NRC Essential Nutrients: Macrominerals

Estimated reading time: 8 min

Minerals are inorganic substances found within food and are found in macro (large) and micro (small) quantities. The six essential macrominerals include calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, magnesium, and potassium. These minerals cannot be synthesized in quantities sufficient to support normal physiologic function and must be supplied within the diet.

The information provided below is based on a healthy canine or feline and recommended allowances (RA) will vary on physiological state. Requirements for essential macrominerals depend on growth, lactation, pregnancy, medical conditions, and nutrient interactions within the diet.


Calcium plays a major role in the structural components of bones and teeth, as well as functions as an ion reservoir. Additionally, calcium enables cells to respond to hormones and neurotransmitters.

The National Research Council (NRC) for dogs and cats provides minimum and recommended amounts for calcium per 1000kcal:

Adult Dogs

0.5g minimum allowance
1g recommended allowance


2g minimum allowance
3g recommended allowance
18 maximum allowance

Adult Cats

0.4g minimum allowance
0.72g recommended allowance


1.3g minimum allowance
2g recommended allowance

Raw meaty bones are the main source of calcium in raw diets. Smaller amounts of calcium are found in dairy and vegetables, but are not reliable sources to meet recommended allowances.


1. Eggshell

½ tsp (1g): 0.4g

Each raw meaty bone varies in bone percentage and calcium content. According to the USDA Food Database nutritional analysis, raw meaty bones are not common and the bone refuse is listed instead of the calcium content.


Following calcium, phosphorus is the second largest mineral within bones and teeth. Additionally, phosphorus is essential for DNA and RNA creation and many cellular functions.

The National Research Council (NRC) for dogs and cats provides minimum and recommended amounts for phosphorus per 1000kcal:

Adult Dogs

0.5g minimum allowance
0.75g recommended allowance


2.5g recommended allowance

Adult Cats

0.35g minimum allowance
0.64g recommended allowance


1.2g minimum allowance
1.8g recommended allowance

Phosphorus is abundant in raw meat, fatty fish, and organs, whereas there are minimal amounts in plant-based ingredients. Animal-based ingredients include bioavailable forms of phosphorus where the phosphorus from plants has significantly lower absorption rates in contrast.


1. Atlantic Herring

1oz (28g): 67mg


2. Atlantic Mackerel

1oz (28g): 61mg


3. Beef

1oz (28g): 59mg

raw meat for dogs in pmr & barf feeding

4. Pork

1oz (28g): 56mg


5. Turkey

1oz (28g): 57mg


6. Chicken

1oz (28g): 49mg

Recommended allowances for phosphorus are easily met without the need for supplementation when a BARF and PMR model raw diet is fed.

Sodium & Chloride

Sodium chloride is a naturally occurring ionic compound with a 1:1 ratio of sodium to chloride ions. These minerals play a vital role in maintaining osmotic pressure, regulating acid-base equilibrium, transmitting nerve impulses, and transmitting muscle contractions.

The National Research Council (NRC) for dogs and cats provides minimum and recommended amounts for sodium per 1000kcal:

Adult Dogs

75mg minimum allowance
200mg recommended allowance


550mg recommended allowance

Adult Cats

160mg minimum allowance
170mg recommended allowance


310mg minimum allowance
350mg recommended allowance

The National Research Council (NRC) for dogs and cats provides minimum and recommended amounts for chloride per 1000kcal:

Adult Dogs

300mg recommended allowance


720mg recommended allowance

Adult Cats

240mg recommended allowance


190mg minimum allowance
225mg recommended allowance

Sodium chloride is responsible for the salinity of seawater and of the extracellular fluid of many multicellular organisms. It is naturally occurring in all foods and easily met in raw diets without the need for careful calculations to fulfill recommended allowances. However, sodium levels are naturally higher in seafood, shellfish, and eggs.


1. Blue Lipped Mussels

1oz (28g): 105mg


2. Chicken Egg

1 medium egg (44g): 62.5mg
1oz (28g): 40mg


3. Canned Oysters

1oz (28g): 32mg


4. Atlantic Herring

1oz (28g): 25.5mg


5. Atlantic Mackerel

1oz (28g): 25.5mg

Always check the label of raw products before purchasing. Ensure grocery store meats are 100mg sodium per 4oz (114g) serving size or do not have any added salt in the ingredients. Maintaining sodium under 100mg ensures the raw meat is not injected with seasonings, preservatives, and nitrates.


Magnesium is the third largest mineral within bone and is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Additionally, magnesium acts as a catalyst for a wide array of enzymes, required for cellular oxidation, a catalyst for most phosphate transfers, and influences neuromuscular activity.

The National Research Council (NRC) for dogs and cats provides minimum and recommended amounts for magnesium per 1000kcal:

Adult Dogs

45mg minimum allowance 150mg recommended allowance


100mg recommended allowance

Adult Cats

50mg minimum allowance
100mg recommended allowance


40mg minimum allowance
100mg recommended allowance

The highest concentration of magnesium is found in raw seeds and nuts. To a lesser degree, magnesium is found in leafy greens, fatty fish, and muscle meats.


1. Hemp Seeds

1oz (28g): 198.45mg


2. Pumpkin Seeds

1oz (28g): 168mg


3. Sunflower Seeds

1oz (28g): 92mg


4. Almonds

1oz (28g): 77mg


5. Wheatgrass

1oz (28g): 31mg


6. Swiss Chard

1oz (28g): 23mg


7. Spinach

1oz (28g): 22mg


8. Atlantic Mackerel

1oz (28g): 21.5mg

Including raw seeds and nuts with leafy greens in a BARF raw diet will provide sufficient amounts of magnesium.


Potassium is essential to maintain acid-base balance, osmotic balance, transmit nerve impulses, facilitate muscle contractions, and serve as a cofactor in multiple enzyme systems.

The National Research Council (NRC) for dogs and cats provides minimum and recommended amounts for potassium per 1000kcal:

Adult Dogs

1g recommended allowance


1.1g recommended allowance

Adult Cats

1.3g recommended allowance


0.67g minimum allowance
1g recommended allowance

Potassium is found in many foods. However, the highest concentration is in leafy greens, raw meat, and fish.


1. Beet Greens

1oz (28g): 216mg


2. Coconut Water

¼ cup (60g): 150mg


3. Swiss Chard

1oz (28g): 107mg


4. Sockeye Salmon

1oz (28g): 104mg


5. Beef

1oz (28g): 101.5mg

raw meat for dogs in pmr & barf feeding

6. Pork

1oz (28g): 100.5mg


7. Atlantic Herring

1oz (28g): 93mg

A raw diet is abundant in raw meat, which will provide sufficient amounts of potassium. However, for diets that need more potassium to meet recommended allowances, the addition of leafy greens and fish proves beneficial.


Overall, raw diets supply sufficient amounts of macrominerals needed to support optimal health with exception to a couple of minerals. Calcium and magnesium are two macrominerals that can be deficient in home-prepared raw diets if the appropriate foods are not fed.

Raw diets without raw meaty bones (whole or ground) will be severely deficient in calcium and phosphorus. If raw meaty bones are not fed, a calcium supplement, such as calcium carbonate or bone meal, is necessary to supply essential calcium.

In addition to calcium, raw diets can be lacking in magnesium if leafy greens, seeds, nuts, and fish are not fed frequently. However, a raw diet following BARF guidelines will provide these essential nutrients through whole foods.