There are a number of minerals and inorganic substances that play an important role in nutrition. Actually, minerals are drawn from the soil by the plants, and human beings receive them from the plants and from the animals who have previously eaten the plants.
Mineral elements are important components of organic compounds, such as, haemoglobin, phospholipids, and thyroxin. As inorganic compounds in the form of sodium chloride and calcium phosphate and also as free ions, they enter the structure of every cell of the body. Hard skeletal structures contain the greater proportions of elements, such as, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium while soft tissues contain relatively higher proportions of potassium.
Mineral elements are important for numerous regulatory activities of the body. The contraction of muscles, the normal response of nerves to stimulation, the maintenance of acid-base equilibrium and the water balance in the foodstuffs are few such functions.
Sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and chlorine are the most essential constituents of body fluids, whereas calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and others are bone constituents. Iron, copper and cobalt function in an inter-related manner together with protein, vitamin B12 and other nutrients for the synthesis of haemoglobin for red blood cells.
We shall now briefly discuss various aspects of these minerals (elements) in reference to their nutritional value and normal functions of the body.