Minerals are elements that are found in the earth and food and essential to life. For example, minerals are needed for heart and brain function, as well as the production of hormones and enzymes (1).
Minerals are divided into two categories based on how much the human body needs. Macrominerals are needed in larger amounts and include calcium, potassium, sodium, chloride, phosphorus, and magnesium (
Although equally important, trace minerals, including iron, copper, fluoride, selenium, zinc, chromium, molybdenum, iodine, and manganese, are needed in smaller amounts (
Minerals can be found in a variety of foods, but some foods are especially abundant in these important nutrients.
Here are 16 foods that are rich in minerals.
1. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are packed with an array of minerals but particularly rich in magnesium, zinc, manganese, copper, selenium, and phosphorus (
Certain nuts and seeds stand out for their mineral content. For example, just one Brazil nut provides 174% of your daily selenium needs, while a 1/4-cup (28-gram) serving of pumpkin seeds delivers 40% of your daily magnesium needs (
Whole nuts and seeds make a convenient, nutrient-dense snack, while nut and seed butters can be incorporated into smoothies and oatmeal or paired with fresh fruit or vegetables.
Consuming 6 medium-sized oysters (84 grams) covers your daily needs for zinc and copper and provides 30% and 22% of your daily needs for selenium and iron, respectively (
Zinc is a nutrient that’s essential for immune function, DNA production, cellular division, and the production of proteins (6).
Pregnant and breastfeeding women, those with gastrointestinal disease, people taking certain medications, adolescents, and older adults are populations that are at risk for zinc deficiency, which can impair immune response, hinder growth and development, and increase infection risk (
Shellfish provide a concentrated source of zinc and make a smart choice for those at risk of developing a deficiency in this vital nutrient.
3. Cruciferous vegetables
These health benefits are directly related to the nutrient density of these veggies, including their impressive concentration of minerals.
Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, kale, cabbage, and watercress, are especially rich in sulfur, a mineral that’s necessary for cellular function, DNA production, detoxification, and the synthesis of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant produced by your body (
In addition to sulfur, cruciferous vegetables are a good source of many other minerals, including magnesium, potassium, manganese, and calcium (
4. Organ meats
Although not as popular as protein sources like chicken and steak, organ meats are amongst the most mineral-dense foods you can eat.
For example, a slice (85 grams) of beef liver covers your daily copper needs and provides 55%, 41%, 31%, and 33% of your daily needs for selenium, zinc, iron, and phosphorus, respectively (
Additionally, organ meats are high in protein and vitamins, including vitamin B12, vitamin A, and folate (
Eggs are often referred to as nature’s multivitamin — and for good reason. Whole eggs are rich in nutrients and provide many important minerals.
They’re high in iron, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium, as well as many vitamins, healthy fats, antioxidants, and proteins (
Although many people avoid egg yolks due to their cholesterol content, the yolks contain nearly all of the vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds, so make sure to eat the whole egg, not just the white (
Beans are known for being packed with fiber and protein, but they also happen to be an abundant source of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, copper, and zinc (
However, beans also contain antinutrients, including phytates, which can decrease nutrient absorption. Still, research has shown that properly preparing beans by sprouting or soaking and cooking them can help increase the bioavailability of minerals (
Adding cocoa to smoothies, munching on a piece of dark chocolate, or sprinkling your yogurt with cacao nibs are satisfying ways to increase your mineral intake.
Although they’re not often associated with being nutrient-dense, cocoa products are loaded with minerals. Cocoa and cocoa products are particularly rich in magnesium and copper (
Magnesium is needed for energy production, blood pressure regulation, nerve function, blood sugar control, and more (
Copper is required for proper growth and development, carbohydrate metabolism, iron absorption, and red blood cell formation, in addition to many other important bodily processes (
Potassium is a mineral that’s essential for blood pressure regulation and heart health. Studies have shown that diets high in potassium-rich foods like avocados may help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
A review of 33 studies that included 128,644 people found that higher potassium intake was associated with a 24% reduced risk of stroke and reduction in heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure levels (
Berries, including strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, are not only delicious but also an excellent source of important minerals.
Berries are a good source of potassium, magnesium, and manganese. Manganese is a mineral that’s essential for a number of metabolic functions involved in energy metabolism, as well as immune and nervous system function (
This mineral is also needed for the growth and maintenance of healthy bone and connective tissues, as well as the creation of antioxidants that help protect cells against oxidative damage (
10. Yogurt and cheese
Dairy products, including yogurt and cheese, are some of the most common sources of calcium in the diet. Calcium is needed to maintain a healthy skeletal system and essential for your nervous system and heart health (
Studies show that many people, especially older adults, do not consume enough calcium in their diets (
However, many people are intolerant to dairy products. If you cannot eat dairy, many other foods contain calcium, including beans, nuts, and leafy greens.
Sardines are nutritional powerhouses and contain almost every vitamin and mineral your body needs to thrive.
One 3.75-ounce (106-gram) can of sardines provides 27%, 15%, 9%, 36%, 8%, and 88% of your daily needs for calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium, respectively. They’re also an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats (
Spirulina is a blue-green alga that’s sold in powder form and can be added to beverages like smoothies, as well as dishes like yogurt and oatmeal.
It’s loaded with minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese, and consuming it may benefit your health in many ways (
For example, research shows that consuming spirulina may help reduce heart disease risk factors, including high LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Plus, it may help decrease blood sugar levels and markers of inflammation (
13. Ancient grains
Eating ancient grains, including amaranth, millet, quinoa, and sorghum, has been associated with a variety of health benefits.
Replacing refined grains and grain products like white rice, white pasta, and white bread with ancient grains and ancient grain products can significantly increase your mineral intake.
14. Starchy vegetables
Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, potatoes, butternut squash, and parsnips make excellent alternatives to refined carbs like white rice and pasta. Starchy vegetables are highly nutritious and packed with fiber, as well as antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals (
Many people avoid starchy vegetables due to their high carb content. However, starchy veggies provide an important source of nutrients, including minerals like potassium, magnesium, manganese, calcium, iron, and copper (
15. Tropical fruits
In addition to being rich in antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins, many tropical fruits are excellent sources of minerals, such as potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium (
Bananas, which are one of the most popular tropical fruits, are packed with a variety of minerals, including potassium, magnesium, and manganese (
Try adding some frozen tropical fruit to your smoothies or enjoy fresh tropical fruit in oatmeal, yogurt, or salads to increase your mineral intake, as well your intake of vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants.
16. Leafy greens
Leafy greens, including spinach, kale, beet greens, arugula, endive, collard greens, watercress, and lettuces, are amongst the healthiest foods you can eat.
They’re not only loaded with health-promoting minerals, including magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, and copper, but also have been associated with reduced disease risk (
The best part is that green leafy vegetables can be enjoyed in many ways. Try adding some kale to your smoothies, sautéing beet greens with your eggs, or mixing greens to create a nutrient-dense salad.
The bottom line
Minerals are vital to your health, and maintaining optimal mineral levels is essential to feeling your best. Yet, many people don’t get enough minerals in their diet.
Still, it’s easy to increase your mineral intake, as many foods, including the nutritious foods listed above, are packed with a variety of minerals.
Try adding some, or all, of the foods on this list into your diet to increase your mineral intake, decrease your disease risk, and improve the overall quality of your diet.