01 Jun 2020

Mineral rich foods: which whole foods to eat for your daily minerals

author Ashley Owen
Unlike their famous cousins, the vitamins, minerals are often overlooked when we evaluate our diets. However, we need a range of minerals to perform an enormous range of vital processes in our bodies. Luckily, you can stock up on essential minerals by making sure you're incorporating certain mineral rich foods into your diet. Here's a rundown of the minerals to look out for, and where you can find them.

How are essential minerals different from vitamins?

Most of us are used to making sure we're eating enough fresh fruit to get our daily vitamin C, or munching on a handful of almonds for. our vitamin E. It's more unusual to hear people carefully considering whether their diet is high enough in magnesium or calcium.

So, what is the difference between vitamins and minerals, and is one more important than the other?

Vitamins are organic compounds, which means they are made by plants or animals. (We can also make a few of them synthetically.) As a result, they're quite prone to change; heat, air or acid can change the molecular structure of a vitamin. For this reason, vitamins are quite hard for our bodies to hold onto, which means we need to keep a steady supply of them coming in from our diets.

Minerals, on the other hand, are inorganic. They come to us from soil, rocks and water. Minerals are absorbed into the food chain by plants and passed up to us. Unlike minerals, they don't tend to change structure, so stay intact all the way from the soil to our plates. We're better at hanging onto them, but you still need to make sure you're eating a varied diet of whole, mineral rich foods to ensure you're getting enough of them. → View Related Products

Related reading

Which whole foods for which vitamins?

Are supplements safe?


Major and trace minerals

As a group, essential minerals are generally divided into major and trace minerals. Logically, your body needs a large amount of the seven major (or macro) minerals and only very small amounts of the nine trace minerals. 

This doesn't mean that trace minerals are less important for your health; simply that you don't need quite so much of them to get by.

The essential macro minerals are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride and sulphur. Meanwhile, the essential micro minerals you need are: iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride and selenium.

Let's begin with the major players...

Major mineral: Calcium

Your body contains more calcium than any other mineral. It builds your bones and teeth.

Further, this dietary mineral also plays an important role in heart health and muscle functioning.

How to replenish your calcium stores, then? Many people cite dairy products as a good source of calcium, but you can also find plenty of it in plant-based mineral-rich foods.(1) Seeds are a great place to start; just one tablespoon of poppy seeds contains 13% of your recommended daily allowance of calcium. → View Related Products

Plant-based foods high in calcium

  • Sesame (989 mg) and chia seeds (631 mg)
  • Almonds (269 mg) and Brazil nuts (160 mg)
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli (47 mg) and cabbage (40 mg)

Note: Values are indicated per 100g. Source: My Food Data.


Related reading

Almond health benefits

Plant-based diet: Let food be thy medicine 

Major mineral: Phosphorus

Next up, phosphorus! This major mineral helps to manage energy in your body. It's also important for your kidneys and helps them clean your body of waste.(2)

Most people don't really need to worry about their phosphorus intake. In fact, it is more common to have too much phosphorus in your body than too little of it.

While obtaining your minerals and other nutrients from whole foods generally doesn't lead to a potentially dangerous build-up in your body, taking supplements can. So, unless you have a clear reason to do so, you might want to think twice about taking a supplement containing phosphorus. Chances are, you have enough already, especially if you regularly eat mineral rich foods such as lentils, beans and whole grains.→ View Related Products

Plant-based sources of phosphorus

  • Soy products like tempeh (266 mg), edamame (169 mg), and soy milk (32 mg)
  • Beans like lentils (180 mg), small white beans (169 mg), great northern beans (165mg), and chickpeas (168 mg)
  • Seeds like squash and pumpkin seeds (1175 mg), hemp seeds (1650 mg), and chia seeds (860mg)
  • Whole and pseudo grains like amaranth (148 mg), quinoa (152 mg), brown rice (103mg) and whole wheat pasta (149 mg)

Note: Values are indicated per 100g. Source: My Food Data.


Related reading

What is amaranth?

Pumpkin seed health benefits