Whenever kids get together and play the guessing game 20 Questions, the first question is usually, "Is it animal, vegetable, or mineral?" That's because any native substance on Earth that is not animal or plant matter is referred to as a mineral.
Rocks and minerals are often combined into one field of science and studied together, but they each have unique characteristics. Minerals are an inorganic substance that occurs naturally in the Earth, and each one has a consistent and individual set of physical properties like its crystalline structure, its level of hardness, its color, and more. Each mineral has a chemical composition that can be expressed by a chemical formula.
Mineral is also used as the catch-all generic term for a substance found on Earth that has an organic origin, like coal, but that isn't a living thing.
Minerals found in the Earth's crust include things like salt, coal, iron, ore, shale, and diamonds, just to name a few. While there are a number of elements on the periodic table that can be extracted from the Earth's crust, minerals are often mined as well, hence the similarity in the terms.
There are a number of nutrients that are vital for living things' growth and function, and many of these are referred to as minerals. Calcium, sodium, iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium are just a few of the minerals found in a healthy, natural diet, and these minerals support everything from bone growth to red blood cell production. Likewise, plants need minerals too, and depending on the type of plant those minerals and their concentrations will vary. While animals ingest the minerals they need from their food sources, plants will absorb minerals from the soil, which led to the all-important discovery of crop rotation to avoid depleting necessary minerals.
3. Minerals in Food
The term "mineral" can also refer to a food additive that makes food healthier or tastier, as in the case of mineral water. This water often contains quinine, a necessary nutrient, and once came from natural springs where the mineral was absorbed into the water. Now, quinine is artificially added to water to produce mineral water or tonic water. Soda water and soft drinks have also been called mineral water in some cultures due to the addition of carbonic acid to produce the bubbly effect.
Minerals in your Body Quiz
Properties of Minerals Quiz
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Metamorphic Rocks Facts
Rocks vs. Minerals
Chemical Erosion Examples