Minerals, in everyday use misleadingly often also briefly called minerals (or minerals), are vital, inorganic nutrients which the organism cannot produce itself; they must be supplied with food.

Classification of minerals

The minerals for the human organism are divided according to two criteria: concentration and function.

By concentration:

quantity elements – also macro elements, minerals with a concentration above 50 mg/kg body weight.

trace elements – also microelements, minerals, with a concentration below 50 mg/kg body weight. Exception: iron, which belongs to the trace elements due to its mode of action, although 60 mg/kg are contained in humans.

Ultra trace elements – minerals that occur in concentrations of less than 1 microgram/kg body weight.

By Function:

building materials – e.g. sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.

control substances – e.g. iron, iodine and copper.

In contrast to some vitamins, minerals are insensitive to most preparation methods because they are not organic. The elements are usually present as ions or in the form of inorganic compounds. For example, they cannot be destroyed by heat or air. However, they can be leached out of the food if they are cooked for too long in too much water.

Consequences of an Overdose

In all cases the correct dosage is crucial: both deficiency and overdose can be dangerous. Excessive intake can cause poisoning because some microelements are toxic. This is an example:

  • Arsenic poisoning
  • Selenium poisoning
  • Copper storage disease


Following an Undersupply

A lack of essential trace elements can cause severe deficiency symptoms in living beings. The best-known deficiency symptoms are:

  • anemia (anemia) in iron deficiency
  • Metabolic disorders due to iodine deficiency

Reasons for a shortage of trace elements

  • increased excretion, for example through sweating or diarrhea
  • metabolic diseases
  • Regional conditions (e.g. occurrence in arable land)
  • Food habits

Functions of minerals in the organism

Salad head
Salad contain many important minerals

Some minerals are in a functional control loop and influence each other, for example, sodium and potassium, which act as counterparts in nerve signal conduction.

Some are components of hormones, such as iodine in thyroid hormone. Others, such as some quantitative elements, dissolved as electrolytes in the form of positively charged cations and negatively charged anions, ensure electron neutrality in the body fluids between the tissues and the maintenance of osmotic pressure.

For a number of trace elements, it is still unclear today whether they are a random component of humans or whether they actually have a physiological function.

List of minerals – divided into quantitative, trace and ultra-trace elements

Here you will find a list of all known minerals, classified by concentration. If available or known, information about the daily requirement, in which foods contain, the task and the symptoms of a deficiency symptom of the respective mineral are described.

quantity elements

NameDaily requirementscontain intaskdeficiency
MagnesiumCa. 300 mgIn all food products, mineral water.As coenzyme participation in approx. 300 enzyme reactions in the human organism.restlessness, nervousness, irritability, headache, lack of concentration, fatigue, general weakness, arrhythmia, muscle cramps, and others.
Sodium1000 – 3000 mgfood grade saltForwarding of excitation in nerve cells, regulation of the water balance.In case of deficiency (hyponatremia) -> increase in cell volume. In case of oversupply (hypernatremia) -> cells shrink. In both cases: Brain function impaired, epileptic seizures, loss of consciousness, coma.
PotassiumCa. 2000 mgMushrooms, bananas, beans, cheese, potatoes (depending on soil and fertilization) and much more.control of muscle activity.Hypokalemia -> decrease in muscle contractility. Lack of potassium in the blood can lead to cardiac arrest. In competitive athletes, excessive sweating can cause cramps and fatigue.
sulphurCa. 900 mg (estimated)All high protein foods such as eggs, milk, meat, etc.Building block of peptides, proteins and coenzymes, component of taurine, etc.not yet observed in humans.
chlorineCa. 3200 mgfood grade saltInfluence on the water balance.Muscle cramps and disturbances of heart function due to disturbance of the acid-base balance.
PhosphorCa. 750 mgDairy products, meat, fish, bread, etc.component of DNA, RNA, ATP, etc.; important for phosphorylation and much more.For children and adolescents: Growth disorders, problems with bone and tooth formation.
In adults:  weight loss, unexplained fatigue.
Calcium450 – 1000 mg (with sufficient vitamin D3)poppy seeds, sesame seeds, cheese, parsley, rocket and much more.Excitation of muscle cells / nerves, bone structure, blood coagulation, etc.99% of calcium is found in bones and teeth. One of the most common deficiency symptoms is osteoporosis.

Tracking elements

NameDaily requirementscontain intaskdeficiency
Vanadium< 10 microgramspulses, nuts, seafoodsupport of the function of different enzymes in the organism. Contributes to bone and cell growth.A deficiency is not known in humans. At present, little is known about whether vanadium must be supplied to the organism at all and in what amounts.
Manganese1 mgBlack tea, nuts, whole grain and green leaf vegetablesActivator and component of numerous enzymes, antioxidative metabolism, cartilage and bone synthesis, gluconeogenesis.Very rarely observed: Reduction in enzyme activity.
Silicon30 mgmillet, beerEssential component of mucopolysaccharides in epithelia and connective tissue.loss of bone stability (osteoporosis), premature hair loss, brittle nails and skin changes, and increased susceptibility to infections.
Copper1-1.5 mgwhole cereals, nuts, cocoa, some green vegetables, ruminant, fish and shellfish offalComponent of numerous redox enzymesanaemia (anaemia), because the build-up of haemoglobin is disturbed. Reduced skin pigmentation.
Fluor3-4 mgBlack teaThe crystallization nucleus promotes the storage of calcium compounds in hard tissue.Causes bad teeth in children.
Iodine200 Microgramsea fish, crustaceans, edible algaecomponent of thyroid hormones.Cropf (not always visible) which can cause swallowing and breathing difficulties.
Zinc12-15 mgAnimal foods, especially cheese, offal, muscle meat, some fish species, and especially shellfish.Zinc-dependent enzymes are involved in almost all life processes, e.g. synthesis of collagen, thymulin, testosterone or breakdown of alcohol by alcohol dehydrogenase.Changes in hormonal balance and enzyme activity are associated with loss of appetite, delays in wound healing and an increased risk of infection.
Iron10-15 mgmeat, legumes, broccoli (the previously assumed high iron content of spinach is due to a comma error).constituent of many enzymes, e.g. haemoglobin.anaemia with fatigue, shortness of breath, exhaustion, pallor and significant loss of performance.
Selen20 – 100 microgramsSelenium-fed farm animals (Central Europe), eggs, meatcomponent of 30-50 selenoproteins.Are not known to us, but occur in some areas of China and Eastern Siberia. There severe selenium deficiency can lead to a pathological enlargement of the heart and to severe diseases of the joints.
Cobalt0.2 MicrogramAnimal products of all kinds, sour vegetables.component of cobalamin (vitamin B12), essential only as such.not yet observed in humans.
Molybdenum50-100 microgramsPervasive (ubiquitous).component of the universal molybdenum cofactor.Very rarely cardiac arrhythmias and decreased uric acid production.
Chrome25-100 Microgram (estimated)Meat, wholemeal products, vegetable oils, beer.Component of the glucose tolerance factor.Very rarely a disturbance of the utilization of glucose, thereby diabetes symptoms.

Ultra track elements

Ultra-trace elements include:

arsenic, nickel, rubidium, tin, boron, bromine, cadmium, lead and lithium

For a number of ultra-trace elements such as boron, bromine, cadmium, lead, lithium – some of which are very toxic – it is still unclear today whether they are an accidental (= coincidental, insignificant) component of humans or whether they have physiological significance for humans. The roles of arsenic, nickel, rubidium, and tin have not yet been fully clarified.

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William C. Hilberg
As an author, Mr. Hilberg has published several papers on health issues that have gained international recognition. He is close to nature and loves the seclusion and activity as a freelance journalist. In his function as editor William C. Hilberg manages the entire content of PENP. Our team greatly appreciates his expertise and is proud to have him on board.