Minerals, like vitamins, are nutrients that do not supply energy but regulate our metabolism and bodily functions.
There are many different minerals, each one very important, and each with specific functions. However, we will focus only on the ones that are often consumed incorrectly, either in excessive or insufficient amounts.
The mineral that is most often over-consumed is sodium. A diet too rich in sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure, which in turn is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, consuming excessive amounts of sodium must be avoided at all costs.
Sodium is often found in excessive quantities in food, or it is added as sodium chloride (table salt). Salt is not just added at the table, but much more often during the preparation of food, be that at home, or in the industry. So we have to get rid of the salt grinder on the table and learn to add minimal amounts of salt when we cook, especially for children who should be taught that too much salt masks the true flavour of food. Pay attention to the foods you eat that are “saltier” by nature, like cured meats or aged cheeses. The salt content of a food is written on the label: let’s learn to read it!
Two minerals, however, that are often not consumed in sufficient quantities, are calcium and iron.
The biggest sources of calcium are milk and dairy products. Two/three portions per day of milk or yoghurt (125 ml) guarantee an optimal intake of calcium, fundamental for good mineralization of bones and teeth.
Although iron is found in both plant and animal foods, only the latter are good sources of iron. The iron found in vegetables is actually absorbed in very small quantities: do not believe Popeye, spinach contains a lot of iron but unfortunately very little (2-3%) can be absorbed. The best source of protein is meat, white as well as red meat, and fish. Not consuming enough iron will lead to anemia, in other words a lack of hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin is a molecule that, circulating in the blood in red blood cells, carries oxygen to all cells, allowing for “cellular respiration”.
As well as the aforementioned foods, legumes (unfortunately often forgotten) contain calcium as well as iron: if these are constantly incorporated into your diet, they provide the fundamental basic requirements of these two minerals, particularly in those who do not eat animal products.
Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences
University of Bologna