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All About Minerals – How They Can Lead to Better Health

What Are Minerals?

Minerals are absolutely essential to proper maintenance of the body. Just like vitamins, they help the body grow, develop and stay healthy. Minerals function as regulators and a proper ratio must be present in order to keep fluids, enzymes and other compounds working efficiently.

Minerals

Minerals usually go by their periodic table names. The elements after which minerals are named are characterized by their tendencies to readily form bonds with oxygen and various other elements commonly found in the human body. These elements become minerals when combined with these other elements. We often refer to them as essential minerals because their chemical actions provide vital biological functions.

The Importance of Minerals for Good Health

Scientists have divided the minerals into two categories: macro-minerals and the trace minerals. The macro-minerals are those that your body needs in slightly larger amounts. These are substances like calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sodium and chloride. Just a minute amount of trace minerals is enough to keep a normal person healthy. Copper, manganese, iron, iodine, zinc, and selenium are some trace elements. So let’s look briefly at the roles minerals play in your health.

Macro Minerals

The following discusses the macro minerals that are considered essential for human health.

Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and is needed for building strong bones and teeth, controlling muscle function, maintaining the heartbeat, transmitting nerve impulses, promoting blood clotting and wound healing.

For most people who suffer from bone loss, the process is slow. It should be noted however that we’re constantly shedding calcium by a variety of means. However, all sorts of foods contain calcium. Leafy green vegetables are the safest major source of calcium. Milk contain calcium, but is associated with a variety of health problems such as intolerance and allergies. Good sources of calcium are calcium fortified orange juice, low fat yogurt, low fat cheese, salmon, sardines, broccoli, tofu, bok choy, almonds, dates, cantaloupe, honeydew, dried beans, lima beans and legumes.

Calcium supplements are important in preventing osteoporosis and the de-mineralization of the bones that is especially common among older women. In order to absorb calcium when taken as a supplement, it is helpful to take vitamin D at the same time (many calcium supplements now combine the two). Also, avoid taking calcium with caffeine which blocks absorption. You should consult with your doctor before taking any concentrated calcium supplements on a regular basis.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body. It binds with calcium to form calcium phosphate which gives bones their strength and hardness. A small amount of phosphorus is present in all body cells and is essential to many metabolic processes.

The other functions of phosphorous include strengthening cell membranes, helping to build muscle tissue, helping to maintain the body’s normal fluid balances and acid base, and working with various enzyme systems to metabolize energy and metabolize proteins.

Good sources of phosphorus are lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, peas and beans.

Potassium

Potassium is the third most abundant mineral in the body and is also essential for proper muscle function and keeping your muscles strong and toned. Potassium is involved in maintaining the body’s fluid and acid base balances, similar to the functions of sodium and chloride.

Potassium is often cited for its importance, but seldom are we told why it is important. Potassium is important for heart function for starters. In healthy individuals, potassium is found throughout the body. It is important for proper kidney function and digestive function. Potassium helps keep blood pressure at normal levels and assists with various metabolic processes. If you don’t get enough potassium, you may feel fatigued, irritable or weak.

The body needs plenty of daily potassium, but potassium is plentiful in the foods people commonly eat. For children about 3500mg per day is recommended. As they get older and reach adulthood, that changes to about 4500mg per day. Good sources of potassium include dried fruit, edamame, spinach, bananas, lentils and baked potato with skin.

Magnesium

Magnesium is thought to be just as important as calcium for bone density. It is found predominantly in the bones and teeth with a smaller amount in the muscles, liver, soft tissues and body fluids. Magnesium is used in hundreds of chemical activities in the body, ranging from storing energy to helping your genes function properly. Magnesium also helps keep your nerves and muscles toned, and assists in building strong bones and preventing cavities.

Magnesium is what regulates the contraction of your muscles and the conversion of carbohydrates to energy. Without enough magnesium, you can be fatigued and have muscle cramps. According to the US Department of Agriculture, slightly more than 30% of magnesium comes from dairy and meat, as well as from nuts, dark bread, peas, black beans, brown rice, and green leafy vegetables. Another good source of magnesium is beer. Often, professional athletes will sometimes drink beer after games to recover.

Sodium

Sodium is found in the fluid surrounding all cells in the body. Sodium is important for maintaining body chemistry, promoting nerve and muscle function, and other functions such as the proper absorption and metabolism of carbohydrates. Sodium is also a component of sweat, tears, bile and pancreatic digestive juices.

Sodium, also called salt, is what keeps the water levels in our body regulated. Salt is the highest concentrated mineral in our blood and the more active you are, the more you need it. If you don’t have enough salt in your blood, you can suffer from dehydration and cramps. However, that does not mean you should add salt to the foods you cook or eat.

Salt can be found in fish, meat, grains, chicken, bacon, pickles, green olives, canned vegetables, and nuts. Some other foods that have a high salt content are milk and margarine (unless it is low salt), table salt, baking soda, ketchup, canned foods, popcorn, potato chips, french fries, and sauerkraut. We need about 0.2 grams of salt every day. If you overdo the salt, you can become dehydrated, lose potassium, or have other medical issues.

Chloride

Chloride is also a component of the fluid surrounding the body’s cell, similar to sodium.

The functions of chloride are very similar to sodium and include the following: maintaining the proper chemical and fluid balance, promoting red blood cell function, making stomach acids, and protecting against bacteria and other micro organisms.

Good sources of chloride are salt and any food prepared with salt such as canned soups.

Micro Minerals

The following discusses the micro minerals or trace elements that are considered essential for human health.

Iron

Iron is one of the most familiar and most studied of all minerals because it is essential to make hemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.

Iron is also important for energy metabolism and is involved in the process of converting food into energy. Iron is also important in the prevention of anemia.

Good sources of iron are beef, pork, dark chicken meat, dried apricots, raisins, egg yolks, soybeans and tomatoes. Take vitamin C with iron to improve the absorption.

Zinc

Zinc plays an important role in immunity, wound healing, normal growth and development, reproduction and various metabolic processes. Research indicates that zinc may also help fight the common cold and other infections.

Zinc is also involved in numerous metabolic processes such as bone growth and mineralization, maintaining healthy skin and bones, healing, proper immune function and taste and smell.

Good sources of zinc are oysters, liver, poultry, nuts and peanut butter, wheat bran, wheat germ and various spices.

Iodine

Iodine has only one critical function in the body which is making thyroid hormones. Most of the iodine in the body in concentrated in the thyroid gland.

Good sources of iodine are iodized table salt, shrimp, clams, dried seaweed, and other shellfish.

Copper

Copper is another trace mineral that plays an important role since without small amounts of copper circulating in the body, the body cannot absorb iron from the intestinal tract or release iron from the liver where it is stored. Copper is also necessary to make hemoglobin.

Copper is the most abundant of the trace elements. Researchers are learning how copper can make a difference in preventing osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. In addition to facilitating the body’s use of iron, copper assists in metabolism, maintaining the skin, nerve health, and wound healing.

Good sources of copper are raw oysters, black pepper, Brazil nuts and other nuts, lobster, wheat bran, wheat germ, avocados and green olives.

Manganese

Manganese is an essential trace element the body uses to build bone tissue, connective tissue and carry out other body functions. Manganese has an antioxidant effect that promotes against tissue damage from fats.

Most manganese is concentrated in the bones, liver, pancreas and brain. Body processes that require manganese include metabolism, insulin action, cartilage formation and blood clotting.

Good sources of manganese are brown rice, nuts and sunflower seeds, pineapples, whole grains, peanuts, dried beans, potatoes and certain spices.

Molybdenum

Molybdenum is a trace mineral and part of three enzyme systems. It is involved in many metabolic functions. Molybdenum is needed to build strong tooth enamel and may help prevent tooth decay.

Good sources of molybdenum are lima beans, wheat germ, eggs, spinach and other green leafy vegetables.

Fluoride

Fluoride is essential for forming and maintaining healthy teeth and bones. Studies have found that those with adequate fluoride along with calcium and vitamin D developed higher bone mass and suffer fewer fractures.

Good sources of fluoride are dried seaweed, tea, canned sardines and salmon.

Selenium

Selenium is an antioxidant that works with vitamin E to help prevent several types of cancer, heart disease, cataracts and fertility problems. Selenium plays an important role is protecting the cell’s genetic material, detoxifying certain poisons, protecting against cancer, helping prevent heart disease, and boosting immune function.

Good sources of selenium include wheat germ, whole wheat products, Brazil nuts, brewer’s yeast, soy flour and kidney beans.

Chromium

Chromium works with insulin to metabolize blood sugar (glucose) into fuel for the body. Chromium is also important for proper fat and protein metabolism.

Good sources of chromium are liver, brewer’s yeast, whole grains, nuts, peanuts, cheese and fresh fruits and vegetables.

In conclusion, if you increase your consumption of macro and trace minerals, you will have more energy and better health in no time. Although, when it comes to the body getting all its nutrition, sometimes the body cannot product all the minerals it needs. Therefore, many times people will have to take a supplement. Use this link to find out more about some sort of vitamins and mineral supplements for your consumption. Trying a certain brand is good, that way you can tell if it will agree with you. Also, if you are looking for another way to get minerals, drink water. There are certain companies that sell mineral water.

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An experienced freelance writer and health enthusiast who is in love with blogging about beauty, fitness, nutrition, healthy living and weight loss. When I'm not busy writing, I enjoy reading, running, listening to music, and spending time with family and friends. Visit my website at http://www.quicktrimbody.com and find out more!

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