Minerals are something that you find in the earth, but small amounts of some minerals are also in foods (red meat is a good source of iron, etc). Like vitamins, minerals help your body to grow, develop, function properly, and stay healthy. The body uses minerals to perform many different functions: building strong bones, transmitting nerve impulses, making certain hormones, and in maintaining a normal heartbeat.
There are two kinds of minerals: macro minerals (large) and trace minerals (small). The macro mineral group is made up of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur. Our bodies require larger amounts of macro minerals than they do trace minerals. Trace minerals include iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, and selenium.
Because your body requires
nearly two thirds of all the elements currently known to man in order to
maintain health, keeping these minerals in balance is a complex yet incredibly
vital task. The events of everyday living demand a continual ingestion of
Perhaps that is why an estimated 90% of Americans suffer a mineral deficiency or imbalance.
Unfortunately in today's world, naturally occurring, nutrient-rich foods are becoming a thing of the past. Eons of vegetation growth and aggressive modern farming techniques have brought many of the
earth's minerals to the surface where they have been
washed away to the oceans.
Chemical and electrical processes are occurring within our bodies every moment. Processes that can only function correctly if the proper balance of minerals is continually being supplied to our system. Iron for our blood, sulfur for our muscles, calcium for our bones, and an conglomeration of many other elements in balanced trace amounts to ensure the proper function of our bodies and minds.
One might wonder why minerals should be discussed in this book on diets. The answer, with the exclusion of the health benefits and enhanced metabolic function, is that of “pica” (not the print) but a situation that occurs when the body is lacking certain minerals and is not aware of what it needs, but is acutely aware that something is missing and tries to satisfy that need by uncontrollably eating. This can be demonstrated by a cow chewing on bones, a goat gnawing on a can, a horse eating a wooden fence, a pregnant woman (having minerals stripped from her body by her fetus) displaying unbelievable “cravings for exotic foods”, and a person getting up in the middle of the night to get something to eat when they shouldn’t even be hungry.
The following are some minerals, their function, and some food sources:
Our bodies require larger amounts of macro minerals than they do trace minerals.
Calcium is the top macro mineral when it comes to your bones. This mineral helps build strong healthy bones, and teeth.
Foods rich in calcium are:
Phosphorus is an essential mineral that is required by every cell in the body for normal function. The majority of the phosphorus in the body is found as phosphate (PO4). Approximately 85% of the body's phosphorus is found in bone.
Phosphorus is a major structural component of bone in the form of a calcium phosphate salt called hydroxyapatite. Phospholipids are major structural components of cell membranes. All energy production and storage are dependent on phosphorylated compounds, such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and creatine phosphate. Nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), which are responsible for the storage and transmission of genetic information, are long chains of phosphate-containing molecules. A number of enzymes, hormones, and cell-signaling molecules depend on phosphorylation for their activation. Phosphorus also helps to maintain normal acid-base balance (pH) by acting as one of the body's most important buffers. Additionally, the phosphorus-containing molecule binds to hemoglobin in red blood cells and affects oxygen delivery to the tissues of the body .
Inadequate phosphorus intake results in abnormally low serum phosphate levels (hypophosphatemia). The effects of hypophosphatemia may include loss of appetite, anemia, muscle weakness, bone pain, rickets (in children), osteomalacia (in adults), increased susceptibility to infection, numbness and tingling of the extremities, and difficulty walking. Severe hypophosphatemia may result in death. Because phosphorus is so widespread in food, dietary phosphorus deficiency is usually seen only in cases of near-total starvation. Other individuals at risk of hypophosphatemia include alcoholics, diabetics recovering from an episode of diabetic ketoacidosis, and starving or anorexic patients on refeeding regimens that are high in calories but too low in phosphorus.
Sodium is the primary electrolyte that regulates the extra cellular fluid levels in the body. Sodium is essential for hydration because this mineral pumps water into the cell. In turn, potassium pumps the by-products of cellular processes out of the cell, eventually eliminating these "wastes" from the body.
In addition to maintaining water balance, sodium is necessary for osmotic equilibrium, acid-base balance and regulation of plasma volume, nerve impulses and muscle contractions.
Potassium is an essential dietary mineral and electrolyte. The term electrolyte refers to a substance that dissociates into ions (charged particles) in solution, making it capable of conducting electricity. Normal body function depends on tight regulation of potassium concentrations both inside and outside of cells.
Potassium is the principal positively charged ion (cation) in the fluid inside of cells, while sodium is the principal cation in the fluid outside of cells. Potassium concentrations are about 30 times higher inside than outside cells, while sodium concentrations are more than ten times lower inside than outside cells. The concentration differences between potassium and sodium across cell membranes create an electrochemical gradient known as the membrane potential. A cell's membrane potential is maintained by ion pumps in the cell membrane, especially the sodium, potassium-ATPase pumps. These pumps use ATP (energy) to pump sodium out of the cell in exchange for potassium. Their activity has been estimated to account for 20%-40% of the resting energy expenditure in a typical adult. The large proportion of energy dedicated to maintaining sodium/potassium concentration gradients emphasizes the importance of this function in sustaining life. Tight control of cell membrane potential is critical for nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and heart function.
Potassium is a mineral that helps the kidneys function normally. It also plays a key role in cardiac, skeletal, and smooth muscle contraction, making it an important nutrient for normal heart, digestive, and muscular function. A diet high in potassium from fruits, vegetables, and legumes is generally recommended for optimum heart health.
Having too much potassium in the blood is called hyperkalemia and having too little in the blood is known as hypokalemia. Proper balance of potassium in the body depends on sodium. Therefore, excessive use of sodium may deplete the body's stores of potassium.
Foods rich in potassium are:
Foods rich in magnesium are:
Green vegetables such as spinach provide
magnesium because the center of the chlorophyll molecule contains magnesium.
Nuts, seeds, and some whole grains are also good sources of magnesium.
The magnesium content of refined foods is usually low. Water can provide magnesium, but the amount varies according to the water supply. "Hard" water contains more magnesium than "soft" water.
Your entire body needs oxygen to stay healthy and alive. The body needs iron to transport oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Iron is important in the formation of hemoglobin, which is the part of your red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.
Foods rich in iron are:
Iodine deficiency is the single most common cause of preventable mental retardation and brain damage in the world. It also decreases child survival, causes goiters, and impairs growth and development. Iodine deficiency in pregnant women causes miscarriages, stillbirths, and other complications. Children with IDD can grow up stunted, apathetic, mentally retarded, and incapable of normal movements, speech, or hearing. Globally, 2.2 billion people (38% of the world's population) live in areas with iodine deficiency and risk its complications.
Copper is the third most
abundant trace mineral in the body, and helps protect the cardiovascular,
skeletal, and nervous systems. It is needed to make an enzyme that keeps your
arteries from hardening and possibly rupturing, and for the production of
phospholipids, which help form the myelin sheath surrounding the nerves. The
body also has to have copper to produce the powerful antioxidant, Superoxide
Copper plays a key role in the development and maintenance of healthy skin and hair. The body needs copper to produce the skin pigment melanin, which colors the skin, hair, and eyes. When hair turns gray due to copper deficiency, taking copper supplements may reverse the process. Copper also helps regulate the function of Lysol oxidase, an enzyme needed for the creation of collagen in the bones, connective tissues, and skin.
Copper helps the body fight cardiovascular disease. It
promotes low cholesterol levels, and discourages the development of
atherosclerosis and aortic aneurysms by keeping collagen and elastin fibers
healthy. Heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias) and high blood pressure have been
linked to an absence of copper in the diet. Copper also helps supply the heart
with healthy, oxygenated blood. It works together with iron in the respiration
and synthesis of hemoglobin. In fact, copper is believed to be necessary for
proper storage, use, and release of the iron needed to produce hemoglobin in red
blood cells. For this reason, copper is sometimes used to treat anemia.
Approximately 50 percent of the body’s total copper content is found in the bones and muscles. Copper is a common treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis—because it helps promote healthy collagen in the body, copper may relieve aching joints and minimize loss in mineral bone density.
Is an antioxidant nutrient; necessary for protein synthesis; wound healing; vital for the development of the reproductive organs, prostate functions and male hormone activity; it governs the contractility of muscles; important for blood stability; maintains the body's alkaline balance; helps in normal tissue function; aids in the digestion and metabolism of phosphorus.
Foods rich in zinc are:
The immune system, which is our body's system for fighting off illnesses and infections, is adversely affected by even moderate degrees of zinc deficiency. Severe zinc deficiency depresses immune function. Zinc is required for the development and activation of T-lymphocytes, a kind of white blood cell that helps fight infection. It also helps with cell growth and wound healing.
Signs of zinc deficiency include growth retardation, hair loss, diarrhea, delayed sexual maturation and impotence, eye and skin lesions, prolonged wound healing, white spots on finger nails, stretch marks, fatigue, mental lethargy and decreased alertness, susceptibility to infections, taste abnormalities, and weight loss due to a loss of appetite.
Chromium is an essential trace mineral that helps the body maintain normal blood sugar levels. In addition to its well-studied effects in diabetes, preliminary research has found that chromium supplementation also improves glucose tolerance in people with Turner’s syndrome—a disease linked with glucose intolerance. Chromium may also play a role in increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol, while lowering total cholesterol levels.
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