9 Dietary Trace Minerals and What Foods Are High in Them

Trace minerals are so named because your body needs only a tiny amount of each one. That doesn't mean that they don't matter because you need nine trace minerals to be healthy.

The nine trace minerals are chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc.

Your body needs minerals for a variety of biochemical reactions to take place. Nutrition experts divide the dietary minerals into two groups: the six major minerals, which includes things like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, and nine more trace minerals.

Eating a healthy well-balanced diet will supply your body with all the nutrients you need, including the trace minerals. Here are the primary sources of each trace mineral. Use this information to ensure that you're getting enough in your diet.

Trace minerals are essential for your body to function properly, but you only need small amounts. Eating these foods will not provide your trace minerals but also lots of other important nutrients.




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Chromium is necessary for healthy metabolism and storage of sugar and starch. It enhances the effects of insulin, a hormone that regulates the amount of glucose in your blood. Chromium is essential for the metabolism of proteins and fats, as well.

Dietary chromium is found in small quantities in a wide variety of foods, so deficiency is rare. Meat, whole grains, broccoli, potatoes, apples, bananas, garlic, and basil are all good sources of dietary chromium.



Sunflower seeds

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Copper may not be a mineral you think about often but it really is important. Your body needs copper for strong bones and healthy blood vessel walls, plus it's a component of some antioxidant reactions and is necessary for your body to produce energy.

Copper is also required for normal metabolism of iron—another significant trace mineral.

Copper is found in organ meats, shellfish, nuts, seeds, cocoa, and whole grain products. Deficiency is unlikely as long as you get enough to eat every day, but it can happen if you consume an enormous amount of zinc.




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You're probably already familiar with this important mineral. Fluoride helps keep your bones and teeth strong because it promotes remineralization of those tissues. In fact, recommendations for fluoride are based on the safest and most effective amounts needed to prevent dental cavities in both kids and adults.

You'll find it in fluoridated drinking water, tea, and seafood. It's also found in fluoridated dental products such as toothpaste and some mouth rinses.




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Your body needs ​iodine to make thyroid hormones called thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), so it's required for normal thyroid gland function. Iodine is also essential for immune system function and breast health.

Iodine is found naturally in seafood and plant-based foods grown in iodine-rich soils such as the soil found near oceans. Iodine deficiency was a big problem in the middle of the U.S. until iodine was added to table salt in the 20th century.




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Iron is an essential part of proteins called hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells and makes it possible to transport oxygen from your lungs to the organs and other tissues.

Myoglobin is similar to hemoglobin, except that it carries oxygen to muscle cells.

Iron is also essential for normal immune system function and normal cell growth. Iron-rich foods include organ meats, muscle meat, poultry, fish, legumes, and dark leafy greens.




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Manganese is involved in the formation of bone and is needed for wound healing. It's essential for the production of enzymes involved in protein, cholesterol, and carbohydrate metabolism. Manganese is also involved in some antioxidant activity.

Manganese is found in pecans and other nuts, pineapples, sweet potatoes, seeds, legumes, and whole grains.



Black beans

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Molybdenum is a component of enzymes that your body uses for breaking down amino acids, as well as drugs and toxins. It's found in a wide variety of plant foods, especially legumes and nuts, but the content mostly depends on how much molybdenum is in the soil.



Brazil nuts

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Selenium is used in antioxidant reactions that help protect the cells in your body and is essential for healthy thyroid function. It's also critical to reproduction and DNA synthesis.

Selenium is found in many plant-based foods such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Brazil nuts contain some of the highest amounts of selenium found in food. It's not likely you'll suffer from a selenium deficiency as long as you eat plenty of plant-based foods.




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Zinc is used in many different chemical reactions and is a major component of your immune system and you need it to be able to taste your food and smell all the various things around you. As long as you're a meat eater you'll have no problem with your zinc intake.

It's found in meats, seafood, and most other foods that are high in protein. Oysters are the go-to zinc source. They contain more zinc than any other food.

10 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Chromium: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet.

  2. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Copper: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.

  3. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Fluoride: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.

  4. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Iodine: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.

  5. Cronin SJF, Woolf CJ, Weiss G, Penninger JM. The role of iron regulation in immunometabolism and immune-related diseaseFront Mol Biosci. 2019;6:116. doi:10.3389/fmolb.2019.00116

  6. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Manganese: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.

  7. Novotny JA, Peterson CA. MolybdenumAdv Nutr. 2018;9(3):272-273. doi:10.1093/advances/nmx001

  8. Zoidis E, Seremelis I, Kontopoulos N, Danezis GP. Selenium-dependent antioxidant enzymes: actions and properties of selenoproteinsAntioxidants (Basel). 2018;7(5). doi:10.3390/antiox7050066

  9. Colpo E, Vilanova CD de A, Brenner Reetz LG, et al. A single consumption of high amounts of the Brazil nuts improves lipid profile of healthy volunteersJ Nutr Metab. 2013;2013:653185. doi:10.1155/2013/653185

  10. National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Zinc: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.

By Shereen Lehman, MS
Shereen Lehman, MS, is a former writer for Verywell Fit and Reuters Health. She's a healthcare journalist who writes about healthy eating and offers evidence-based advice for regular people.