Organic and Inorganic Ions


Organic and Inorganic

Organic- molecules that have a high proportion of carbon atoms.

Inorganic- a molecule or ion that has no more than one carbon atom.

Living organisms require a range of inorganic ions (aka electrolytes or minerals) to survive.

Their uses include:

  • Muscle contraction
  • Nervous coordination
  • Maintaining water potential cells and blood

They can be separated into two groups;

  • Macronutrients- needed in small amounts
  • Micronutrients- needed in trace amounts
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Magnesium (Mg2+)

Magnesium is a vital component of chlorophyll in plant cells.

Plants obtain magnesium from the soil and so if the ion is not present in the soil, plants cannot make chlorophyll. 

This results in a condition called chlorosis (the leaves are yellow) and growth is stunted from a lack of glucose.

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Iron (Fe2+)

Iron is a constituent of haemoglobin.

A lack of iron in our diet can lead to anaemia.


Anaemia is a disease where there are fewer red blood cells or haemoglobin in the blood. This causes tiredness, lethargy, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and/or pale skin.

Food that contains a lot of iron and so will help to prevent anaemia include:

  • dark green leafy vegetables like watercress and curly kale
  • cereal and bread with extra iron in them (fortified)
  • meat
  • pulses (beans, peas and lentils)
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Phosphate (PO4β-)

Nucleotides are made up of a nitrogenous base, a five-carbon sugar and at least one phosphate group.

Examples of nucleotides include DNA and ATP.

Phosphate ions are also an important component of phospholipids.

Phospholipids are found in biological membranes, which are important in providing a barrier between a cell and the external environment.

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Calcium (Ca2+)

Calcium ions are similar to phosphate and are important structural components to both mammals and plants:

  • Bones and teeth in mammals
  • As part of the cell wall in plants

These components provide strength to the plant/animal.

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