There are many minerals that are essential
nutrients that humans need to obtain in order to be healthy.
Minerals are chemical elements and cannot be synthesized by any
animal. All minerals are ultimately obtained from the earth, and the
content of minerals in plants varies depends on the soil they are
grown in. Iron, zinc and calcium are important minerals that humans
need to ensure they obtain adequate aounts of.
needed for the formation of healthy red blood cells. It is
unnecessary to eat meat to obtain sufficient iron, as it is
widespread in plant foods. Good sources include whole grains, green
vegetables, legumes, soy products, nuts and seeds. Many breakfast
cereals have extra iron added to them. Women who are of
child-bearing age, pregnant women and athletes need to pay
particular attention to getting enough iron in their daily diet.
Eating foods rich in Vitamin C at the same time as
eating iron-rich foods will increase the amount of iron absorbed by
the body. Examples of foods rich in Vitamin C include fresh fruit,
juices, tomatoes, capsicum and raw green vegetables.
It is not recommended that iron supplements (other
than the small amounts in a multivitamin tablet) are taken unless a
deficiency has been diagnosed. (This is because excess iron may have
negative health effects.) So if you are concerned you may be low in
iron, visit your medical practitioner for a blood test to check your
Zinc is a mineral that is
used in many processes throughout the body. Good plant food sources
are similar to the foods that are good sources of iron: whole
grains, green vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Men generally
have higher zinc requirements than women do.
Calcium is best known
for its role in the structure of bones. Adequate calcium intake is
particularly important during bone formation and growth. Maintaining
healthy bones is not simply a matter of getting plenty of calcium.
Adequate vitamin D (eg from sunshine) and weight-bearing exercise
are essential for bone maintenance. (As with muscles, bones will
become weaker without stress being placed on them.)
Most plant foods contain some calcium, with green
vegetables (especially kale, bok choy, watercress) being the richest source on a mg per calorie/kJ basis.
(Spinach is not a reliable source of calcium due to its high
content of oxalates which bind calcium.) Other sources include
tofu that has been set with calcium sulphate, and many plant milks (such as some soy milks/rice milks) are
fortified with added calcium as are some breakfast cereals and some
orange juices. (Check the label to be sure.) For people with high
calcium needs, supplements are available which are suitable for