What do Minerals do?
Minerals have specific duties within the bodies of both humans and animals. They do the same job as vitamins; that is, they speed up the chemical reactions within the body; but they have other duties. When we think of minerals, we think of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. However, there are other necessary minerals which we should ensure that our diets contain.
As I mentioned before, vitamins and minerals work hand in hand. For example, calcium gives strength to bones and teeth, and also stimulates the contraction of muscle fibers throughout the body. Vitamin D in its turn helps the body to absorb the amount of calcium it needs to do its job. A deficiency of vitamin D can result in the body being subjected to a disease called rickets; which is a softening of the bones, due to the body’s inability to absorb calcium. When calcium is consumed adequately, it will optimize bone mass, and as a result reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
Calcium is the most important mineral in the body. Its major role is to maintain integrity of the skeletal system. Dairy products provide the major source of calcium intake. Vegetable sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, and the soft bones of salmon and sardines.
Like calcium, phosphorus also provides strength to bones and teeth. It is also necessary to help us properly metabolize, protein, fat and carbohydrate. Phosphorus regulates the use of B vitamins.
Phosphorus occurs widely in foods, and can be found in milk, meats, poultry, fish, eggs, grains, nuts, dried beans, peas, lentils and green leafy vegetables.
Iron is a mineral which our bodies definitely need. It not only forms a part of all our cells, but it plays a major role in carrying oxygen from our lungs throughout our bodies. Iron however, belongs to the group of minerals referred to as trace minerals, and we only need very small amounts of these each day.
Quick Facts about Iron:
Iron can interfere with your ability to absorb phosphorus
Iron may enhance the absorption of calcium
Food sources of iron include meat, poultry, fish, clams, eggs, spinach, asparagus, prunes, raisins and cream of wheat
Deficiency of vitamin A reduces the ability to absorb iron
Although the body only needs a small amount, chromium is important for life. Its primary role is in blood sugar regulation. Food sources of chromium include brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, liver, meat, cheese, legumes, beans, peas, whole grains, black pepper, and molasses.
Quick Facts about Chromium:
- It is vital in the breakdown of cholesterol, fats and proteins
- reduces blood sugar and insulin levels in type 2 diabetes patients
- it promotes a health circulatory system
Copper is a nutrient essential to human health. Copper works together with iron in making red blood cells. Food sources include organ meats such as liver, seafood, nuts, seeds, cherries and cocoa.
Some Quick Facts about Copper:
- copper also aids in the formation of bone and hemoglobin
- it is involved in the healing process and energy production
- it is involved in hair and skin coloring, taste and sensitivity
More about Copper (Coming Soon)
Magnesium is essential for the absorption of calcium and vitamin C. It is found in a variety of foods. A deficiency of magnesium includes a depletion of calcium, heart spasms, nervousness, confusion and kidney stones.
Some Quick Facts about Magnesium:
- magnesium converts blood sugars into energy
- it helps to maintain normal heart rhythm
- the richest food sources are whole seeds (nuts and legumes), wheat germ and other unprocessed grains
- other food sources include green vegetables, soybeans, molasses, cornmeal and shellfish.
Potassium is a very important electrolyte which is essential for a healthy nervous system. Like magnesium, it is also essential for a healthy heart rhythm. It is actually the major ion in every living cell, and can be found in abundance in fresh foods. Potassium aids in maintaining stable blood pressure.
Some Quick Facts about Potassium:
- food sources include a variety of fruits such as dried apricots, bananas and cantaloupe, vegetables like broccoli, lima beans
- it can also be found in liver, milk, and peanut butter
- potassium helps to prevent strokes
- helps in proper muscle contraction
Quick facts about selenium:
- an essential mineral which the body requires daily
- food sources of selenium are seafood, kidney, liver, muscle meats, grains and seeds
- works along with vitamin E to produce the body chemical glutathione which works to promote a healthy immune system
Quick facts about zinc:
- necessary for proper growth of skin, hair and nails, and in healing wounds
- an essential mineral vital to all stages of growth
- helps transport vitamin A from the liver and acts as an antioxidant
- food sources include beef, liver, chicken, seafood, wheat germ, carrots, peas, bran, oatmeal and nuts
Mineral Deficiencies Cause Illness
When we become deficient in vital minerals, like iron for example, we can become seriously ill. A deficiency in iron causes anemia. Iron is part of the protein hemoglobin and too little hemoglobin causes anemia. Apart from becoming seriously ill, profound deficiencies of some minerals could even cause death.
We should try to eat a balanced diet which provides adequate supply of these minerals, like calcium from dairy products, potassium form broccoli and bananas, and iron from red meat. However, this is not always possible, so then we turn to dietary supplements. It is important though to know how well your body absorbs the supplements, because taking a large amount of some minerals can create deficiencies in others.