Minerals are naturally occurring elements that are vital for maintaining your body's health. In contrast to vitamins, which are organic compounds and thus can be broken down, minerals maintain their chemical structure no matter what.

The 16 minerals our body needs to function at its best include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, selenium, molybdenum, chromium, and fluoride.

These minerals can be further divided into the essential minerals, which we must use and store in relatively large quantities to maintain our health, and trace minerals, which can be just as important to our health as essential minerals can, but which we simply need far less of.

The seven essential minerals are calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur, and the nine trace minerals are chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc.

Since we need so little of the trace minerals, it is fairly easy to get enough of them from food as long as you're eating a reasonably healthy diet, with the possible exception of iron. Most multivitamins also contain from 25 to 100 percent of your recommended daily intake of the trace minerals and a good portion of your necessary essential minerals as well.

However, the small amount needed also means it is relatively easy to overdose on trace minerals. This will usually only happen if you are misusing supplements, but in rare cases it can be caused by a severe dietary imbalance; for example, over-consuming Brazil nuts can lead to selenium poisoning.

As with fat-soluble vitamins, mineral overdoses can have disastrous health effects, often via their snowball effect on your levels of other minerals. For example, too much salt can cause you to lose calcium, too much phosphorous can deplete your levels of magnesium, and an overload of manganese can cause iron deficiency.

Though most of your minerals should be obtained from your diet, you can also get them by drinking more mineral water, using more sea salt or Himalayan salt, and incorporating more herbs and spices into your diet. Your body can also absorb magnesium from soaking in epsom salt.

Note also that while all electrolytes are minerals, not all minerals are electrolyes. An electrolyte is just a mineral that has a positive or negative charge. Finally, we'll leave you with a list of the internal functions of each of these marvelous minerals and some 123Diet-safe sources of each!


1. Calcium

Though calcium is best known for its role in maintaining bone health and preventing osteoporosis, it also plays important roles in enzyme activation, blood pressure regulation, muscle contraction, nerve communication, and blood clotting.

Calcium is also best known for being present in milk and other dairy products, which you can have in limited portions on the 123Diet. It can also be found in legumes and in canned fish with bones. Additionally, calcium can be found in certain greens, such as broccoli and mustard greens, though it may be more difficult to absorb because of interfering oxalates.

2. Magnesium

Our body uses magnesium to build our bones and teeth and to create proteins. It also joins other electrolytes in regulating muscle contraction and nerve transmission and plays a vital role in immune system health.

Safe phase 2 sources include legumes, "hard" drinking water, leafy green vegetables, and seafood. In phase 3, feel free to add artichokes.

3. Phosphorus

This mineral is present in every cell of your body! Your system uses it to maintain acid-base balance and to build healthy bones and teeth, though too much phosphorous, as you might consume in diet soda, can interfere with bone health. Healthier choices include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and milk.

4. Potassium

Potassium is critical maintaining fluid balance throughout the body and is also involved in muscle contraction and nerve transmission.

Potassium also helps cancel out the negative health effects of sodium by relaxing your blood vessels, thus improving your blood pressure. Get it from meats, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, or lite or nu-salt.

5. Sodium

Sodium works with potassium and other electrolytes to maintain the body’s optimal fluid balance and ensure proper muscle function. You can find large amounts in most processed foods, but 123-friendly options include Bragg's Liquid Aminos and plain old table salt. You’ll also find small amounts in milk, certain vegetables, and unprocessed meats.

6. Chloride

Our body uses chloride to maintain its fluid balance and to produce our stomach acid. As the other half of “sodium chloride,” it is also abundant in table salt and other salt-containing condiments like Bragg's Liquid Aminos, as well as in most salt substitutes.

7. Sulfur

Sulfur is required by the body to produce certain amino acids, to produce insulin, and to synthesize collagen. It is also present in keratin and certain antioxidants. Find it in most protein-containing foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, and legumes.


1. Iron

Iron is the trace mineral we need the most of. It is used for energy metabolism and to carry red blood cells throughout the body, as well as to activate enzymes and make amino acids, collagen, neurotransmitters, and hormones.It can be found in organ meats, red meats, fish, poultry, shellfish, egg yolks, legumes. It is also found in dark, leafy greens, but this is a harder source for our body to absorb so you may need to supplement if you are vegan or vegetarian. For phase 3, keep in mind that clams are a particularly good source!

2. Copper

Copper is present in many enzymes, including one that is used for iron metabolism and the creation of red blood cells. It is also involved in neurotransmitter regulation and in fighting free radicals. Get it from legumes, organ meats, and most drinking water.

3. Fluoride

Fluoride is necessary for the formation of bones and teeth, and is also essential in preventing tooth decay. You'll find it in drinking water that has been fluoridated or that naturally contains fluoride, as well as in fish and most teas.

4. Iodine

Iodine is found in thyroid hormone, which is needed for growth, development, and metabolism. Since too little iodine can slow thyroid hormone production, which can cause sluggishness and weight gain, this one is a big deal for dieters! Luckily, most people get plenty from iodized salt, and it can also be found in seafood, foods grown in iodine-rich soil, and dairy products.

5. Manganese

Manganese is a building block of many enzymes. It is also used in the metabolism of amino acids, cholesterol, and carbohydrates, as well as in bone formation. It is widespread in foods, especially plant foods.

6. Selenium

Selenium has antioxidant properties, meaning it can decrease your risk of various diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's. It also works and can help neutralize the effects of toxins like mercury. Good sources include meats and seafood.

7. Zinc

Zinc is present in a variety of enzymes, and is also used to make protein and genetic material. It has also been found to play roles in functions including taste perception, wound healing, sperm production, fetal development, blood clotting, cell division, and immune system health. Find it in meats, fish, poultry, and vegetables.

8. Chromium

Chromium works with insulin to regulate blood sugar levels and to turn sugar into energy, and it has been found to reduce hunger and cravings. It is also used in the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates, and lipids. Chromium is found in most non-refined foods, especially liver and cheeses.

9. Molybdenum

Molybdenum is one of the least talked about minerals, maybe because it’s so hard to spell, but it’s just as important as all the rest! The enzymes that it activates can break down toxins and prevent deleterious sulfites from building up in the body. Get it in legumes, greens, vegetables, milk, and liver.

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