Most of us take our bodies for granted, but if you stop to think about it the human body performs amazing feats every day. The millions of tiny cells in your body require essential nutrients to grow, develop and work together in perfect harmony. These essential nutrients, those that your body needs but cannot produce, include the inorganic substances found in foods known as minerals.
Your body needs calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Calcium also plays a role in nerve transmissions, muscle function — including that of the heart — and hormone secretion. The Institute of Medicine recommends adults consume 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day. Good sources of calcium include dairy products like milk and yogurt and vegetables like kale, broccoli and cabbage.
Potassium controls the electrical activity of your heart, making it vital to maintaining a normal heart rhythm. Your body also needs it to build proteins, break down and use carbohydrates, maintain the pH balance of the blood and support normal growth. Adults should consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day, according to the Institute of Medicine. Many foods contain potassium, including beef, fish, chicken, cantaloupe, potatoes, tomatoes and lima beans.
Although too much sodium can increase your risk for developing high blood pressure, your body needs sodium to stimulate nerve and muscle function, maintain the correct balance of fluid in the cells and support the absorption of other nutrients including chloride, amino acids and glucose. Your body only requires 180 to 500 milligrams of sodium per day, but the Institute of Medicine sets the adequate intake, the amount expected to meet or exceed normal circulating nutrient values, at 1,500 milligrams per day. To avoid health problems, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests limiting your sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day, and those over 51 or with certain health conditions should consume no more than the listed adequate intake of 1,500 milligrams.
Your body needs magnesium to support more than 300 biochemical reactions. Magnesium supports muscle and nerve function, keeps your heart beating regularly, builds strong bones and boosts immunity. The Institute of Medicine recommends adult women consume 310 to 320 milligrams per day, while men need 400 to 420 milligrams per day. Beans, nuts, whole grains and green vegetables serve as good sources of magnesium.
Phosphorus plays an important role in building strong bones and teeth, producing proteins the body needs and repairing cells. Adult men and women should consume 700 milligrams of phosphorus a day, according to the Institute of Medicine. Dairy foods, meat and whole grains contribute phosphorus to your diet.
Chloride, usually consumed as a salt compound such as sodium chloride — better known as table salt — balances the fluids in your body and plays an essential role in the production of digestive juices in the stomach. With the high salt content of foods, most people meet the daily recommended intake of 1,800 to 2,300 milligrams per day.
Trace minerals, those minerals your body only needs in small amounts, also support important bodily functions. Your body uses iron to produce hemoglobin and myoglobin, proteins that carry oxygen in your body. The production of thyroid hormones that regulate nearly every cell in the body requires iodine. Manganese regulates blood sugar, enhances the absorption of calcium and plays a role in the production of connective tissues and bones. Chromium enhances the action of insulin making it important in regulating blood sugar. Fluoride keeps your teeth strong and healthy. Your body needs copper, selenium, mylobdenum and zinc to produce enzymes important in various reactions throughout the body.