The Effect of Minerals on Appetite, Hunger and Satiety

Minerals are essential for human survival.  They are critical cofactors that serve as catalysts for numerous bodily functions like enzyme synthesis, detoxification, and cell signalling.

If you don’t get adequate amounts of all the essential minerals from your diet, your appetite will send you in search of more food until you give your body the raw ingredients it needs. 

But did you know that foods and meals containing more nutrients also satisfy your cravings and hunger? 

As you will see from our analysis of 125,761 days of food logs from 34,519 people using Nutrient Optimiser, minerals have profound effects on your cravings. 

This article will:

  • show you which minerals influence appetite and satiety the most;
  • the foods that contain more minerals per calorie; and
  • the quantity of each mineral you should aim for to maximise satiety and health. 

This is the same process used by thousands of Optimisers in our Micros Masterclass to dial in their nutrient density and control their appetite.

Which Minerals Suppress Your Appetite?

Our satiety analysis has shown that we have the strongest appetite and cravings for protein

However, minerals come in at a close second.  We are satisfied with fewer calories when we consume more in the food we eat. 

The table below shows the satiety response elicited by each essential mineral. 

  • At the top of the chart, we can see that people consuming more potassium per calorie consume 47% fewer calories than those consuming less potassium! 
  • Meanwhile, towards the bottom of the chart, we can see that copper elicits the smallest minimal impact on our cravings and has the least influence on how much we eat compared to the other minerals.   
mineralSatiety Response
Potassium-47%
Calcium-37%
Phosphorus-35%
Selenium-33%
Sodium-26%
Magnesium-25%
Iron-23%
Zinc-21%
Manganese-20%
Copper-13%

Keep reading to learn more about our Optimal Nutrient Intake stretch targets for minerals and how to implement them in your daily diet. 

Adequate vs Optimal Nutrient Intakes

If you’re familiar with nutrition and nutrient guidelines, you may have heard of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), Adequate Intake (AI), Estimated Average Requirement (EAR), and Upper Limit (UL).

These nutrient targets were established in the 1940s to ensure soldiers obtained adequate amounts of each essential micronutrient in their rations to make it through World War II.  In other words, these nutrient targets were to ensure soldiers stayed alive; they were not necessarily put in place to ensure optimal health or well-being.  

Bizarrely, they haven’t been updated much in the eight decades since.  Today, many people treat them as targets to ensure adequacy.  However, they are the bare minimum to prevent diseases of deficiency in most of the population most of the time. 

While many still struggle to meet these minimum intakes in our modern food environment, they by no means represent optimal targets for satiety or longevity! 

The figure below shows where the EAR, RDA, and UL sit on the inadequacy vs. excess spectrum. 

It’s worth noting that the Upper Limit is the intake of micronutrients that aligns with adverse responses.  However, intakes this high are typically impossible to achieve from whole foods and usually result from over-supplementation. 

If you’re reading this, you’re likely interested in improving your health—not narrowly escaping disease and death. 

So, what nutrient intake should you consume if you want to strive for longevity, optimal health, and well-being?

Enter: our Optimal Nutrient Intakes!

We determined our Optimal Nutrient Intakes (ONIs) for each mineral based on the lesser of:

  • the 85th percentile intake of our Optimisers, or the intake that only 15% of people can exceed with whole foods alone; and
  • the point at which we see a satiety begins to plateau or rebound as people consume more of each mineral. 

We’ll get more into this below.  But to get straight to the point, the table below shows the ONI for each mineral, along with:

  • the average intake of our Optimisers for that relative nutrient;
  • the DRI (or AI); and
  • the units each mineral is measured in.  Larger (macro) minerals are measured in grams (g), while trace minerals are measured in milligrams (mg) or micrograms (mcg). 
parameterONIaverageDRI/AIunits
potassium6.03.92.6g/2000 cal
calcium1.61.21.0g/2000 cal
phosphorus1.31.50.7g/2000 cal
selenium30017070mcg/2000 cal
sodium4.03.21.5g/2000 cal
magnesium825469320mg/2000 cal
iron307318mg/2000 cal
zinc25198.0mg/2000 cal
manganese5.53.41.8mg/2000 cal
copper31.60.9mg/2000 cal

If you study the table, you’ll see that the ONIs are typically more than the average Optimiser intake.  While it’s a challenge, many people can do it with food alone and without using supplements. 

You might also notice that the ONIs are considerably more than the DRIs.  For example, our ONI for selenium is more than four times the DRI, while the ONI for calcium is 1.6 times the DRI.  However, all of our ONIs are still within the UL.

While these intakes may seem daunting and unachievable, it’s important to note that these ONI targets are set on a per-calorie basis, which sets our approach apart from other nutrient-density approaches.  

So rather than eating more to get the nutrients you need, you need to eat better to pack more of each mineral into your energy budget.  In other words, the quantity will look after itself if you pay attention to quality.

To learn more about how we determined the ONI for each mineral, read on. 

Potassium

Potassium ranks second in the list of ‘most satiating nutrients’, just behind protein %. 

The chart below illustrates our potassium intake per calorie vs calories consumed.  We created it by segmenting our 125,761 days of Optimiser food logging data into buckets based on their potassium intake per 2000 calories.  From there, we calculated the average calorie intake for each bucket. 

People consuming more potassium per calorie eat about half as many calories as those who consume the least potassium. 

The potassium content in our food system has declined since food production started to industrialise in the 1940s.  As a result, we now need to consume 33% more calories to get the same amount of potassium as we would have only eighty years ago. 

The chart below shows the distribution of potassium intake of our Optimisers.  The average Optimiser consumes 3.9 grams/2000 calories, and the 85th percentile intake is 5.7 grams/2000 calories. 

While potassium is not a nutrient people commonly supplement with, it’s worth pointing out that we used these distribution charts to remove data that exceeds the normal distribution of each nutrient.  This ensures that the targets represent the intake achievable with whole foods and that it is not clouded with supplements or fortification. 

Because potassium is critical, we’ve set our Optimal Nutrient Intake stretch target at 6.0 grams/2000 calories.  This is more than twice the DRI for potassium of 2.6 grams.  

Popular foods that contain more potassium per calorie include:

  • spinach
  • parsley
  • zucchini
  • radish
  • lettuce
  • mushrooms
  • cauliflower
  • asparagus
  • kale
  • avocado

To learn more about potassium, see High Potassium Foods and Recipes: The Ultimate Guide

Calcium

Coming in just behind potassium is calcium, which is another mineral we crave intensely.  Optimisers who consume more potassium per calorie eat 37% fewer calories than those who take in the least calcium. 

The amount of calcium in our food system has declined since the 1940s.  As a result, we now must consume 39% more calories to get the same amount of calcium as we did eighty years ago. 

The average calcium intake of our Optimisers is 1.15 grams/2000 calories.  However, we’ve set a stretch target of 1.625 grams/2000 calories for calcium compared to the DRI of 1.0 grams/day for men. 

Some popular foods that contain more calcium include:

  • arugula (rocket)
  • parsley
  • kale
  • milk
  • broccoli
  • cabbage
  • Parmesan cheese
  • yogurt  
  • cottage cheese
  • gouda
  • mackerel
  • sardines

While plant foods contain calcium, it is most bioavailable in dairy products.  For more on calcium, see Healthy High Calcium Foods and Recipes.

Phosphorus

People getting more dietary phosphorus tend to eat 35% fewer calories than those who consume the least phosphorus. 

Today, we must consume 21% more calories than in the 1940s to get the same amount of phosphorus.  This is largely due to the lack of nutrients in our soils from large-scale farming practices.

While phosphorus is an essential nutrient, most people tend to get adequate phosphorus if they prioritise protein.  Protein-rich foods contain plenty of phosphorus, so it’s not a nutrient most people need to prioritise.  

The average Optimiser’s phosphorus intake is 1.5 g/2000 calories.  However, we have set an Optimal Nutrient Intake of 1.25 g/2000 calories to maintain a calcium:phosphorus ratio greater than 1.3.   

For more on optimal micronutrient ratios, check out Micronutrient Balance Ratios: Do They Matter and How Can I Manage Them?

Popular high phosphorus foods include:

  • mushrooms
  • liver
  • asparagus
  • shrimp
  • mackerel
  • spinach
  • sardines
  • milk
  • salmon
  • broccoli

For more details, see High-Phosphorus Foods and Recipes.

Selenium

People eating more selenium consume 33% fewer calories than those with the least selenium. 

The average selenium intake of our Optimisers is 170 mcg/2000 calories.  Based on this analysis, we have set our ONI at 300 mcg/2000 calories, which is more than four times the 70 mcg/day DRI.

Popular foods that contain more selenium include:

  • Brazil nuts
  • pork
  • tuna
  • liver
  • mushrooms
  • shrimp
  • eggs
  • mackerel
  • sardines
  • salmon
  • chicken  
  • steak  

For more on selenium, its many benefits, and where to find it, check out Selenium-Rich Foods and Recipes.

Sodium

While we are often admonished to minimise sodium, it is still essential for the human body.  It is rather critical, considering the sodium-potassium pump is vital for many bodily functions.

The chart below shows that people getting more dietary sodium consume 26% fewer calories than those who eat the least sodium per calorie.   

It may surprise you that the sodium in our food supply has been declining since the 1960s; this trend also has the strongest correlation with the increase in obesity.  We now must consume 58% more calories to get the same amount of sodium as we did in the 1960s!

The average Optimiser’s sodium intake is 3.2 grams/2000 calories.  Based on our analysis, we’ve set an Optimal Nutrient Intake of 4.0 grams/2000 calories, but people who are active and sweating a lot may need more than this.  However, most people get adequate sodium by listening to their cravings and salting their food to taste. 

Popular foods that contain more sodium include:

  1. pickles
  2. sauerkraut
  3. olives
  4. shrimp
  5. parmesan cheese
  6. feta
  7. egg white
  8. mackerel
  9. spinach
  10. cottage cheese 

For more details on sodium, see Sodium in Food: A Practical Guide and How Many Grams of Sodium Do You Need Per Day?

Magnesium

People who get more dietary magnesium per calorie tend to consume 25% fewer calories. 

Today, we must consume 23% more calories to get the same amount of magnesium in our food in the 1940s. 

The average Optimiser’s magnesium intake is 469 mg/2000 calories.  Based on our satiety analysis, we set our magnesium ONI of 825 mg/2000 calories.  This is more than twice the DRI of 320 mg/day! 

Popular foods that contain more magnesium include:

  • spinach
  • parsley
  • coriander (cilantro)
  • zucchini
  • kale
  • pumpkin seeds
  • cucumber
  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • sauerkraut

For more details on magnesium, see Magnesium Rich Foods and Recipes: A Practical Guide.

Iron

People who get more iron from their food consume 23% fewer calories than those who consume the least iron. 

The average iron intake of our Optimisers is 18.9 mg/2000 calories.  We set our ONI stretch target for iron at 30 mg/2000 calories, which is more than one and a half times the DRI of 18 mg/2000 calories.  

Popular foods that contain more iron include:

  • liver
  • beef
  • lamb
  • pork
  • parsley
  • spinach
  • asparagus
  • sauerkraut
  • mushrooms
  • liver
  • Brussels sprouts
  • broccoli
  • kale
  • olives

For more details, see Iron: What Does It Do For Your Body?

Zinc

People eating the most dietary zinc from whole food sources tend to consume 21% less energy than those consuming the least. 

Interestingly, zinc in our food system increased rapidly during the 1970s due to fortification.  However, it has declined since. 

The average Optimiser’s zinc intake is 19 mg/2000 calories.  Based on our analysis, we have set a stretch target of 25 mg/2000 calories, which is over three times the DRI of 8 mg/day. 

Popular foods that contain more zinc include: 

  • liver
  • oysters
  • spinach
  • mushrooms
  • parsley
  • steak 
  • asparagus
  • ground beef 
  • chicken 
  • broccoli

For more details, see Zinc-Rich Foods and Recipes: A Practical Guide.

Copper

As you can see from the chart below, the satiety response to copper is interesting.  People who get about 6 mg/2000 calories tend to eat 13% fewer calories than those who consume less copper.  However, exceeding this intake can negatively impact on satiety. 

We see similar ‘rebound’ satiety effects from very high nutrient intakes of most of the nutrients—especially vitamins—that are only achievable from supplementation.  Although we worked to clean out unnaturally high nutrient intakes for the most part, it is possible to overdo coper from whole foods like liver or cacao powder. 

The average Optimiser’s copper intake is 0.9 mg/2000 calories.  Based on our analysis, we set our Optimal Nutrient Intake for copper at 3 mg/2000, which is more than three times the DRI of 0.9 mg/2000 calories.  It is critical to keep copper in balance with zinc for optimal health.

Popular foods that contain more copper per calorie include:

  • liver
  • kale
  • mushrooms
  • coriander (cilantro)
  • asparagus
  • spinach
  • daikon
  • sauerkraut
  • turmeric
  • parsley
  • cacao powder

For more detail, see Copper-Rich Foods and Recipes: A Practical Guide.

Bringing it All Together

The following chart shows the satiety response to all the essential minerals on the same chart. 

Notice towards the right how we require potassium and sodium in the largest quantities.  Although we have the most substantial satiety response to potassium, it tracks closely with sodium.  This is because they are potent synergists, or the body requires them in combination to function.  

Phosphorus and calcium are also required in similar quantities, and they are synergists, too.  Hence, they must also stay in balance. 

This next chart shows the same data on a log scale to highlight the smaller microminerals like copper, manganese, zinc, and selenium.  The shorter lines indicate that our satiety response to these minerals is less significant.  It’s typically the larger macro minerals that we need crave more of. 

Which Minerals Are Significant?

While each of these minerals aligns with a lower calorie intake, they don’t act independently when we’re getting them from foods.  In other words, the benefit is coming from getting the ‘sum of the parts’, or all the nutrients together.  Hence, isolate supplements do not elicit the same effect.

To understand which nutrients have a statistically significant independent impact on satiety, we ran a multivariate analysis on all of the essential nutrients.  The table below shows the results of our multivariate analysis. 

 P-value15th85thcalories%
protein %1.48E-25419%44%-390-25.0%
cholesterol1.70E-382291091-124-7.9%
sodium1.00E-2614045015-101-6.4%
folate1.59E-19162993-93-6.0%
fibre (g/2000 cal)2.20E-181043-92-5.9%
potassium1.34E-1018066051-77-4.9%
calcium1.69E-134421883-76-4.8%
total-952-61%

While protein has the greatest impact on satiety, this analysis showed that sodium, potassium, and calcium also statistically significantly impact cravings and satiety when all the nutrients are considered together. 

This is supported by the extremely low p-values shown, which confirm this is not due to chance.     

Moving from low to high intakes of these minerals aligns with the following reduction in overall intake:

  • sodium – 6.4%;
  • potassium – 4.9%; and
  • calcium – 4.8%. 

Prioritising nutrient-dense foods that naturally contain more of all the essential minerals per calorie will make it much easier to manage your overall energy intake and, thus, your weight and metabolic health. 

How to Implement the Optimal Nutrient Intakes

After four years of running the Micros Masterclass, we found that many people get discouraged when they try to jump straight to targeting the ONIs because they are such a challenge.  Hence, it’s better to level up your targets progressively. 

The table below shows the ONIs broken down into four different levels.

  • Beginner.  These are the default DRIs and AIs set in Cronometer.  Before you level up, it would be best if you aimed to hit most of these targets with food.
  • Level 1.  These are half of the full ONI targets.  Level 2 targets are reasonable intermediate goals, particularly if you consume less than 2000 calories. 
  • Level 2.  Once you can hit most of the Level 2 targets from food consistently, you can progress to level 3. 
  • Level 3.  These are the full-strength ONI targets which would only be appropriate if you’re consuming 2000 calories or more.  Note: most people find that nutrient-dense whole foods are incredibly satiating.  So, 2000 calories is unlikely, especially if you are less active. 
MineralBeginner
(DRI)
Level 1
(1000 cal)
Level 2
(1500 cal)
Level 3
(2000 cal)
Units
selenium70150225300mcg
copper0.91.52.253mg
zinc8.012.518.7525mg
sodium1.523.004.0g
magnesium320412619825g
potassium2.634.506.0g
phosphorus0.70.630.941.3g
iron181522.530mg
calcium1.00.811.221.6g
manganese1.82.754.135.50mg

To change your micronutrient targets in the web version of Cronometer, go to:

‘Settings’ -> ‘Account Profile’ -> ‘Targets’.

Next, scroll down to the bottom to ‘Nutrient Targets’.  Here, you can then click on each nutrient and enter the target from your chosen level. 

Finally, select ‘Custom Target’ for each nutrient you enter manually.  The screenshots below show what the Level 2 ONI Targets would look like.

You can also change your nutrient targets by clicking on each corresponding green and yellow bar that’s visible in the main diary screen in Cronometer.

For more details on this process, see The Nutrient Bucket-Filling Game.

Can’t I Just Take a Supplement?

When most people think of micronutrients, they think of pills and bottles.  But while vitamins are small, minerals are a bit chunkier.  Hence, they don’t fit into your everyday multivitamin as easily. 

Vitamins are relatively small and often measured in milligrams (mg) and micrograms (mcg).  However, minerals are much bigger and heavier, and most are measured in grams.  

Hence, you must use more powders to hit the DRIs for each mineral, and this doesn’t even consider the ONI targets. 

While it might be tempting to buy a ton of mineral powders, the bad news here is that if you start trying to consume large amounts of them, you’ll be on the toilet dumping out the minerals and all the other nutrients from your food before too long. 

We tend to absorb and utilise minerals more effectively in smaller quantities and the balanced ratios that nutrient-dense foods provide.  In contrast, isolated nutrient supplements provide a large bolus dose that tends to displace and imbalance nutrients elsewhere.  

So, yes, you need to get the minerals from your food, especially if you want to experience the beneficial effects of satiety!  Unfortunately, you can’t just use pills and powders as nutritional insurance!  

What Should I Eat? 

To learn more about the foods you can eat to get more nutrients without excess energy, check out:

To quickly find out which nutrients you require more of and the foods and meals that contain them, you can take our Free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge

But if you’re serious about dialling in your nutrient density, you might also love our Micros Masterclass

Satiety Series

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