7 Minerals You Should Know About

“No athlete, be they Michael Johnson or Joe Plod, can survive for long without a regular intake of the essential minerals.”

– Dr Earl Mindell

Have you consumed enough minerals today? Chances are, even if you think the answer is yes, you probably haven’t consumed the recommended daily amounts to help keep your body healthy and functioning properly. Many people may not realize how necessary minerals are for everyday body functioning.

Minerals are vital components of all living cells. They are needed for the formation of blood and bone, maintaining healthy nerve functioning, supporting the endocrine system, and supporting the muscles and cardiovascular system. Although they contain no energy themselves, minerals assist the body in energy production. Without minerals, vitamins and enzymes cannot carry out their necessary functions in the body. So obviously, obtaining the full spectrum of essential minerals becomes very important.

7minMinerals work in combination with each other and with other nutrients, so imbalances of any mineral can cause health problems – too little of any essential mineral can lead to deficiency diseases, and too much of any mineral can be toxic.

We get these essential minerals primarily through the foods we eat. Good sources of essential minerals include fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, beans and dairy products. Unfortunately, much of the soil in which food is grown has been depleted of these nutritive minerals, therefore the mineral content in food is reduced.

So here is a list of six essential minerals you should know and care about in order to improve your health and life:

1. Calcium:

Why it’s good for you: Calcium is the most important, and most common, mineral we need. Eating a diet rich in nutrients that help your bones stay strong should be the first step in stopping or slowing the process of osteoporosis. Calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, phosphorus, soy-based foods and fluoride compose the major nutrients that strengthen bone. At this moment, 98 percent of your body’s calcium resides in your bones, the rest circulates in the blood, taking part in metabolic functions. Because the body cannot manufacture calcium, you must eat calcium in your daily diet to replace the amounts that are constantly lost. Calcium also aids in the control of nerve impulses and muscle contractions.

Where to find it: Dairy products and fish bones are full of calcium, but those who are lactose-intolerant or vegan can get their required intake from tofu, fortified orange juice and green, leafy vegetables.

Signs of deficiency: Not ingesting enough calcium can lead to bone mineral loss.

2. Magnesium:

Why it’s good for you: Magnesium is essential to maintain both the acid-alkaline balance in the body and healthy functioning of nerves and muscles (including the heart), as well as to activate enzymes to metabolize blood sugars, proteins and carbohydrates. Magnesium is vital for proper bone growth and is indirectly related to adequate calcium absorption. A 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium is essential to maintain strong bones

Where to find it: Grains, legumes, seeds, and green vegetables all contain magnesium, as do soy products, nuts and mineral water.

Signs of deficiency: Muscle twitches, nervousness, abnormal heart beat and disorientation.

3. Iodine:

Why it’s good for you: Elemental iodine is essential to the development and functioning of the thyroid gland, and a deficiency can cause an enlargement of the gland. Deficiency of iodine during pregnancy and infancy may lead to abnormalities in brain development and in children’s growth. Iodized salt is the
most common source of this essential trace mineral.

Where to find it: Salt (iodized kind), yogurt and seaweed all contain rich amounts of iodine.

Signs of deficiency: Iodine deficiency can decrease thyroid activity, leading to a slow metabolism.

4. Potassium:

Why it’s good for you: It is the major mineral in, and primary regulator of, fluids inside cells – along with sodium. Potassium is critical to the transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contractions and maintenance of normal blood pressure.

Where to find it: Fish is especially high in potassium, but it can be found in other meats too. Potatoes, green vegetables, avocadoes, and fresh fruit like bananas, apples and apricots also contain potassium.

Signs of deficiency: Muscle weakness, intestinal problems, heart abnormalities and respiratory weakness.

5. Fluoride:

Why it’s good for you: Fluoride, a natural form of the mineral fluorine, is required for healthy teeth and bones. It helps form the tough enamel that protects teeth from decay and cavities, and increases bone strength and stability.

Where to find it: Fluoride is added to tap water, so most food prepared with tap water will contain the mineral. Tea, gelatine and marine fish are also good sources of fluoride.

Signs of deficiency: If you’re not getting enough fluoride, you may have an increased tendency to develop cavities, and your bones and teeth may weaken.

6. Sodium:

Why it’s good for you: All bodily fluids – including blood, tears, and perspiration – contain sodium. Together with potassium and chloride, sodium maintains fluid distribution and pH balance; with potassium, sodium also helps control muscle contraction and nerve function.

Where to find it: Sodium is found in many foods. Salt, soy sauce and salty foods are the most obvious sources, but sodium is also present in processed meats.

Signs of deficiency: Though you can experience muscle weakness, a decreased appetite and nausea if you’re not getting enough, the most common problem is getting too much sodium, which can lead to high blood pressure and fluid retention.

7. Zinc:

Why it’s good for you: Zinc supports the health of the immune system, normal synthesis of protein, and the health of reproductive organs (especially in men).

Where to find it: Meats, fish, beans, whole grains, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms and brewer’s yeast are good food sources of zinc.

Signs of deficiency: Zinc deficiency is common, and can adversely affect normal physical growth, skin and nerve health, natural healing ability, and immune function, especially in infants. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption adversely affect zinc levels.

The key to total health may lie in something as basic as trace minerals. Begin a new habit today, a good habit, and supply your body with the minerals it needs to survive and thrive. A daily mineral supplement is not a substitute for a healthy diet, but can ensure we get the minerals we need for optimal health.

Stay Healthy!

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1 Comment

  • IanW says:

    Thanks for explaining the value of these minerals in easy to understand terms. Many are missing in our modern diet which is often ‘peddled’ to us as healthy but in fact misses the mark because of the high processed content. I am very much taken with the idea espoused by Michael Pollan in his book ‘In Defence of Food’ – namely to shop around the perimeter of the supermarket and avoid the aisles. It is here that you get the least processed food and encounter the fruit, vegetables and dairy. All of which contribute more to your mineral intake. The only downside is that many of today’s fruit and vegetable products have been tailor made for the super market and consequently may have fewer of the good things of yester year.

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