Did you ever notice how TV commercials for breakfast cereal always mention vitamins and minerals? But when you think of minerals, food isn't the first thing that comes to mind. Aren't minerals something you find in the earth, like iron and quartz? Well, yes, but small amounts of some minerals are also in foods — for instance, red meat, such as beef, is a good source of iron. Just like vitamins, minerals help your body grow, develop, and stay healthy. The body uses minerals to perform many different functions — from building strong bones to transmitting nerve impulses. Some minerals are even used to make hormones or maintain a normal heartbeat. Macro and Trace The two kinds of minerals are: macrominerals and trace minerals. Macro means "large" in Greek (and your body needs larger amounts of macrominerals than trace minerals). The macromineral group is made up of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur. A trace of something means that there is only a little of it. So even though your body needs trace minerals, it needs just a tiny bit of each one. Trace minerals includes iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, and selenium. Let's take a closer look at some of the minerals you get from food. Calcium Calcium is the top macromineral when it comes to your bones. This mineral helps build strong bones, so you can do everything from standing up straight to scoring that winning goal. It also helps build strong, healthy teeth, for chomping on tasty food. Which foods are rich in calcium? dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt canned salmon and sardines with bones leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli calcium-fortified foods — from orange juice to cereals and crackers Iron The body needs iron to transport oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Your entire body needs oxygen to stay healthy and alive. Iron helps because it's important in the formation of hemoglobin (say: HEE-muh-glo-bun), which is the part of your red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Which foods are rich in iron? meat, especially red meat, such as beef tuna and salmon eggs beans baked potato with skins dried fruits, like raisins leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli whole and enriched grains, like wheat or oats Potassium Potassium (say: puh-TAH-see-um) keeps your muscles and nervous system working properly. Which foods are rich in potassium? bananas tomatoes potatoes and sweet potatoes, with skins green vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli citrus fruits, like oranges low-fat milk and yogurt legumes, such as beans, split peas, and lentils Zinc Zinc helps your immune system, which is your body's system for fighting off illnesses and infections. It also helps with cell growth and helps heal wounds, such as cuts. Which foods are rich in zinc? beef, pork, and dark meat chicken nuts, such as cashews, almonds, and peanuts legumes, such as beans, split peas, and lentils When people don't get enough of these important minerals, they can have health problems. For instance, too little calcium — especially when you're a kid — can lead to weaker bones. Some kids may take mineral supplements, but most kids don't need them if they eat a nutritious diet. So eat those minerals and stay healthy! Back to Articles Related Articles Go, Slow, and Whoa! A Kid's Guide to Eating Right Want to eat healthier? It's easy when you learn the difference between Go, Slow, and Whoa foods! Read More Figuring Out Food Labels The food label on a food package is a lot like the table of contents in a book - it tells you exactly what the food contains. Read our article for kids for more about food labels. Read More Vitamins How vital are vitamins? Find out in this article for kids. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.