As well as vitamins and more common minerals, a healthy diet includes many other nutrients.

This section has information on:

Beta-carotene

Beta-carotene gives yellow and orange fruit and vegetables their colour. It's turned into vitamin A in the body, so it can perform the same jobs in the body as vitamin A.

Good sources of beta-carotene

The main sources of beta-carotene are:

  • yellow and green (leafy) vegetables – such as spinach, carrots and red peppers
  • yellow fruit – such as mango, papaya and apricots

How much beta-carotene do I need?

You should be able to get the amount of beta-carotene you need from your daily diet.

What happens if I take too much beta-carotene?

There's no evidence the beta-carotene we get from food is harmful.

But beta-carotene supplements have been found to increase the risk of lung cancer in people who smoke or have been heavily exposed to asbestos at work.

It's possible taking large amounts of beta-carotene supplements could also increase the risk of cancer in other people.

Some research suggests having large amounts of vitamin A over a long period may affect people's bones and make them more likely to fracture when they're older. Beta-carotene doesn't have this effect.

What does the Department of Health advise?

You should be able to get the amount of beta-carotene you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.

If you decide to take beta-carotene supplements, it's important not to take too much as this could be harmful. Don't take more than 7mg of beta-carotene supplements a day unless advised to by a doctor.

People who smoke or who have been exposed to asbestos are advised not to take any beta-carotene supplements.

Chromium

Chromium is thought to influence how the hormone insulin behaves in the body. This means chromium may affect the amount of energy we get from food.

Good sources of chromium

Good sources of chromium include:

  • meat
  • wholegrains – such as wholemeal bread and whole oats
  • lentils
  • broccoli
  • potatoes
  • spices

How much chromium do I need?

Around 25mcg of chromium a day should be enough for adults.

You should be able to get all the chromium you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.

What happens if I take too much chromium?

There's not enough evidence to know what the effects might be of taking high doses of chromium each day.

What does the Department of Health advise?

You should be able to get all the chromium you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.

If you take chromium supplements, don't take too much as this might be harmful.

Having 10mg or less a day of chromium from food and supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.

Cobalt

Cobalt makes up part of vitamin B12.

Good sources of cobalt

Good sources of cobalt include:

  • fish
  • nuts
  • green leafy vegetables – such as broccoli and spinach
  • cereals – such as oats

How much cobalt do I need?

You should be able to get all the cobalt you need from your daily diet.

Cobalt is a major part of vitamin B12. So if you get enough vitamin B12, you'll also get enough cobalt.

Adults need approximately 1.5mcg of vitamin B12 a day.

What happens if I take too much cobalt?

Having high amounts of cobalt for long periods of time could affect the heart and might decrease fertility in men.

What does the Department of Health advise?

Having too much cobalt could be harmful. But cobalt isn't currently used in supplements in the UK, and the amount we get from food isn't harmful.

Having 1.4mg or less a day of cobalt supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.

Copper

Copper helps:

  • produce red and white blood cells
  • trigger the release of iron to form haemoglobin, the substance that carries oxygen around the body

It's also thought to be important for infant growth, brain development, the immune system and strong bones.

Good sources of copper

Good sources of copper include:

  • nuts
  • shellfish
  • offal

How much copper do I need?

Adults (19-64 years) need 1.2mg of copper a day.

You should be able to get all the copper you need from your daily diet.

What happens if I take too much copper?

Taking high doses of copper could cause:

  • stomach pain
  • sickness
  • diarrhoea 
  • damage to the liver and kidneys (if taken for a long time)

What does the Department of Health advise?

You should be able to get all the copper you need by eating a varied and balanced diet. If you take copper supplements, don't take too much as this could be harmful.

Having 1mg or less a day of copper supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that helps:

  • turn the food we eat into energy
  • make sure the parathyroid glands, which produce hormones important for bone health, work normally

Good sources of magnesium

Magnesium is found in a wide variety of foods, including:

  • green leafy vegetables – such as spinach
  • nuts
  • brown rice
  • bread (especially wholegrain)
  • fish
  • meat
  • dairy foods

How much magnesium do I need?

The amount of magnesium you need is:

  • 300mg a day for men (19-64 years)
  • 270mg a day for women (19-64 years)

You should be able to get all the magnesium you need from your daily diet.

What happens if I take too much magnesium?

Taking high doses of magnesium (more than 400mg) for a short time can cause diarrhoea.

There's not enough evidence to say what the effects might be of taking high doses of magnesium for a long time.

What does the Department of Health advise?

You should be able to get all the magnesium you need by eating a varied and balanced diet. If you take magnesium supplements, don't take too much as this could be harmful.

Having 400mg or less a day of magnesium from supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.

Manganese

Manganese helps make and activate some of the enzymes in the body. Enzymes are proteins that help the body carry out chemical reactions, such as breaking down food.

Good sources of manganese

Manganese is found in a variety of foods, including:

  • tea – probably the biggest source of manganese for many people
  • bread
  • nuts
  • cereals
  • green vegetables – such as peas and runner beans

How much manganese do I need?

You should be able to get all the manganese you need from your daily diet.

What happens if I take too much manganese?

Taking high doses of manganese for long periods of time might cause muscle pain, nerve damage and other symptoms, such as fatigue and depression.

What does the Department of Health advise?

You should be able to get all the manganese you need by eating a varied and balanced diet. If you take manganese supplements, don't take too much as this could be harmful.

For most people, taking 4mg or less of manganese supplements a day is unlikely to cause any harm.

For older people, who may be more sensitive to manganese, taking 0.5mg or less of manganese supplements a day is unlikely to cause any harm.

Molybdenum

Molybdenum helps make and activate some of the proteins involved in chemical reactions (enzymes) that help with repairing and making genetic material.

Good sources of molybdenum

Molybdenum is found in a wide variety of foods. Foods that grow above ground tend to be higher in molybdenum than foods that grow below the ground, such as potatoes or carrots.

Good sources of molybdenum include:

  • nuts
  • tinned vegetables
  • cereals – such as oats
  • peas
  • leafy vegetables – including broccoli and spinach
  • cauliflower

How much molybdenum do I need?

You should be able to get all the molybdenum you need from your daily diet.

What happens if I take too much molybdenum?

There's some evidence to suggest taking molybdenum supplements might cause joint pain.

What does the Department of Health advise?

You should be able to get all the molybdenum you need by eating a varied and balanced diet. The molybdenum we get from food isn't likely to be harmful.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus is a mineral that helps build strong bones and teeth, and helps release energy from food.

Good sources of phosphorus

Phosphorus is found in many foods.

Good sources include:

  • red meat
  • dairy foods
  • fish
  • poultry
  • bread
  • brown rice
  • oats

How much phosphorus do I need?

Adults need 550mg of phosphorus a day.

You should be able to get all the phosphorus you need from your daily diet.

What happens if I take too much phosphorus?

Taking high doses of phosphorus supplements for a short time can cause diarrhoea or stomach pain.

Taking high doses for a long time can reduce the amount of calcium in the body, which means bones are more likely to fracture.

What does the Department of Health advise?

You should be able to get all the phosphorus you need by eating a varied and balanced diet. If you take phosphorus supplements, it's important not to take too much as this could be harmful.

Taking 250mg or less a day of phosphorus supplements on top of the phosphorous you get from your diet is unlikely to cause any harm.

Potassium

Potassium is a mineral that helps control the balance of fluids in the body, and also helps the heart muscle work properly.

Good sources of potassium

Potassium is found in most types of food.

Good sources of potassium include:

  • fruit – such as bananas
  • some vegetables – such as broccoli, parsnips and brussels sprouts 
  • pulses
  • nuts and seeds
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • beef
  • chicken
  • turkey

How much potassium do I need?

Adults (19-64 years) need 3,500mg of potassium a day. You should be able to get all the potassium you need from your daily diet.

What happens if I take too much potassium?

Taking too much potassium can cause stomach pain, feeling sick and diarrhoea.

What does the Department of Health advise?

You should be able to get all the potassium you need by eating a varied and balanced diet. If you take potassium supplements, don't take too much as this could be harmful.

Taking 3,700mg or less of potassium supplements a day is unlikely to have obvious harmful effects.

But older people may be more at risk of harm from potassium because their kidneys may be less able to remove potassium from the blood. Older people shouldn't take potassium supplements unless advised to by a doctor.

Selenium

Selenium helps the immune system work properly, as well as in reproduction. It also helps prevent damage to cells and tissues.

Good sources of selenium

Good sources of selenium include:

  • brazil nuts
  • fish
  • meat
  • eggs

How much selenium do I need?

The amount of selenium you need is:

  • 0.075mg a day for men (19-64 years)
  • 0.06mg a day for women (19-64 years)

If you eat meat, fish or nuts, you should be able to get all the selenium you need from your daily diet.

What happens if I take too much selenium?

Too much selenium causes selenosis, a condition that, in its mildest form, can lead to loss of hair, skin and nails.

What does the Department of Health advise?

You should be able to get all the selenium you need by eating a varied and balanced diet that includes meat, fish or nuts. If you take selenium supplements, it's important not to take too much as this could be harmful.

Taking 0.35mg or less a day of selenium supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.

Sodium chloride (salt)

Sodium chloride is commonly known as salt.

Sodium and chloride are minerals needed by the body in small amounts to help keep the level of fluids in the body balanced. Chloride also helps the body digest food.

Sources of salt

Salt is found naturally at low levels in all foods, but some salt is added to many processed foods, such as:

  • ready meals
  • meat products – such as bacon
  • some breakfast cereals
  • cheese
  • some tinned vegetables
  • some bread
  • savoury snacks

How much salt do I need?

You should have no more than 6g of salt (2.4g of sodium) a day.

But, on average, people in the UK eat 8g of salt (about 3.2g of sodium) a day, which is much more than the body needs.

A few practical tips for cutting down on salt include:

  • check food labels and choose foods with less salt – where colour-coded labels are used, try to pick products with more greens and ambers, and fewer reds, for a healthier choice
  • choose tinned vegetables and pulses with no added salt
  • choose tinned fish in spring water rather than brine
  • only use sauces – like soy sauce, brown sauce, ketchup and mayonnaise – sparingly, as these are often high in salt
  • eat fewer salty snacks, such as crisps, salted nuts and salty foods such as bacon, cheese, pickles and smoked fish 
  • add less or no salt when cooking – use herbs and spices for flavour instead
  • choose low-salt stock cubes, or make your own stock without added salt 
  • taste your food first, and don't automatically add extra salt 

Read more facts about salt, cutting down on salt and how much salt is good for me?

You can also download the Change4Life Be Food Smart app, which allows you to scan food barcodes to check the salt content.

What happens if I have too much salt?

Having too much salt is linked to high blood pressure, which raises your risk of serious problems like strokes and heart attacks.

What does the Department of Health advise?

Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day – that's around one teaspoon. On average, we eat 2.1g more salt than we should each day.

The Department of Health advises that people cut down on salt and says sodium chloride shouldn't be used in supplements.

Zinc

Zinc helps with:

  • making new cells and enzymes
  • processing carbohydrate, fat and protein in food
  • wound healing

Good sources of zinc

Good sources of zinc include:

  • meat
  • shellfish
  • dairy foods – such as cheese
  • bread
  • cereal products – such as wheatgerm

How much zinc do I need?

The amount of zinc you need is about:

  • 9.5mg a day for men (aged 19-64 years)
  • 7mg a day for women

You should be able to get all the zinc you need from your daily diet.

What happens if I take too much zinc?

Taking high doses of zinc reduces the amount of copper the body can absorb. This can lead to anaemia and weakening of the bones.

What does the Department of Health advise?

You should be able to get all the zinc you need by eating a varied and balanced diet. If you take zinc supplements, don't take too much as this could be harmful.

Don't take more than 25mg of zinc supplements a day unless advised to by a doctor.

Page last reviewed: 03/03/2017

Next review due: 03/03/2020