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Minerals in our bodies fall into two groups: the major minerals and the trace minerals. The difference is how much of each we need for our bodies to maintain a healthy state. All these minerals need to be eaten in balanced amounts in the diet to prevent disease and maintain good health.

The daily amounts of major minerals needed for maintaining good health are in excess of 100 mg per day, while with trace elements we need are in amounts less than 100 mg.

Three of the major minerals are electrolytes. These are sodium, potassium and chlorine. Together these maintain the cellular membrane potential, maintaining charge differences across cellular membranes. Potassium is important in keeping the neutral pH (acid-alkaline) balance in our blood.

A point here to note is that although most natural food contains much more potassium than sodium, processed foods reverse this. The body responds by taking calcium from the bone to keep the neutral pH balance.

The other major minerals are calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and sulphur.

Calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium play a large role in the formation and structure of bones, as well as muscular contractions and relaxation. They are also active in hundreds of enzyme and other biochemical processes.

The trace minerals are: iron, copper, chromium, fluoride, iodine, selenium, zinc, manganese and molybdenum.

All these minerals, whether they are called trace or major, are essential for our health and wellbeing and to prevent disease. The key to proper nutrition is balance and the minerals are no exception.

Minerals do not get destroyed by heat in cooking, but can be leached out into the water. This is an argument for steaming vegetables, rather than cooking.

In the Western world our refined and processed foods have upset the balance. For example, there generally is too much sodium and chlorine in our diets and too little calcium and magnesium. With an excess of sodium, we need an excess of calcium to compensate, as the sodium results in depletion of calcium from our skeleton.

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