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Why do we need minerals in our diet?

The human body needs air, water and food; and within our food, we must have proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins, all of which are complex biological molecules. However, as strange as it seems, we also need certain minerals.

Some of these, such as sodium, iron, copper, zinc, iodine and phosphorus, are names you probably already know. They are common minerals that we need in relatively large amounts. Other substances, such as selenium, molybdenum and chromium, are much more exotic, and we need them in such tiny amounts that we call them "trace elements". All told, in order to be healthy (and in some cases, in order to survive), we need over 70 different minerals and trace elements.

The reason minerals are so important is that, throughout our bodies, we need a large number of different types of molecules. Many of these molecules require one or more atoms with specific characteristics: size, electrical charge, ability to combine with other atoms, and so on.

The minerals we eat supply those exact atoms, some of which act like a unique, crucial piece of a complex jigsaw puzzle. Without atoms of exactly this type, we would not be able to create the molecules we need, and life would not be possible.