A few weeks ago I discussed vitamins and their corresponding benefits. As promised, here is a breakdown of the essential second half, minerals.
The Basics: Important for mental and physical well-being, minerals often co-exist with vitamins. Yet unlike vitamins, minerals are an inorganic element, meaning plants or animals do not produce them. Plants often contain minerals that are taken up from the soil they are grown in. We then ingest those plants or the animals that have ingested those plants. Minerals are also much more simple in structure than vitamins. As a result, minerals are much less vulnerable to damage from heat, light, cooking, and processing. And while vitamins are generally easy to absorb, minerals are a little trickier. When bound to phytates or oxalic acid, they can become unavailable for digestion in the body. Minerals are categorized as either major or trace. Trace minerals, while needed for bodily function, are needed in much smaller amounts than major minerals. The most common Major minerals include: Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium. The most common Trace minerals include: Iron, Iodine, Zinc, Chromium, Selenium, Copper, and Manganese.
|Mineral||Why It’s Important||Food Source|
|Calcium||Involved in bone and teeth structure.
Aids in muscle contraction, blood clotting, nerve function, blood vessel contraction, relaxation, and immune defense.
|Animal: milk/dairy products, small fish with bones, canned salmon.
Vegetarian: tofu, spinach, kale, broccoli, bok choy, collard greens, Chinese cabbage, seeds, beans, soy, rice milk, and fortified foods.
|Phosphorous||Required for bone and tooth structure, in combination with calcium.
Participates in almost all body’s chemical reactions.
|Found in most plant and animal foods with significant sources in sunflower and pumpkin seeds, garlic, and whole grains.|
|Potassium||Maintains water and electrolyte balance.
Helps control activities of heart, muscle and nervous system and may be used to prevent/treat hypertension.
|Animal: salmon, flounder, cod, sardines, beef, and chicken.
Vegetarian: bananas, peas, lima beans, tomatoes, potatoes, leafy greens, citrus fruit, apricots, melon, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate and coconut water.
|Sodium||Regulates blood pressure and blood volume.
Required for nerve and muscle activity.
Maintains regular acid/base balance, normal fluid and electrolyte balance.
|Found in table salt, soy sauce, milk products, meat, milk, bread and sea vegetables.
Intake should be limited.
|Magnesium||Important for healthy bones and needed to activate B vitamins.
Assists in nerve and muscle function, regulates muscle contractions and blood clotting.
|Sources include green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.|
|Iron||Needed for the formation of hemoglobin in the blood and myoglobin in muscle, both of which are oxygen carrying cells.
Necessary for using energy
|Animal: lean red meat, organ meats, fish, poultry, oysters, and eggs.
Vegetarian: beans, lentils, nuts, green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, blackstrap molasses, and enriched grains.
We absorb animal form better than plant form. Vitamin C improves the absorption of iron in plant form.
|Iodine||Needed for thyroid function to help regulate growth, development and metabolic rate.||Animal: seafood and dairy.
Vegetarian: iodized salt, sea salt, garlic, lima beans, Swiss chard, bread, and sea vegetables.
|Zinc||Assists in the activity of numerous enzymes.
Essential to immune function and wound healing.
Aids in DNA synthesis and reproduction.
Maintains sense of smell and taste.
|Animal: red meat, poultry, pork, seafood, eggs, and dairy.
Vegetarian: whole grains, fortified cereals, peanuts, and legumes.
|Chromium||Required for glucose metabolism and the release of energy from glucose.
Can improve insulin sensitivity.
Mobilizes excess fat in the blood.
|Animal: red meat, liver, oysters and cheese.
Vegetarian: brewer’s yeast, whole grains, nuts, vegetable oils, romaine lettuce, onions, and tomatoes.
|Selenium||Functions as an antioxidant and may improve skin conditions.
Needed for a healthy heart and liver.
Helps prevent some cancers.
|Animal: red meat, organ meats, chicken, fish, and seafood.
Vegetarian: brazil nuts, whole grains, garlic, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, and mushrooms.
Vitamin C enhances absorption.
|Copper||Involved in the absorption, storage and metabolism of iron and the formation of red blood cells.
Helps supply oxygen to the body.Important for immune system, oxidation of fatty acids, melanin and bone formation.
|Animal: red meat.
Vegetarian: Swiss chard, spinach, asparagus, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds and depending on the plumbing, tap water.
|Manganese||Needed for nerve, brain, adrenal and thyroid function.
Important for immune functioning.
Helps metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
|Animal: egg yolks.
Vegetarian: whole grains, green vegetables, alfalfa and dandelion greens.