When it comes to out health, minerals are essential for a wide variety of functions.

In previous articles, Dr. Ali Ghahary discussed the importance of both water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins – 13 in total. Today we’ll take a look at some of the 16 essential minerals that are also required to keep us healthy – including calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, sulfur, chloride, copper, iodine, zinc, fluoride, and sodium…as well as some of the minerals you might be less familiar with, such as selenium, manganese, molybdenum, and chromium.

Iron and calcium are, perhaps, the most common minerals. However, they’re also the two minerals that many Canadians aren’t getting enough of!

Calcium, found in food sources such as cheese, milk and yogurt, is essential for keeping our bones and teeth strong, while iron is responsibly for carrying enough oxygen to the to the cells in our body. When you’re lacking these minerals, this is known as a deficiency. Symptoms of calcium deficiency include frequent broken bones, dental cavities, and even high blood pressure. Those who suffer from iron deficiency usually experience fatigue, weakness, and can even become anemic. Iron deficiency can be caused due to blood loss from an ulcer or other gastrointestinal related issues, your menstrual cycle, or something as simple as not including enough iron-rich foods in your diet. For those who lack an iron-rich diet, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, recommends eating more meats, fish and poultry.

Zinc, another essential mineral, is especially important during pregnancy and childhood, as it helps the body grow. It also boosts the body’s immune system, helps promote wound healing, and can break down carbohydrates. Research has suggested that taking a zinc supplement upon the first sign of symptoms of the common cold may not only reduce the severity of those symptoms, but also reduce the length of time in which your cold lasts. Natural sources of zinc include spinach, beans, oysters, cashews, and even dark chocolate.

The body also heavily relies on potassium as it helps to maintain and balance fluid and electrolytes. If you have low levels of potassium, you may develop high blood pressure and be at an increased risk of developing heart disease, arthritis, digestive disorders and cancer. Low potassium has also been linked to infertility. Symptoms of low potassium include headaches, heart palpitations and dehydration. To ensure you’re getting enough potassium, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends including these potassium-rich foods in your diet: Avocado, sweet potato, apricots, pomegranate, and wild salmon.