Minerals: We Are a Piece of the Rock
According to WebMineral, there are about 4,714 identified minerals listed in the natural world, and we have at least 25 different ones in our bodies. Every living cell on planet earth is dependant on minerals for proper function and structure. Each mineral has its own characteristic chemical composition and physical properties.
Meridel Le Sueur said: “The body repeats the landscape. They are the source of each other and create each other.”
Minerals are inorganic compounds. One form of minerals is mineral salts, and when two or more minerals combine, they form a rock. Over time, erosion breaks down rock and stone into tiny fragments of sand and dust. These fragments become the basis of soil. Microbes (bacteria and fungi) living in this root zone mix decompose organic material, releasing organically bound nitrogen and phosphorus as plant available, inorganic minerals. It is this mineralization process that is the essence what soil microbial activity is all about. Plants uptake minerals from the soil; we then eat the plants gaining the benefits of the organic minerals. This organic rather than inorganic form of minerals is readily bio-available.
From a nutritional standpoint, there are two groups of minerals:
· bulk or macrominerals which include calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and phosphorus
· trace or microminerals (needed in minute amounts) which include boron, chromium, copper, germanium, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, silicon, sulfur, vanadium and zinc
Just how important are minerals? Their impact on the human body is tremendous. They are needed for:
· the proper composition of body fluids
· formation of blood and bone
· maintaining healthy function of nerves
· regulating muscle tone, including cardiovascular muscles
· coenzyme function (energy production, growth and healing)
· proper utilization of other nutrients
When minerals are out of their proper ratios to one another or there is a deficiency, a chain reaction of imbalances reminiscent of falling dominoes results in illness. A serious deficiency, of course, can cause death. For example, potassium is both an essential mineral and electrolyte. Normal body function depends on very tight regulation of potassium both inside and outside the cell. Abnormally low potassium concentration, aka hypokalemia, causes a malfunctioning of the electrical system that monitors the normal pumping of the heart. This severe condition has commonly resulted in fatalities in those with anorexia, athletes on the football field as well as jockeys trying to maintain a lightweight limit.
Why might we have deficiencies in minerals? Some of the common reasons are soil depletion, poor diet, heavy metal accumulation, frequent use of alcohol, sugar and soft drinks, food processing, low stomach acid and certain medications.
The sources of minerals, what they do in the human body and the foods that contain them are:
· Boron - assists in the production of natural steroid compounds; needed in trace amounts to maintain healthy bones and muscle growth; important for metabolism of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium; enhances function of the brain, plays a role in fat and sugar conversion to energy, and promotes alertness. Food sources are carrots, apples, dark green vegetables, grapes, whole grains, raw nuts and pears.
· Chromium – helps insulin do its job more effectively; can be deficient in a diet with lots of sugar and other simple carbohydrates; if someone is insulin-dependent, check with your health care practitioner before supplementing, because it will reduce insulin requirements. Food sources are dried beans, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, meat, dairy products, blackstrap molasses, calf liver, chicken, corn, dulse, eggs, mushrooms, potatoes and whole grains.
· Copper – aids in the formation of bone, hemoglobin and red blood cells, and works in balance with zinc to form the skin protein, elastin; involved in energy production, hair and skin coloring, taste, healthy nerves and joints and the healing are avocados, almonds, beets, beans, barley, broccoli, garlic, liver, lentils, oats, pecans, mushrooms, oranges, radishes, salmon, seafood, soybeans, green leafy vegetables, and blackstrap molasses.
· Calcium – vital to form strong bones and teeth; important to maintain healthy gums, regular heartbeat and nerve impulse transmission; lowers cholesterol and helps prevent cardiovascular disease; needed for muscle growth and contraction; essential in blood clotting, may lower blood pressure, provides energy, included in protein structuring of RNA and DNA, enzyme activation, skin health; has lead inhibiting protection; and helps prevent cancer. Food sources are seafood, salmon with bones, sardines, dairy foods, green leafy vegetables, almonds, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, collards, dandelion greens, dulse, figs, kale, kelp, oats, prunes, sesame seeds, turnip greens, watercress, yogurt, brewer’s yeast, carob, filberts, goat’s milk and tofu.
· Iodine – is needed only in trace amounts, helping to metabolize excess fat; helps maintain a healthy thyroid and to prevent goiter; important for physical and mental development; deficiency linked to breast cancer and mental retardation in children. Food sources are seafood, kelp, saltwater fish, dairy products from cattle fed iodine-containing feed; dulse, garlic, asparagus, lima beans, mushrooms, sea salt, soybeans, summer squash, turnip greens, sesame seeds, Swiss chard and spinach.
· Iron – helps oxygenate red blood cells; helps body produce hemoglobin and the myoglobin found in muscle tissue; essential for production of many enzymes, energy and a healthy immune system. Food sources are: eggs, liver, meat, poultry, fish, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, brewer’s yeast, dates, dulse, kidney and lima beans, almonds, avocados, beets, millet, lentils, watercress, sesame seeds, rice, raisins, peaches, pears, wheat bran and blackstrap molasses.
· Magnesium – is a vital catalyst in enzyme activity, and especially those in energy production; necessary for uptake of calcium and potassium; helps prevent calcification of soft tissue; protects linings of arteries from the stress of sudden blood pressure changes, necessary in formation of bone, mineral and carbohydrate metabolism; synergist with B6 in reducing and dissolving calcium phosphate kidney stones, and may prevent formation of calcium-oxalate stones; may help prevent certain types cancer, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and may reduce cholesterol levels. Food sources are dairy products, meat, salmon and other fish, seafood avocados, bananas, apples, apricots, brewer’s yeast, cantaloupe, brown rice, dulse, garlic, figs, green leafy vegetables, grapefruit, lemons, lima beans, kelp, millet, nuts, peaches, black-eyed peacs, soybeans, sesame seeds, tofu, watercress, wheat, whole grains, torula yeast and blackstrap molasses.
· Manganese – trace amounts are needed for metabolism of fats and protein, nerve health, immune function and regulation of blood sugar; required for energy production, normal bone growth and reproduction; used in cartilage formation and joint lubrication; necessary for synthesis of bone; essential in cases of iron-deficiency; synergist with B complex vitamins to promote well-being; needed for B1 utilization; aids in mother’s milk production; key in production of enzymes for fat oxidation and metabolization of purines. Food sources are: avocados, seeds, nuts, whole grains and seaweed; also, egg yolks, dried peas, pineapples, blueberries, legume, and green leafy vegetables.
· Molybdenum – an essential mineral that is needed in very trace amounts for nitrogen metabolism; used in final stages of converting purines to uric acid; activates certain enzymes and promotes normal cell function; is a component of xanthine oxidase, a metabolic enzyme; supports growth of bones and helps strengthen teeth. Food sources are: beef liver, beans, dark leafy vegetables, legumes, peas and cereal grains.
· Phosphorus – necessary for blood clotting, formation of bones and teeth, heart muscle contraction and normal heart rhythm, cell growth, and kidney function; assists the body in vitamin utilization and energy conversion from food; must be in proper balance with calcium and magnesium. Food sources are: most foods, particularly processed cooked foods and carbonated sodas; salmon, poultry, meats and whole grains, asparagus, brewer’s yeast, bran, dairy, corn, fish, eggs, garlic, legumes, nuts, dried fruit, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds.
· Potassium – important for regular heart rhythm and nervous system health; aids is muscle contraction, helps prevent stroke and works with sodium to control water balance; important for cellular chemical reactions and helps maintain stable blood pressure and electrochemical impulse transmissions. Food sources are fish, meat, poultry, dairy foods, legumes, fruit (high amounts in apricots, avocados, bananas, raisins, figs, dates) vegetables (potatoes, spinach, winter squash, yams), whole grains, torula yeast and blackstrap molasses.
· Selenium – vital antioxidant when combined with E; inhibits the oxidation of fats (lipids) as a constituent of glutathione peroxidase; vital in regulating the effects of the thyroid hormone on fat metabolism; functions as a preventative in formation of certain types of tumors; synergist with vitamin E in production of antibodies; helps maintain a healthy heart and liver; necessary for pancreatic function and elasticity in tissues; may help provide relief in enlarged prostate; helps protect liver in alcoholic cirrhosis. Food sources are: meat and grains if found in the soil where raised, chicken, liver, tuna, dairy products, Brazil nuts, broccoli, brown rice, dulse, kelp, garlic, kelp, molasses, onions, and torula yeast.
· Silicon – necessary in collage formation in bones and connective tissue; for healthy hair, skin and nails; necessary for calcium absorption in the early stages of bone formation; helps maintain flexible arteries and cardiovascular disease prevention; stimulates the immune system and inhibits again in tissues. Food sources are: beets, brown rice and alfalfa, horsetail, whole grains, soybeans, bell peppers, leafy green vegetables.
· Sodium – necessary to maintain proper water balance and pH of blood; needed in function of nerves, stomach and muscles. Food sources: some sodium is found in all foods.
· Sulfur – part of the chemical structure of the amino acids methionine, cysteine, taurine, and glutathione; helps protects cellular protoplasm and resists bacteria; aids in oxidation reactions in the body, stimulates the secretion of bile and protects against toxins; helps protect against pollution and radiation, thereby slowing the aging process. Food sources: meats, eggs, fish, garlic, dried beans, cabbage, kale, onions, soybeans, turnips and wheat germ.
· Vanadium – necessary for cellular metabolism and formation of bones and teeth; necessary in growth, reproduction and inhibiting cholesterol synthesis; helps improve glucose tolerance by improving insulin utilization. Food sources are fish, meat, whole grains, olives, dill, radishes, snap beans, and vegetable oils.
· Zinc – an essential mineral in prostate gland function and reproductive organ growth; required for protein synthesis and collagen formation, healthy immune function, wound healing and regulates the activity of oil glands; important for taste and smell; protects the liver from chemical damage and vital in the formation of bones; a component of many vital enzymes and insulin; helps fight and prevent free radical formation. Food sources are egg yolks, fish, lamb, poultry, liver, meats, oysters, brewer’s yeast, kelp, nuts and seeds, mushrooms, whole grains, soy lecithin and torula yeast.
Living a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise, a nutritious whole foods diet and high-quality supplements will give us a hedge against deficiencies. Minerals are important to life, so rock on!