This cross-sectional, population-based study aimed to estimate the prevalence of dietary mineral inadequacies among residents in urban areas of Sao Paulo, to identify foods contributing to mineral intake and to verify possible associations between socio-demographic and lifestyle factors and mineral intake. Data were obtained from the 2008 Health Survey of Sao Paulo (n 1511; mean age 43·6 (sd 23·2), range 14–97 years). Dietary intake of minerals was measured using two 24-h dietary recalls. Socio-demographic and lifestyle data were collected. The prevalence of inadequate intake was estimated according to Dietary Reference Intakes methods. Associations between mineral intake and baseline factors were determined using multiple linear regression. Na, Ca and Mg showed the highest dietary inadequacies. Some age/sex groups had lower intakes of P, Zn, Cu and Se. Rice, beans and bread were the main foods contributing towards mineral intake. Female sex was negatively associated with K, Na, P, Mg, Zn and Mn intakes. All age groups were positively associated with the intakes of K, P, Mg and Mn. Family income above one minimum wage was positively associated with Se intake. Living in a household whose head completed ≥10 years of education was positively associated with Ca and negatively associated with Na intake. Former smoker status was negatively associated with Ca intake. Current smoker status was inversely associated with K, Ca, P and Cu intakes. Sufficient physical activity was positively associated with K, Ca and Mg intakes. Overall, the intakes of all major minerals were inadequate and were influenced by socio-demographic and lifestyle factors.