The words â€œvitaminsâ€ and â€œmineralsâ€ seem to go together like salt and pepper and while the one that starts with a â€œvâ€ is pretty well known and talked about often, that â€œmâ€ word seems like itâ€™s a bit tacked on, doesnâ€™t it?
This is the second of a two-part post about essential minerals for your body.
Minerals are just as important for us as vitamins. In fact, many minerals are essential elements for all living things! You canâ€™t really get more important than that, Iâ€™d say.
So letâ€™s take a look at some more of these vital elements.
Magnesium – Magnesium is so important that it is actually essential for all living things. That means that magnesium is present in the cells of all living things on the planet in some form.
While you arenâ€™t likely to experience a magnesium deficiency, it has been linked to the development of asthma, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Your kidneys are so efficient at filtering out excess magnesium in the kidneys that getting too much magnesium is as unlikely as not getting enough through your diet. But it is completely possible to get too much when you take magnesium supplements, especially in people with poor kidney function. High doses of magnesium salts have apparently lead to hypermagnesemia (the medical word for too much magnesium in the blood).
- Vegetables (especially green, leafy vegetables)
There are about 24Â grams of magnesium in the adult human body.Â Sixty percent in the skeleton, 39% intracellular (20% of that in skeletal muscle) and 1% extracellular.
Manganese – Just another essential trace element to all forms of life.
Your body only requires a tiny amount of manganese, so being deficient in it isnâ€™t a huge concern but deficiency, if it does happen, can inhibit collagen in your body and thatâ€™s bad news because that negatively affects your bodyâ€™s ability to heal wounds. A manganese deficiency can also cause skeletal deformities.
Inhaling or ingesting excessive manganese can lead to poisoning but that is a rare occurrence and really only people who work with manganese are at any sort of risk (although modern health and safety standards mean that there is very little risk nowadays). Prior to modern health and safety standards, people who worked regularly with manganese use to be prone to contracting manganism, a sickness specifically brought on by manganese toxicity.
Although excessive amounts of manganese in drinking water isnâ€™t usually something that affects developed nations, it has been found in excessive amounts in drinking water that comes from wells in some developed countries.
Continued exposure of low doses over long periods of time might be connected to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
- Brown rice
- Garbanzo beans
- Pumpkin seeds
- Rye (the grain, not the alcohol)
- Spelt (an ancient variety of wheat)
Your body has about 12 mg of manganese and itâ€™s mostly stored in the bones. The bit that is stored in the body tissue is mostly in the liver and kidneys.
Selenium – And here we have another essential micronutrient for all animals, as well as many plant varieties.Â In humans, it helps the functioning of the thyroid gland.
Being healthy and eating a balanced diet means that you probably wonâ€™t have to deal with selenium deficiency. But, in people with poor intestinal function, those who have to be fed completely via intravenous or people over 90, it can occur more often. When paired with iodine deficiency, it can lead to Kashin-Beck Disease.
Selenium is toxic to humans in large quantities but you only really face a problem with it if you eat foods grown in extremely selenium rich soils.
If it does occur, selenium poisoning (selenosis) includes such symptoms as: neurological damage, irritability, fatigue, sloughing of nails, hair loss, gastrointestinal disorders and garlic breath. It can be fatal.
Your body has about 13 â€“ 20 milligrams of selenium.
Sulfur – The unspoken theme here is minerals that are essential to all living things, and sulfur fits right in there. For humans, it helps in the formation of collagen and keratin important for maintenance of nails, hair and skin.
Sulfur deficiency is difficult to distinguish from protein deficiency, which is a lot more serious. There are no known symptoms to sulfur deficiency but it can happen from eating foods grown in sulfur deficient soil or to people who eat low-protein diets. It can also happen when your body lacks intestinal bacteria that helps to absorb sulfur. However, even if sulfur deficiency is caused by one of these situations, it still does not seem to cause problems with sulfur functions and metabolism.
There are also no known symptoms to sulfur toxicity via diet. In its other forms, it can be hazardous to people but you probably wonâ€™t come into contact with it that way.
- Brussels sprouts
- Kelp and other seaweed
Adequate sulfur intake is easily obtained through diet and it is almost never a nutrition concern for people.
Zinc – And we will wrap up with yet another essential trace element for plants and animals. Zinc plays a role in: reduction of healing time after surgery and burns, maintenance of body tissues, normal growth and development, maintaining your bodyâ€™s immune system and sexual functionality, detoxification of chemicals and many more bodily functions.
Zinc deficiency can be exacerbated by chronic illnesses like liver disease and diabetes. Symptoms of zinc deficiency include: depressed growth, impaired immune system function, diarrhea, impaired appetite, impotence and delayed sexual maturation, eye and skin lesions, alopecia and altered cognition.
Children in developing countries and the elderly and are among those at risk for zinc deficiency. Two billion people in the developing world zinc deficient and it contributes to the death of about 800,000 children per year worldwide.
Excessive zinc in your body suppresses the absorption of copper and iron, which your body also needs.
Although banned now, some products that used excess zinc have been linked to anosmia (loss of smell). People and animals who have ingested large amounts of zinc-made American coins (wait, what?) have suffered zinc poisoning.
- Red meats
- Egg yolks
- Milk products
- Whole grains like whole wheat, rye and oats
- Pumpkin seeds
- Ginger root
- Chili powder
- Black pepper
Because zinc in grains is found primarily in the germ and bran coverings (and these coverings are discarded during the refining process) refining grains that are rich in zinc will lower the zinc content. Approximately 80 percent of zinc is lost in the refining process.
So how do make sure youâ€™re getting enough of all these essential minerals? Like a lot of things, the answer is super simple. You eat a healthy, well balanced diet and you should be fine (especially if you live in a developed country). However, itâ€™s always good to make sure your body has the proper amount of these important elements. But fear not. Even if you are lacking in one of these essential minerals, a slight alteration to your diet or introducing a supplement will likely get you back on track.
Keep healthy, everyone!