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Minerals

Like vitamins, minerals are things our bodies need to be healthy. Our bodies can't make them, so we've got to eat minerals in food. Check out our chart below for some major minerals.

You may have heard a lot about certain minerals, like calcium and sodium. That's because girls may get too much or too little of them. If you want to know what's "just right," read our info on minerals that need special attention.

Mineral chart

Mineral

How it helps

Where you get it

Calcium
(say: KAL-see-uhm)

  • Needed for making bones and teeth
  • Helps nerves and muscles function
  • Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • Canned salmon
  • Leafy green vegetables, such as Chinese cabbage, bok choy, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens
  • Broccoli
  • Calcium-fortified foods —such as soy milk, orange juice, cereals, and crackers

Copper
(say: KOP-er)

  • Helps protect cells from damage
  • Needed for making bone and red blood cells
  • Shellfish (especially oysters)
  • Mushrooms
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Whole-grain cereals

Fluoride
(say: FLOOR-eyed)

  • Needed for making bones and teeth
  • Saltwater fish
  • Tea
  • Fluoridated water (water that has had fluoride added to it, which includes tap water in most places)

Iodine
(say: EYE-uh-dyn)

  • Needed for your thyroid gland to function properly
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Iodized salt (salt that has had iodine added to it)
  • Milk and other dairy products

Iron
(say: EYE-ern)

  • Helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to body tissues (If you don't get enough iron, you could get iron deficiency anemia.)
  • Helps muscles function
  • Red meat, such as beef
  • Tuna and salmon
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Baked potato with skins
  • Dried fruit, like apricots, prunes, and raisins
  • Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and turnip greens
  • Whole grains, like whole wheat or oats
  • Breakfast cereals fortified with iron

Magnesium
(say: mag-NEE-zee-uhm)

  • Needed for making bones and teeth
  • Helps nerves and muscles function
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Bran cereal
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt

Phosphorus
(say: FOSS-fer-uhs)

  • Needed for making bones and teeth
  • Needed for storing energy from food
  • Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • Red meat (beef, pork, and lamb)
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Peas

Potassium
(say: puh-TASS-ee-uhm)

  • Helps nerves and muscles function
  • Needed for keeping the right amounts of water in the different parts of your body
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes with skins
  • Leafy green vegetables, like spinach, turnip greens, collard greens, and kale
  • Citrus fruits, like oranges
  • Dried fruits
  • Legumes
  • Canned tomato juice
  • Plain yogurt

Note: Most people don't get enough potassium.

Sodium
(say: SOH-dee-uhm)

  • Helps nerves and muscles function
  • Needed for keeping the right amounts of water in the different parts of your body
  • Salt
  • Pizza
  • Pasta dishes
  • Milk and cheese
  • Canned soups
  • Bread
  • Beef and pork
  • Green olives

Note: Most people get too much sodium.

Selenium
(say: sih-LEE-nee-uhm)

  • Helps protect cells from damage
  • Needed for your thyroid gland to function properly
  • Red meat, such as beef
  • Tuna and salmon
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Baked potato with skins
  • Dried fruit, like apricots, prunes, and raisins
  • Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and turnip greens
  • Whole grains, like whole wheat or oats

Zinc
(say: zingk)

  • Needed for healthy skin
  • Needed for healing wounds, such as cuts
  • Helps your body fight off illnesses and infections
  • Red meat (beef, pork, and lamb)
  • Legumes
  • Oysters
  • Fortified cereals

 

Minerals that need special attention

Many girls don't get enough of certain minerals and may get too much of others. Check out our info on some special minerals to learn more:

Calcium is very important for girls, but many teen girls don't get enough. You need it to build strong bones now and to help prevent bone disease later in life. Your goal should be 1,300 milligrams each day. This is 130% of the Daily Value. How much of the Daily Value is in a food is listed on the Nutrition Label on the package. Read more about calcium and bone health.

Iron helps prevent anemia, which is a kind of blood disorder. Lots of girls don't get the iron they need. Girls age 9 to 13 need 8 milligrams each day, and older girls need 15 milligrams. Find foods with iron.

Potassium helps prevent high blood pressure and may also prevent bone disease. Very few people get enough potassium each day, so it's important to eat or drink foods with potassium. These include low-fat dairy products as well as citrus fruits and juices, like oranges and orange juice.

 

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Pass up the salt

You may have heard that you should watch how much sodium you eat. The mineral sodium, which is in salt, can help your body if you have the right amount. But most Americans eat way too much sodium, which can cause problems such as high blood pressure. Here's the low-down on sodium.

  • You can read Nutrition Facts labels to see how much sodium is in the food you eat. Foods that might not taste salty may still have lots of sodium. For example, check your frozen meal, bread, cheese, and soup.
  • Most people should not eat more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. This is about the amount in one teaspoon of salt.
  • All African-Americans, anyone with high blood pressure or diabetes, anyone with chronic kidney disease and anyone over age 50 should limit their sodium to 1,500 mg. This is about the amount in two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt.
  • Some ways to cut back on sodium are eating less restaurant food, rinsing canned veggies and beans before eating them, choosing unsalted nuts, and looking for products that say "No salt added" or "Reduced sodium." And put down the salt shaker!
  • Potassium helps protect against some of the effects of too much sodium. You can get enough potassium by making sure you eat the recommended amount of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy each day.
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Content last reviewed November 05, 2013
Page last updated January 13, 2014

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