In Western society, health and wellness are all the rage. Most people know about vitamins, protein, fat, and carbohydrates, but what about the minerals needed for survival that the body doesn’t make? This article will dive into the essential minerals the human body needs to work in prime condition that will help us live longer, healthier, and ultimately happier.
Minerals are metals that are crucial for the human body. Since the body cannot produce these, consumption is the only way. There are 16 essential minerals needed: major and trace.
The seven major minerals are the most common, often seen in supplement form in any grocery store as well as in the food we eat. They are:
99% of the calcium in the human body can be found in the bones and teeth and often declines with age. What you might not know is that calcium is used by the body to move blood and release hormones and enzymes throughout the entire body. Dairy is a popular choice in the US, but kale and broccoli, soft-boned fish, black-eyed peas and orange juice are also good sources of calcium. Fortified foods are widely available due to the general
deficiency in the US.
Essential to the immune system and nerve functions, it is also needed for the recreation of DNA and regulates blood pressure. Like calcium, the bones store magnesium.
While there are many supplements available, magnesium is abundant in both plant and animal foods. A general rule of thumb is that fibrous foods will contain magnesium. Green, leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds are the best natural sources, but animal protein, rice, and some fruit contain magnesium as well. Despite the abundance in nature, most
Americans are deficient in magnesium; this can lead to health issues such as anxiety disorders, heart disease, and diabetes.
While most commonly known for balancing bodily fluids as an electrolyte, potassium is in every area of the body. It helps to maintain a regular heartbeat and is used to contract muscles so a lack of potassium will often lead to high blood pressure and general irritability. Most people only consume about two-thirds of the RDA, so it is essential that you include
potassium-rich foods in every diet. In the US, the primary sources of potassium for adults include milk, coffee, tea, and potatoes, but look for many fruits, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, dairy, and whole-wheat bread for other options.
Like potassium, sodium is an electrolyte, keeping the body from becoming dehydrated. It also contracts the muscles and sends nerve impulses to the brain.
The nervous system is dependent on sulfur; it produces cartilage and keratin for skin, hair,and nails and is an antioxidant.
Supports bone health (working with calcium) and provides energy to cells. Since calcium and phosphorus work together, the body will adjust the absorption of the mineral that is less present in the body to avoid toxicity. Vitamin D is necessary for the body to absorb phosphorus.
This electrolyte is essential in the digestive juices of the body; it maintains the acid: base ratio necessary to digest food and not the stomach lining.
Trace minerals (micronutrients) are just as essential as the major minerals for the body to perform optimally, only in smaller amounts.
Improves the immune system, aids in blood clotting, and helps to maintain the sense of smell and vision. Zinc can be found most readily in meat and beans, but whole grains are another excellent source.
Needed for healthy blood; it transports oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. Anemia (low iron)affects just about 6% of people in the US and has “annoying” symptoms like fatigue, headache, dizziness and leg cramps, but easily reversed. Plants do contain partial amountsof iron, but the complete iron mineral is found only in meat, poultry, and seafood or in supplements.
Produces the connective tissues in the body, makes red blood cells and aids in the formationof bone. Copper can be toxic to the body; a mere 2mg per day is the RDA. Shellfish, kale, and avocado are excellent sources.
Used by the thyroid to make hormones that contro metabolism. Most people get enough iodine through fish, dairy and iodized table salt, but there are also things that you might not have considered like pregnant women need 50% more iodine than the average person. It is crucial to fetal development, cognitive function in children and a deficiency can lead to thyroid cancer.
Required for heart functions and thyroid hormone metabolism; it is also an antioxidant. The best sources of selenium are seafood and organ meat, but also in muscle meat, dairy and fortified grains (cereal and bread). Plant-based foods are dependent upon soil quality.
Breaks down carbohydrates and cholesterol. The brain and nervous system also use it. Nuts, seeds, legumes, and green vegetables are the most common places to find Manganese, but beans and seafood are a good alternative.
Regulates blood sugar. Most people meet or exceed the RDA of chromium in their diet, but ifyou are looking to increase consumption, the best choice is broccoli, followed by barley, oats, meat or supplements.
Promotes bone formation and strengthens teeth. Whether or not there is fluoride in your toothpaste, it is in the water supply, so there is no need to supplement
Breaks down protein and is essential for growth and development. Almost every food contains molybdenum; deficiency is rare.
As you can see, the body is made up of more than just basic macros. We are an amazingly complex machine that is dependent upon the Earth for survival. Whether you believe in God, science or a combination of the two, it is not possible to separate the human from the environment. We are explicitly linked. By knowing how our bodies work, what they need to
thrive and taking action to live the best life we can, we will live longer and be healthier.