Fitness Sports Performance Nutrition

Top 9 Minerals for Staying Healthy, Strong and Fit

Emily Bailey | Stay Updated with NASM!

You may be familiar with sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and calcium regarding needs for hydration, but these nutrients are also related to many other physiologic processes in the body. Nutrients—including micronutrients, major nutrients and trace minerals—all play an important role in promoting total-body wellness. And staying healthy, strong and fit improves overall quality of life, decreases stress and enhances athletic performance.

Many athletes are looking for a competitive edge regarding fitness and performance. While research does not conclusively show an ergogenic effect for specific nutrients, being deficient in any of them may hinder performance and potentially decrease overall health. Also of interest: It is debated in the research whether people with active lifestyles have increased needs for micronutrients. Intensity, duration, frequency and overall energy requirements also determine the needs of macro- and micronutrients. More research is needed to determine a conclusive answer on increased needs.

Though micronutrients, major nutrients and trace minerals do not directly boost energy or allow improved athletic performance, they do unlock the properties of our macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrate), which are necessary for all of our body’s physiological processes. You’ll see several specific examples in the chart that follows.

Incorporating a variety of whole, unprocessed foods will enable you to consume the major and trace minerals needed to allow your body to function at its best. These include the top 9 major and trace minerals: calcium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, potassium, selenium, iron, zinc, and chromium. If you are unable to consume a variety of foods, supplementation may be needed using a certified product.

This chart, which includes food suggestions and serving sizes, can help you ensure that your diet has a healthy mix of these top 9 nutrients.


Mineral (type) Recommended Intake Physiological Role/Benefit Food (Amount of Nutrient)


RDA for adults: 1,000-1,300 mg/day
  • Female needs are at the upper end of this range.
  • Needs are not increased for active individuals except in hot or humid climates.


  • Building bones and teeth
  • Blood clotting
  • Muscle contractions
  • Transmission of nerve impulses
  • Activation of hormones and enzymes
  • Sustaining normal heart rate
  • Electrolyte balance
  • 8 oz milk (300 mg)
  • 6 oz yogurt (300 mg)
  • ½ C cooked turnip greens (100 mg)
  • ¼ C almonds (100 mg)
  • Medium sweet potato (50 mg)


RDA for adults: 310-420 mg
  • Male needs are at the upper end of this range.
  • Several metabolic functions required for exercise
  • Macronutrient synthesis
  • Neuromuscular coordination
  • Transmission of nerve impulses
  • Regulating heart beat
  • Immune system support
  • Electrolyte balance
  • 1 C brown rice (86 mg)
  • ½ C spinach (78 mg)
  • 23 almonds (77 mg)
  • ½ C lima beans (63 mg)
  • 21 hazelnuts (45 mg)
  • 8 oz milk (34 mg)


For healthy adults:

RDA sodium: 2,300 mg

AI chloride: 2.3 g/day


For adults with high blood pressure: Upper limit for sodium: 1,500 mg


  • Blood pressure
  • Blood volume
  • Muscle contractions
  • Transmission of nerve impulses
  • Electrolyte balance
  • Digestive juices in the stomach
  • 1 t salt (2,300 mg)
  • Cured meats (read labels)

Naturally occurring in:

·      1 C milk (107 mg)

·               1 C beets (106 mg)

·               1 stalk celery (32 mg)



AI for adults: 4.7g
  • Build proteins and muscle
  • Carbohydrate utilization
  • Control electrical activity of the heart
  • Control acid-base balance
  • Electrolyte balance
  • 1 medium banana (422 mg)
  • 1 medium baked potato with skin (926 mg)
  • 1 medium orange (237 mg)
  • ½ C spinach (420 mg)
  • 1 oz sunflower seeds (241 mg)


RDA for adults: 55 mcg
  • Making antioxidant enzymes to prevent cell damage and improve recovery
  • Thyroid hormone metabolism
  • 6 Brazil nuts (543 mcg)
  • 3 oz tuna (92 mcg)
  • 3 oz shrimp (42 mcg)
  • 3 oz chicken (25 mcg)
  • ¼ C sunflower seed kernels (18.6 mcg)


RDA for adults: 8-18 mg
  • Female needs are at the upper end of this range.
  • Hemoglobin synthesis (anemia prevention)
  • Transfer oxygen from lungs to tissues and muscles
  • Cardiovascular performance
  • Metabolism
  • Cellular function
Heme sources are most absorbable from meat, seafood and poultry. Plants and fortified foods are non-heme sources.
  • 3 oz oysters (8 mg)
  • 3 oz beef (1.6 mg)
  • 1 C white beans (8 mg)
  • ½ C lentils (3 mg)
  • ½ C spinach (3 mg)


RDA for adults: 8-11 mg
  • Immune system support
  • Cell division
  • Cell growth
  • Wound healing
  • Carbohydrate breakdown
  • 6 medium cooked oysters (27-50 mg)
  • 3 oz pork (1.9-3.5 mg)
  • ½ C baked beans (0.9-2.9 mg)
  • 1 oz cashews (1.6 mg)


AI for adults: 20-35 mcg
  • Carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism
  • Fatty acid and cholesterol synthesis
  • Insulin action
  • Glucose metabolism
  • ½ C broccoli (11 mcg)
  • 3 oz ham (10.4 mcg)
  • 1 English muffin (3.6 mcg)
  • 8 oz grape juice (7.5 mcg)

*Key: RDA = Recommended Dietary Allowance, AI = Adequate Intake, mg = milligram, mcg = micrograms, g = grams, C = cups, t = teaspoons.



Rosenbloom, C. A. & Coleman, E.J. (Eds.) 2012. Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals (5th ed.). Chicago: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), National Agricultural Library. Accessed Dec 12, 2016.

NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information). Accessed Dec 12, 2016,


The Author

Emily Bailey


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