Minerals are critical to the function of the body. Mineral imbalances or insufficiencies can cause a host of health problems. For this reason, increasing the quality of the diet or taking mineral supplements can improve a number of health conditions.
What are Minerals?
Minerals are solid and inorganic elements and compounds. They are the building blocks of everything. Bones, tissue, muscles, cells, and blood all have minerals in them. Minerals help with fluid balance in body tissues and affect the function of the heart, among countless other biological processes in the body.
There are some minerals of which the body needs more than others. These are called macrominerals and they include calcium, sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus and sulfur. The body requires at least 100 mg of each of these on a daily basis. The body also need other minerals in lesser amounts. These trace minerals include iron, iodine, copper, and zinc. These are not less important, in fact, they are quite necessary. A smaller amount is just required.
What are the Macro Minerals?
Calcium is needed for bones and teeth. It is also necessary for digestion and the heart. Calcium sources include dairy products, dark leafy greens, nuts, and fish with bones.
Magnesium is needed for bones and muscles. It is also needed for proper assimilation of calcium. Whole grains, beans and nuts provide the body with magnesium.
Potassium is an electrolyte and is found in foods like bananas, tomatoes, potatoes (white and sweet), prunes, oranges, and dairy products.
Chloride is needed to make HCL for digestion. Salt is the primary source of chloride in the body.
Bones and cells need phosphorus. Sources of phosphorus include animal products and grains.
The body needs sulfur to make insulin. Hair skin, nails and joints are all dependent on sulfur to be healthy. Sulfur is found in beef, poultry, eggs, garlic and onions.
Sodium helps to maintain the fluid balance in your body. Salt is the main source of sodium in most diets.
What are the Best Sources of Minerals?
Salt, chemically made up of sodium and chloride, is usually not difficult to get into the diet. Because of the body’s need for sodium and chloride, a completely salt free diet can leave the body depleted. However, if you are on a salt restricted diet, do not up your salt intake without medical counsel.
Ideally salt will be a natural salt, which also contains trace minerals. Iodize table salt is void of these trace minerals, though it does have iodine, which is a necessary trace mineral and commonly lacking in most diets.
Foods that have been processed have often been stripped of minerals. When whole wheat berries are processed into white flour, large amounts of minerals are lost including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, not to mention numerous trace minerals, vitamins, and fiber.
Unfortunately, white flour and sugar compose a great number of calories of many diets. For this reason, a person could be overweight from the consumption of processed foods, but actually be suffering from malnutrition due to insufficient nutrients in food.
“Superfood” are more densely packed with nutrients than other foods. They contain a variety of minerals and vitamins. These “superfoods” are good choices to include in your diet to give you a more concentrated form of nutrition.
Some superfoods to include in your diet include the following:
Notice that the above mentioned foods have one thing in common. They are all single ingredients. Taking oatmeal and adding some coconut oil, sea salt and blackstrap molasses and blueberries provides a densely packed super breakfast! Each ingredient has nutrients. On the other hand, many breakfast cereals start with a grain that has been processed (and nutrients removed) and then sugar (or high fructose corn syrup) is added and then vitamins and minerals are added back in. Similarly, prepackaged oatmeal has sugar, guar gum, and artificial and natural flavors added.
This does not mean you can never grab a granola bar for a snack or eat birthday cake. But it does mean that if a large proportion of calories come from processed foods, you will be missing out on nutrients.
Even those who eat a completely “whole” diet, may still be lacking minerals. If the body does not adequately absorb nutrients it will be lacking. Excessive sweating can cause mineral loss. And some diets, even when the ingredients are “whole” lack variety, which can mean some minerals are sparsely consumed.
Stress can cause the body to use up minerals more quickly. Magnesium and zinc can be depleted when a body is stressed.
Poor quality soils can result in poor qualities of foods. For this reason, if symptoms of mineral deficiency are present, mineral supplements or sources of more concentrated nutrients should be considered.
Trace minerals are also critical to a body’s proper function. To read more about trace minerals, see this page.
Have you corrected a mineral deficiency and improved your health? We would love to hear from you!