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There are two groups of minerals, essential minerals and trace minerals or elements. The essential minerals are Calcium, chlorine, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sodium and Zinc.

The trace minerals are essential for life but are only needed in small quantities. These are Cobalt, Copper, Iodine, Molybdenum and Selenium.

Looking firstly at the essential minerals we start with calcium. Calcium is important to bone growth and strength, however, it's only when combined with phosphate to create calcium phosphate that provides the chief material that gives the hardness and strength to bones. As well for bone development, calcium also plays an integral part in blood clotting and required for the normal functioning of muscles and nerves.

Calcium is most commonly found in dairy products for example milk, cheese and its also found in the bones of canned fish and hard water. A lack of calcium can cause teeth to form incorrectly and also bones not to develop, leading to illnesses such as rickets.
Phosphorous works in alongside calcium and has many of the same benefits, however phosphorous also provides essential energy to the bodies cells and is found in all plant and animal food products.

Iron acts as a carrier for oxygen and a lack of dietary iron can result in nutritional deficiencies such as anaemia. This deficiency can be seen in infants aged between 6 and 12, teenagers and the elderly. Vegans and vegetarians can lack iron due to the lack of meat, however, this can be supplemented with other iron-rich foods such as nuts and seeds.

Haem-iron and non-haem iron are the two form of dietary iron. Haem iron is found in red meats and absorbed well by the body whereas non-haem iron is found in cereals, vegetables and is poorly absorbed

Magnesium is used for development in the skeletal structure and nerve function, vegetables are a good source of magnesium as its found in chlorophyll, the molecule that provides plants colour. Red meat is also a good source of magnesium.

Sodium helps provide fluids balance in the body but is also required for nerve and muscle impulses. It works in conjunction with potassium and chloride. The kidneys control levels of sodium in the body and because it's easily absorbed and found in a variety of foods excess sodium is excreted through urine. Sodium is found in many popular snacks such as crisps and biscuits. Canned foods also have higher sodium content compared to fresh or frozen foods.

Excessive sodium can lead to health risks such as high blood pressure. It can also affect people with diabetes who are already susceptible to high blood pressure.

Potassium is also involved in fluid balance but can also play a major role in lowering blood pressure. As with sodium, the kidneys control the absorption and excess of potassium. Potassium is Mainly found in vegetables and is abundant in bananas, fruit juices, coffee and potatoes.

Zincs main function is a major component in the immune system, however, it's also used in healing wounds and in the development of sexual maturity in males. The best sources of zinc are found in meat as its easily absorbed.

Moving onto the trace mineral we start with copper, which is a component of the many enzyme systems within the body. It's mostly found in shellfish, meats, cereals, bread and can also be absorbed through the skin, which is why people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis wear copper bracelets.

Selenium acts as an antioxidant and has positive effect helping against heart disease and cancers. It is mostly found in cereals, nuts and red meats.

Fluoride has shown to have a positive effect on teeth strength and found naturally in tea and seawater fish. In the UK tea provides the main source of fluoride in many people's diet.

Iodine is required to make the hormone thyroxine, which is essential in controlling metabolism and produced by the thyroid gland, it is found widely in food but especially in spinach, fresh water and iodised salt. A deficiency in iodine can lead to a lack of thyroxine produced resulting in a slowed metabolism.

The last of our the trace minerals manganese, chromium, molybdenum, and cobalt which are all found widely in foods and used in enzyme production and metabolism.