Along with vitamins, minerals are essential to the body's good health. They are inorganic elements that the body doesn't make; instead, we obtain them from the foods we eat or through supplements.
It's been reported that some 56 percent of adults in the U.S. use some kind of nutritional supplements, fueling an industry that sells more than $1.5 billion in products every year. If you're spending money on supplements, you should know what you're getting.
There are two kinds of minerals: trace minerals and macrominerals. The category of trace minerals includes iron, zinc, copper, selenium, iodine, fluoride and chromium. Trace minerals are only found in tiny, trace amounts in your body. Macrominerals are needed in larger amounts in your body - these are sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, sulphur, cobalt and chloride. Each mineral works in different ways to contribute to the body's health and wellbeing.
The following is a list of each mineral, the foods in which it can be found, and what it does for your body. In future articles, we'll discuss the various minerals in more detail.
Calcium is the most important macromineral for bone and teeth health. Without it, we couldn't stand up and chew our food.
Iron helps oxygen get from the lungs to the rest of the body. It is also essential in the production of hemoglobin.
Potassium is essential for keeping the nervous system working.
Zinc strengthens the body's immune system and wards off illness and infection. Zinc can be found in legumes and meats such as beef, pork and lamb.
Magnesium is found in bones. It helps the body maintain a healthy metabolism and cholesterol level. It also converts sugar into energy. Tap water also contains traces of the mineral but the amount will vary according to the water supply.
Manganese helps increase the absorption of nutrients such as biotin, thiamin and ascorbic acid. It helps maintain healthy bones and blood sugar levels and maximizes the function of the thyroid gland. It also contributes to healthy nerve function.
Sodium, which is found in salt, maintains the body's blood pressure. Since too much sodium can lead to health problems, it is important to realize that processed foods such as bread, tomato sauce, Chinese foods, and potato chips have high sodium content.
Copper protects the cardiovascular and nervous systems, as well as bones. It helps keep arteries from hardening and is needed for healthy hair and skin. The body also needs copper to produce antioxidants. Half of the body's copper supply is in the bones and muscles. Copper can be found in beef liver, black-eyed peas, shellfish and cocoa.
Chromium controls the body's insulin and normalizes sugar levels. It also lowers bad cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Foods that contain chromium are romaine lettuce, onions, tomatoes, brewer's yeast, oysters, liver and bran. Since few diets provide enough chromium, a daily supplement is recommended.
Sulphur is known as the "beauty" mineral. It keeps hair, nails and skin strong. It plays a role in the production of collagen, which helps maintain the skin's elasticity. Sulphur also helps with such conditions as eczema, psoriasis and acne. Sulphur can be found in lean meats, fish, eggs, milk, legumes, cabbage, brussel sprouts and turnips.
Cobalt is a part of Vitamin B12, which is needed for healthy red blood cells. It can be found in fish, nuts, green leafy vegetables and cereals.
Chloride helps the body maintain fluid in blood vessels and muscles and maintain healthy kidneys. Chloride can be found in table salt, kelp, olives, tomatoes and celery.
Iodine, which is found mainly in the thyroid gland, regulates the release of energy in the body. It also regulates the metabolism, so without iodine, a person would gain a great deal of weight. Iodine also contributes to healthy hair, skin, nails and teeth. Good sources of iodine are leafy vegetables, fish, shellfish, and onions.
Fluoride is a mineral that can be added to water or toothpaste, as it is not found in any significant quantity in foods. Fluoride is crucial for the maintenance of strong teeth and the prevention of tooth decay.
Selenium is needed to prevent heart disease and cancer. It works with Vitamin E as an antioxidant to help slow the aging process. Foods high in selenium are nuts, seafood, legumes, cereals and turkey.
The body uses many essential minerals, and a balanced diet is critical to ensure that it receives enough for optimal functioning. A deficiency of certain minerals can lead to severe health problems. If your diet is lacking any of these minerals, you should consider taking supplements to make up for any deficiencies.