Minerals: Their functions, deficiency symptoms, recommended daily intake and natural sources
Human beings all over the world endeavor to lead a healthy life. But in today’s competitive, stressful and polluted world, achieving this endeavor is indeed a challenge. Consuming a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet assures good health.
Human body needs minerals for its normal functioning. Here is a brief overview of minerals, their functions, deficiency symptoms and natural sources.
Major minerals and trace minerals
Minerals are categorized as major minerals and trace minerals. Major minerals are required by the body in doses of 100 mg/day or more. Calcium, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine and magnesium are examples of major minerals.
Trace minerals are a those minerals that human body needs in very small amounts. Iron, cobalt, copper, zinc, molybdenum, iodine and selenium are examples of trace minerals.
Functions of calcium
Human body contains more calcium than any other mineral. Calcium is necessary for healthy and strong bones and teeth. It promotes normal functioning of heart muscles and nerves. It also plays a significant role in the blood clotting process.
Symptoms of calcium deficiency
Muscle cramps, dry skin, increased PMS symptoms, bone breakage, late signs of puberty, bone fracture, weak nails, insomnia, poor bone density, tooth decay and brittle nails are some known symptoms of calcium deficiency.
Natural sources of calcium
Low fat cheese, fortified soy products, dark leafy greens, low fat yogurt, Chinese cabbage, cooked okra, broccoli, low fat milk, green snap beans and almonds are rich in calcium.
Almonds are rich in calcium
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Functions of phosphorus
Phosphorus is essential for a healthy cellular system. It plays a major role in repairing body cells. It is necessary for normal growth of cells. It promotes strong and healthy bones and teeth. It plays a significant role in energy metabolism in the body. It also maintains acid base balance in the body.
Symptoms of phosphorus deficiency
Phosphorous and calcium account for 75 percent of total mineral element in the human body. Weak bones, joint pain, weak teeth, lack of appetite, joint stiffness and fatigue are some known symptoms of phosphorus deficiency.
Natural sources of phosphorus
Sesame seeds, rice bran, roasted soybeans, sunflower seeds, oat bran, squash seeds, toasted wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, cheese, watermelon seeds, tahini, Brazil nuts and flax seeds are natural sources of phosphorus.
Sunflower seeds are rich in phosphorous
Functions of potassium
Potassium is a major cat ion inside animal cells. It is necessary for the normal functioning of the nerve impulses and the muscular system. It is required for maintaining proper fluid balance. It promotes a healthy cardiovascular system.
Symptoms of potassium deficiency
Muscular weakness, paralysis, frequent urination, stiff muscles, muscular cramps, extreme thirst, abdominal pain, muscle pain, muscular spasms, heart palpitations, muscular tetany, numbness, tingling, abdominal cramping, muscle tenderness, dizziness, fainting and abdominal bloating are some symptoms of potassium deficiency.
Natural sources of potassium
White beans, carrots, raisins, tomatoes, dark leafy greens, baked potatoes, dried apricots, baked acorn squash, plain yogurt, bananas, white mushroom and avocados are high in potassium.
White Beans are rich in potassium
Functions of sulfur
Sulfur is found in all the cells of the body. It plays a significant role in many biochemical reactions (like enzyme reactions and protein synthesis) in the body. It promotes healthy hair, skin and nails. It maintains healthy oxygen levels in the body and protects the joints. It is one among the minerals good for hair.
Symptoms of sulfur deficiency
Itchy skin, eczema, acne, itchy scalp, diaper rash, tooth ache, nose bleeds, measles, cold, joint pain, migraine headaches, flatulence, indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, impotence and sore throat are some symptoms of sulfur deficiency.
Natural sources of sulfur
Aloe vera, artichoke, arugula, avocado, bee pollen, Brussels sprouts, dill, radish, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, turnips, hemp seeds, horseradish, kale, legumes, lima beans, peaches and pears are rich in sulfur.
Aloe vera is rich in sulfur
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Spinach contains sodium
Functions of sodium
Sodium plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy blood pressure. It is required for a healthy nervous system. It promotes muscular health. It maintains normal osmotic pressure and water balance of the body. It is necessary for the absorption of glucose and for transportation of other nutrients across membranes.
Symptoms of sodium deficiency
Hyponatremia is the medical term for sodium deficiency. Muscle cramps (especially in the muscles of the extremities), headache, fatigue, apathy, feeling of weakness and nausea are some common symptoms of sodium deficiency.
Natural sources of sodium
Spinach, fenugreek, pulses, sun dried tomatoes, salted peanuts, salted almonds, salted cahdew, peppers, buttermilk and serials are known natural sources of sodium. Common salt is the chief source of sodium in our diet.
Wheat contains essential chlorine
Functions of chlorine
Chlorine purifies the blood by expelling waster matter. It is the chief anion in the body. Chlorides if sodium and potassium regulate osmotic pressure in the tissues. It prevents build up of excessive fat.
Symptoms of chlorine deficiency
Heat cramps, excessive perspiration, burns, kidney disorders, congestive heart failure, Addison’s disease, hair loss, problems related to the digestive system, dental problems and disturbance in fluid levels in the body are some symptoms of deficiency in chlorine.
Natural sources of chlorine
Wheat, barley, grains, pulses, dulse, kelp, melon, olives, pineapple and green leafy vegetables are good sources of chlorine. Table salt is the main source of sodium in our diet.
Functions of magnesium
Magnesium promotes healthy bones and teeth. It is required for healthy functioning of the nervous system. It plays a significant role in energy metabolism. It enables many biochemical processes. It is essential for healthy cells.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency
Heart problems, weakness, muscular cramps, tremors, respiratory problems, dizziness, poor memory, confusion, nausea, anxiety and high blood pressure are some known symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
Natural sources of magnesium
Soybeans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, black beans, cashew nuts, dark leafy greens like spinach, Brazil nuts, squash, sesame seeds, almonds and okra are good sources of magnesium.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium
Kale is rich in iron
Functions of iron
Iron plays a significant role in transferring oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. It is required for a healthy respiratory system. It is necessary for energy metabolism. It is needed for a healthy immune system.
Symptoms of iron deficiency
Fatigue, swollen tongue, brittle nails, sore tongue, enlarged spleen, cracks in the sides of the mouth, restless legs syndrome and frequent infections are some common symptoms of iron deficiency.
Natural sources of iron
Squash, pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, pine, hazel nuts, peanuts, almonds, beans, pluses, whole grains, fortified cereals, bran, cocoa powder and dark leafy greens are good sources of iron.
Functions of cobalt
Cobalt is necessary for the normal functioning of the pancreas. It is required for hemoglobin formation. It promotes normal growth of the human body. It plays a significant role in iron absorption.
Symptoms of cobalt deficiency
Chronic fatigue syndrome, slow muscle growth, nerve damage, fibromyalgia, digestive disorders, pernicious anemia and poor circulation are some symptoms of cobalt deficiency.
Natural sources of cobalt
Organic apricots, sea vegetables, Irish moss, nuts, cereals (like oats) green leafy vegetables (like broccoli and spinach) and apricot kernels are some natural sources of cobalt. Cobalt is a vitamin B 12 mineral. Vitamin B12 is the only vitamin which contains a trace element cobalt.
Irish moss contains cobalt
Functions of copper
Copper plays a significant role in formation of RBC (red blood cells). It is required for healthy blood vessels. It promotes a healthy nervous system and a healthy immune system. It is necessary for strong and healthy bones.
Symptoms of copper deficiency
Anemia, infections, low immunity, loss of sensation, difficulty in walking, loss of balance, depression, speech problems and tremor are common symptoms of copper deficiency.
Natural sources of copper
Whole grains, beans, nuts, potatoes, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, sun dried tomatoes, roasted pumpkin, squash seeds, dark leafy greens, dried fruits, cocoa, black pepper and yeast are good sources of copper.
Potato contains copper
Whole grains contain zinc
Functions of zinc
Zinc is necessary for the proper functioning of the immune system. It plays a significant role in cell division and cell growth. It is required for breakdown of carbohydrates. It promotes healing of wounds. It is one among the minerals good for skin.
Symptoms of zinc deficiency
Diarrhea, abnormal brain development, skin lesions, poor immune system, slow healing of wounds, eye lesions and skin problems are some commons symptoms of zinc deficiency.
Natural sources of zinc
Nuts, whole grains, legumes, yeast, toasted wheat germ, roasted pumpkin seeds, roasted squash seeds, dried watermelon seeds, dark chocolate, cocoa powder and peanuts are good sources of zinc.
Human cell nucleus
Functions of molybdenum
Molybdenum helps break down toxic build up due to sulfites. It promotes healthy functioning of the cells. It plays a significant role in nitrogen metabolism. It prevents cavities.
Symptoms of molybdenum deficiency
Liver problems, jaundice, nausea, fatigue, headache, tachypnea, tachycardia, vomiting, coma, seizures, lens dislocation, retardation and opisthotonus are possible symptoms of molybdenum deficiency.
Natural sources of molybdenum
Black beans, walnuts, lentils, peas, liver tomatoes, carrot, navy beans, lima beans, kidney beans, almonds, peanuts, chestnuts, cashews and green soybeans are some natural sources of molybdenum.
Black beans are rich in molybdenum
Functions of iodine
Iodine is required for cell metabolism. It is required for the normal functioning of the thyroid glands. It supports the process of apoptosis (programmed death of unhealthy cells). It supports protein synthesis. It also enhances ATP production.
Symptoms of iodine deficiency
Choking, difficulty in breathing, abnormal menstrual cycles, deafness, gait, mental deficiency, posture disorders, depression, fatigue, dry skin and difficulty in swallowing are some common symptoms of iodine deficiency.
Natural sources of iodine
Iodized salt, dry seaweed, baked potato with peel, sea vegetables, cranberries, organic yogurt, organic navy beans, milk, organic strawberries, Himalayan crystal salt and boiled eggs are some known sources of iodine.
Cranberries contain iodine
Garlic is rich in selenium
Functions of selenium
Selenium protects the body after a vaccination. It prevents cell damage. It protects the body from poisonous effects of some heavy metals and other harmful substances. Some experts are of the opinion that it prevents cancer.
Symptoms of selenium deficiency
Selenium deficiency causes Keshan disease. Kashin-Beck disease is caused by selenium deficiency. This medical condition affects the bones and joints. Mental retardation is a common symptom of selenium deficiency.
Natural sources of selenium
Garlic, shiitake mushrooms, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, oats, crimini mushrooms, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, button mushrooms, wheat germ and barley are good sources of selenium.
Recommended daily intake (RDI) of minerals
Minerals essential for human body
1.5 µg of vitamin B12
- Minerals are categorized as major minerals and trace minerals.
- Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body.
- Phosphorus is necessary for cellular health.
- Potassium is required for healthy muscular and nervous system.
- Iron is necessary for energy metabolism.
- Cobalt is required for normal functioning of pancreas.
- Zinc promotes a healthy immune system.
Minerals are necessary for general health and overall well-being. A well balanced diet should include the above-mentioned minerals. As far as possible it is advisable to get your minerals from natural sources. Have minerals in food. However, you may take supplements if your doctor advises you to do so.
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