for gut health (especially if you’re prone to constipation).

4. Tofu

Well-known as vegan source of protein, tofu can also be utilised as a source of calcium. Calcium content varies depending on manufacturing methods, so look for brands that list calcium as an ingredient – it is often used as a setting agent which gives tofu its unique texture.

5. Brazil nuts

One Brazil nut a day is often considered the minimum amount needed to reach your selenium needs. Brazil nuts have a creamy and slightly bitter flavour and contain healthy, unsaturated fats. Selenium helps to support thyroid health, which is key to normal metabolism.

6. Sushi

Many of the sushi rolls available to buy are wrapped in nori, a type of sea vegetable. This wrapping contributes to the flavour of sushi, and is an excellent source of iodine. Some countries add iodine to their salt to boost intake however, this doesn’t include the UK. Like selenium, iodine helps to support functioning of the thyroid gland.

7. Chia seeds

These tiny seeds are a nutritional powerhouse, often falling into the category of ‘superfood’. Chia seeds are high in fibre, contain moderate amounts of protein, and are also a source of magnesium. Add a sprinkle of chia seeds to your smoothie or oatmeal bowl for an extra nutrient boost.

8. Bananas

There’s a reason that many athletes reach for a banana during their rest break! Bananas are high in potassium, a nutrient essential for many different functions. Potassium has especially important roles in heart health and fluid balance.

9. Red meat

Red meat is notoriously high in iron. It contains haem iron, which is the most bioavailable (easiest to process) type of iron. Haem iron can be used effectively, as the body can extract the maximum amount of iron from the haem containing foods. The recommended intake of red meat is up to 70g per day to reduce the risk of negative health consequents.

10. Lentils

When it comes to iron, it’s not all about red meat! Many beans and legumes contain non-haem iron, a type of iron that is less easily absorbed by the body. However, this type of iron is essential in vegetarian and plant-based diets. Lentils also act as a source of protein and are a versatile cooking ingredient.

11. White potatoes

The humble potato is often misunderstood to be nutritionally lacking .however, it contains copper, potassium and fibre (especially when the skin is left on). Embrace your air fryer and try a new way of cooking your potatoes, whether it’s crispy Hassel-back style, skin-on wedges, or a simple jacket spud.

12. Hazelnuts

Not only are hazelnuts important as a crucial ingredient in chocolate spread, but they are also a source of manganese. Hazelnuts add a delicious creamy flavour when used in baking, and also work well toasted. Manganese acts as a helper for various cellular reactions so is essential for healthy functioning.


13. Pumpkin seeds

These nutty tasting seeds contain zinc, a nutrient important for the absorption of vitamin C. Zinc also has its own beneficial properties and plays a role in both anti-inflammatory mechanisms and skin cell turnover. Add a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds to a salad or pasta dish for an extra dose of zinc and healthy fats.

14. Fortified processed foods

Processed foods such as breads and cereals often have a bad reputation. However, these types of foods are typically fortified, which means they have had extra nutrients added. This can be especially important if you struggle to meet certain nutrient needs. Iron, zinc and vitamin D are common minerals used for food fortification.

15. Dark chocolate

Chocolate helps to boost the happy hormones dopamine and serotonin, and also contains nutritional benefits! Dark chocolate contains antioxidants which can help to reduce levels of inflammation. It also contains small amounts of both iron and copper.

16. Cheese and milk

Dairy products are not only a source of calcium, but also contain phosphorus, potassium, and choline. Dairy products often also contain vitamin D, which is essential for the absorption of calcium. Aim for cheeses and milk products that are less processed for maximum health benefits.

17. Spinach

One of the most readily available superfoods, spinach consumption is linked to a whole host of health benefits. Spinach is a source of calcium, iron and magnesium, as well as various vitamins. Add a handful of raw spinach to a salad, or stir some cooked spinach through a pasta sauce or curry.

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18. Salmon

Oily fish such as salmon are well-known for containing omega-3 fatty acids (healthy fats). However, salmon is also high in phosphorus, a nutrient essential for the metabolism of calcium and vitamin D. It is recommended to eat at least 2 portions of oily fish per week.

19. Avocados

A source of healthy fats (as well as being delicious on toast), avocadoes are also a source of copper. This is one of the trace element minerals, which plays a role in energy metabolism. A balanced diet will usually provide the daily requirements for copper.

20. Tuna

Not a fan of brazil nuts? Tuna can act as an alternative source of selenium. Unfortunately, tuna doesn’t count towards weekly oily fish recommendations – however, it can be useful to incorporate this into a balanced diet due to the high protein and low calorie content.

Talk To A Nutritionist

This article is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice. If you have any concerns about your health or diet, please contact your GP or other relevant healthcare professional.

Take Home Message

A balanced diet can provide most of the minerals we need however, supplementation may be needed for extra support. It is important to have a range of different foods as this will maximise vitamin and mineral intake. Many of the foods in this list can be commonly found in most supermarkets, and should be easy to incorporate into your weekly food shop.

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What minerals do we need?

For optimum health, we need a balanced intake of all the minerals and vitamins.

What is the most important mineral for your body?

There are five main minerals which includes calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and magnesium. However, it is important to include all minerals in the diet, not just the major ones!

What happens when you lack minerals?

Mineral deficiencies can lead to symptoms associated to a specific deficiency, or general symptoms such as change in appetite or bowel habit, muscle cramps, or pins and needles.

How do you increase minerals in your body?

Eating a varied and balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains will help to increase mineral levels. However, some people may require extra supplementation to boost their intake further.

What happens if you have too many minerals?

Having an excess of minerals commonly leads to symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or fatigue. Excess sodium consumption can increase the risk of high blood pressure.

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Rachel is a qualified Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) who holds an MSc in both Applied Human Nutrition and Physician Associate Studies. Over the last year, Rachel's been working as a freelance nutrition writer and coach, with her areas of interest including weight loss and specialist dietary requirements. As well as this, she's contributed towards published research on weight loss, and is currently studying the role of plant-based diets in health-conscious individuals.