Mineral salts: what they are, what they are for, richer foods and when to take supplements

sali minerali: quali sono e a cosa servono

Your body can’t produce minerals on its own, but you can’t live without them. In fact, they participate in many vital processes and their deficiency can cause serious problems. So you have to roll up your sleeves and get a good supply of them through food, which is the only way to get them.

Mineral salts are eliminated with diuresis and sweating, so it is necessary to reintegrate them continuously. For this reason, fruit and vegetables, which contain large quantities of minerals, must never be missing from the daily table. Especially in the summer, when you sweat more and therefore lose even more salts.

The most common risks of mineral deficiency are dehydration, decreased concentration and physical performance, tiredness and exhaustion. So you have to be careful to maintain the hydro-salt balance by taking these precious nutrients.

What are mineral salts? The most famous of them are calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, but there are many others and it is customary to divide them into 2 groups: macroelements, microelements or trace elements.

Mineral salts: what they are

The term mineral salt is generally used to indicate substances which are usually assimilated with the diet.

Although they represent only 6.2% of body weight, they perform essential functions for the life of our body. In fact, they are involved in the formation of teeth and bones, in the regulation of water and salt balance, in the activation of numerous metabolic cycles and are essential for the growth and development of tissues and organs.

Compared to carbohydrates, fats and proteins, mineral salts do not directly supply energy, but are the protagonists of those reactions which release precisely the energy we need.

Our body is unable to synthesize any of the mineral salts, therefore they are assimilated through water and food, or in the form of a condiment (such as table salt).

Furthermore, compared to vitamins, mineral salts do not undergo alterations and are not lost during cooking, even if they can partially dissolve in the water used for preparation.

Contrary to lipids, proteins and carbohydrates, the daily requirement of mineral salts is minimal. However, they are continuously eliminated in sweat, urine and faeces, so they must be ingested through a correct and balanced diet.

Their main functions are two:

  • They regulate the hydro-saline balance, allowing for a good state of health of our cells and tissues.
  • They do not produce energy directly but help our enzymes obtain it from macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and lipids).

Mineral salts are classified according to the quantity that the body needs, in:

  • Macroelements: they are present in the body in discrete quantities. The daily requirement is about 100 mg.
  • Microelements or trace elements: they are present only in traces in the body and the daily requirement ranges from 1 to 100 mg.

Mineral salts: what they are and what they are for

As we have seen, these are essential micronutrients for our body, as they are involved in many vital processes. They are therefore essential substances that must be taken in through the diet.

List of macroelements: health benefits

Macroelements are present in the body in good quantities, as it needs them to perform many vital functions, and they are:

  • Calcium (Ca).
  • Phosphorus (P).
  • Magnesio (Mg).
  • Sodium (Na).
  • Potassium (K).
  • Cloro (Cl).
  • Zolfo (S).

Let’s see them in detail.

1 – Calcium (Ca)

Calcium is perhaps one of the best known macroelements of the body (as well as being the most abundant) and coordinates many biological functions such as:

  • Formation of bones and teeth.
  • Correct muscle contraction.
  • Functioning of some enzymes.
  • Blood clotting.
  • Transmission of electrical impulse to and from the brain.
  • Formation of blood cells (hematopoiesis).
  • Protein synthesis.

Its daily requirement varies according to age, but on average for an adult it is equal to 800-100 mg (1100 in adolescence).

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2 – Magnesio (Mg)

Magnesium is a very important macro-element for the correct functioning and balance of the nervous system, to which is added an essential role both as a support for bones and teeth (together with calcium), and as a cofactor in energy metabolism.

It then participates in the mechanism of muscle contraction and is necessary for the action of numerous enzymes that control various processes: from protein synthesis to muscle function, up to the control of blood sugar levels and blood pressure.

The recommended daily intake of magnesium, to be taken with food, is approximately 5-6 mg for each kg of body weight. However, for pregnant women this threshold rises to 10 mg and 15 mg for children.

If you are interested in the topic, discover our in-depth study on magnesium.

3 – Phosphorus (P)

It is one of the most present macroelements in the body, whose deposits are abundant above all in the bones (85%).

Here it performs its main function, which is to strengthen the bone and dental structure. It favors the transport of hormones, intervenes in the pH regulation mechanism and has a fundamental role in the transformation of food into energy.

Furthermore, it is involved in the formation of DNA and RNA, some proteins and some sugars.

The daily requirement of phosphorus for an adult is about 700 mg.

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4 – Potassium (K)

Potassium is a fundamental macroelement, together with sodium, for regulating all physiological processes, since its balance is the basis of the transmission of electrical impulses which regulate the nervous and muscular systems.

It therefore also manages cardiac activity, blood pressure and gastrointestinal motility. It then participates in the control of protein and glucose metabolism.

The daily requirement of potassium for an adult is approximately 3.9 g.

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5 – Cloro (Cl)

Chlorine is an important element for cellular electrolyte balance.

In fact, most of the chlorine is dissolved in body fluids and plays a crucial role in their regulation (about 70% of body chlorine is found in the extra-cellular fluid).

This makes it a fundamental element for the regulation of blood pressure values. Furthermore, it also intervenes in the transmission of nerve impulses, in the digestive process of proteins and is a component of gastric juices.

The need for chlorine varies greatly according to age and ranges from values ​​of 1.8 g (in the first 3 years of life) up to 2.3 g from adolescence to 50 years of age, to then drop again to 2 g.

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6 – Sodium (Na)

It is one of the most abundant minerals in the body (about 92 g in an adult) and is found in blood, bone, connective tissue and cartilage.

It plays an important role in maintaining the hydro-saline balance, in regulating the passage of fluids and nutrients inside and outside the cells and participates in the transmission of nerve impulses.

The part preserved in the bones is a reserve which the body can draw on in case of need for the regulation of blood pH.

The daily sodium requirement for an adult is approximately 1.5 g.

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7 – Zolfo (S)

It is essential for the formation of new connective tissue, skin and hair health.

Furthermore, it is an integral part of the structure of numerous proteins with enzymatic activity (such as cysteine ​​and methionine), as well as of other molecules such as vitamins, enzymes and hormones involved in many biological processes (such as keratin for example).

It also plays an important role in anti-inflammatory processes and counteracts the action of free radicals.

The requirement of a 70 kg adult is approximately 140 g of sulfur per day.

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Microelements or trace elements: what they are and health benefits

They are present in our body only in small quantities or even in minimal traces. However, they perform important biological functions and are divided into:

  • Essentials, the lack of which affects some vital physiological functions (iron, copper, zinc, fluorine, iodine, selenium, chromium, cobalt).
  • Quite essential (manganese, silicon, nickel, vanadium).
  • Potentially toxic, as they can cause damage to the body if present in high concentrations.

The trace elements are:

  • Ferro (Fe).
  • Frames (Cu).
  • Zinco (Zn).
  • Fluoro (F).
  • Iodine (I).
  • Selenium (Se).
  • Chromium (Cr).
  • Cobalt (Co).
  • Manganese (Mn).
  • Molybdenum (Mo).
  • Silicon (Yes).
  • Nichel (Ni).
  • Cadmium (Cd).
  • Vanadium (V).

1 – Ferro (Fe)

Even if present in our body in modest quantities, it performs very important functions. In fact, iron binds to two important proteins: hemoglobin and myoglobin.

The first, present in red blood cells, allows oxygen to be transported to all tissues; the second fixes the oxygen in the muscles, allowing the oxygenation of all the tissues and organs of our body.

It also performs “reserve” functions: it is stored in the liver, spleen and bone marrow to be used in case of need (for example, in case of bleeding).

It also participates in the activity of many enzymes and in the production of hormones and connective tissue. Therefore, it is essential to respect the daily requirement (different according to age) which is equal, for an adult, to about 10-18 mg.

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