Dietary Trace Minerals and Where to Find Them

What are Trace Minerals?

This salad contains many trace minerals.
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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, which we'll cover here. 

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

Eating a healthy well-balanced diet will supply your body with all the nutrients you need, including the trace minerals. But we'll point out some of the primary sources of each trace mineral, so you'll know if you're getting enough in your diet.


Cut Broccoli
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Chromium is necessary for healthy metabolism and storage of sugar and starch because 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.

Learn More About Chromium


Animal Liver
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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, which is 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.

Learn More About Copper


Tap water can be a source of fluoride.
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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.


Salt can be a good source of iodine.
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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.

It's 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 parts of the US until iodine was added to table salt in the 20th century to counteract that iodine deficiency.

Learn More About Iodine


Red meat is a source of iron.
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Do you need more energy? Maybe iron is the mineral you need. 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. 

Learn More About Iron


Pecans are high in manganese.
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Manganese is involved in the formation of bone and is needed for wound healing. It's also 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.

Learn More About Manganese


Legumes are high in molybdenum.
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Molybdenum is a component of enzymes 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.

Learn More About Molybdenum


Brazil nuts are high in selenium.
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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 more selenium than any other food. It's not likely you'll suffer from a selenium deficiency as long as you eat plenty of plant-based foods.

Learn More About Selenium


Oysters are high in zinc.
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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.

Learn More About Zinc


Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. "Dietary Reference Intakes: Elements." 

Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center, Oregon State University. "Minerals." 

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. "Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets."