Why Are Minerals So Important?
Everyone talks about vitamins, but how often do you pay attention to minerals. Many people think we get plenty of minerals from the food we eat, and since they are "stored" in the body, daily amounts aren't that important. This is a good point because often our body will store so much of a mineral that it becomes a problem. Think of gallstones, bone spurs or muscle spasms. But don't be so quick to judge. Trace minerals are actually more important in nutrition than vitamins. Vitamins can be synthesized by living matter, minerals cannot. Vitamins cannot function unless minerals are present, since minerals are the catalysts that make enzyme function possible. Minerals combine with enzymes into an alkaline detoxifying agent which neutralizes the acid metabolic by-products of the cells and other toxic conditions within the body and prepares them for elimination. Hormonal secretion of the glands are also dependent upon mineral stimulation. The adrenals simply cannot function without sodium and potassium. A deficiency of just one mineral may disrupt the entire chain of glands, rendering other nutrients either useless or inefficient. Some of the glands most affected are thyroid, adrenals, pituitary and thymus. Without the proper functioning of these key glands, many daily activities of immunity, growth, energy levels and sleep patterns may be disturbed.
So think of minerals as everything that gets you going and keeps you going.
Your diet is the key. Improper diet through high intake of refined and processed foods, alcohol and fad diets can all lead to a mineral imbalance. Even the nutrient content of a "healthy" diet can be inadequate, depending upon the soil in which the food was grown, the method in which it was prepared, or even your own digestive ability. Did you know that one of the greatest things plants do for us is to absorb minerals from the soil so that we can eat them?
Physical and emotional stress can also deplete the body of many minerals, while also reducing the capability to absorb and utilize minerals. Both prescription and over-the-counter medications can deplete the body store of nutrient minerals and/or increase the levels of toxic metals that then take the place of minerals in receptor sites, preventing activation of the tissue. Pollution is one of the largest factors in contributing to nutrient imbalances and high toxic metal levels.
Our bodies cannot make minerals, but we can make vitamins such as vitamin D using cholesterol, the skin and the sun. Minerals, on the other hand, can be stored in soft tissue and bone for many months, even years. The key is for the body to be able to access these reserves when needed, and many times that doesn't happen often because we are missing cofactors that help absorption. Think of calcium and its dependence on magnesium, vitamin D, phosphorus and thyroid function. Take away any one or more of those cofactors, and our calcium levels will change drastically. Or we take in large amounts of particular minerals each day, when the body already has large reserves, forcing the body to store the excess amount in body tissues, making it toxic over time.
The problem with simply taking minerals is that often, we don't know exactly what we need, and may end up taking too much or too little. We also may not be taking the mineral with all of its needed cofactors, the way it is found in nature. Remember, our natural source for minerals is through our food, which comes from the soil. Our food is the pathway to minerals for us. And it does little for us to take minerals if our body function is out of sync. Then we can't really utilize the minerals in the ways we need to.
So begin by checking out what some of our major minerals do for us:
- Calcium - bone/tooth formation, blood clotting, heart rhythm, nerve tranquilization & transmission, muscle growth & contraction, permeability of cell membranes. Found in green leafy vegetables, particularly broccoli and spinach, legumes, dairy products, molasses, nuts, salmon, sardines, seaweeds, shellfish. Therapeutic levels - 1,000-2,000 mg Counter-mineral: Magnesium Weakened by: diuretics, excessive sugar, lack of exercise, phenobarbital, stress, tetracyclines, oxalic & phytic acids, saturated fat, vitamin D deficiency.
- Chromium - blood sugar levels, glucose metabolism and energy. Found in black pepper, cheeses, clams, corn oil, meats and mushrooms. Therapeutic levels - 200-300 mcg Counter-mineral: Iron Weakened by: aging, insufficient protein, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, repeated pregnancies.
- Copper - bone formation, hair & skin color, healing processes, hemoglobin & red blood cell formation, mental processes & emotional states. Found in avocado, cauliflower, legumes, liver, molasses, nuts, organ meat, raisins, seafood, whole grains. Therapeutic levels - 2-4 mg Counter-mineral: Zinc Weakened by: cadmium, oral contraceptives.
- Iron - hemoglobin production, stress & disease resistance, growth in children. Found in dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, fish, lean meat, legumes, organ meats, oysters, poultry, wheat germ, whole grains. Therapeutic levels - 15-50 mg Counter-mineral: Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc Weakened by: antacids, blood loss, chronic diarrhea, coffee, repeated pregnancy, tea, tetracyclines, thiamine.
- Magnesium - acid/alkaline balance, blood sugar metabolism, protein structuring, muscle tension levels, sleeping patterns, eliminative functions. Found in bran, brown rice, green vegetables, honey, nuts, organ meats, seafood, spinach. Therapeutic levels - 400-800 mg Counter-Mineral: Calcium Weakened by: vitamin D, diuretics, refined foods, oral contraceptives, protein, dietary fat, tetracyclines, excessive oxalic or phytic acids.
- Manganese - enzyme activation, reproduction & growth, sex hormone production, tissue respiration, vitamin B1 & E metabolism, fat & carbohydrate metabolism. Found in bananas, bran, buckwheat, celery, cereals, egg yolks, green leafy vegetables, legumes, liver, nuts, pineapples, seeds, wheat germ, whole grains. Therapeutic levels - 3-50 mg Counter-mineral: Calcium, phosphorus, iron Weakened by: refined foods.
- Phosphorus - bone/tooth formation, cell growth & repair, energy production, heart muscle contraction, kidney function, nerve & muscle activity, vitamin utilization. Found in eggs, fish, grains, meat, poultry, seaweeds, yellow cheese. Therapeutic levels - 1000-2000 mg Counter-mineral: Magnesium Weakened by: aluminum, antacids, phytic acid, white sugar.
- Potassium - heartbeat, rapid growth, muscle contraction, nerve tranquilization. Found in apricots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, dates, figs, lima beans, peaches, peanuts, Therapeutic levels - 2500-5600 mg Counter-mineral: Sodium Weakened by: alcohol, coffee, cortisone, diuretics, processed foods, laxatives, penicillin, salt, sugar.
- Selenium - antioxidant, DNA & protein synthesis, immune response, membrane integrity, pancreatic function, retinal blood vessel proliferation, retinal light reception, sexual/reproductive function, tissue elasticity. Found in animal meats, brewer's yeast, broccoli, cabbage, eggs, fish, onion, organ meats, seafood, tomatoes, tuna, wheat germ, whole grains. Therapeutic levels - 200-300 mg Counter-mineral: Sulfur Weakened by: mercury, cadmium, silver, arsenic.
- Sodium - nerve impulse transmission, normal cellular fluid level, nutrient transport to cell membranes, proper muscle contraction. Found in salt, milk, cheese, seafood. Therapeutic levels - 300-3000 mg Counter-mineral: Potassium Weakened by: chlorine, diuretics.
- Zinc - burn & wound healing, carbohydrate digestion, prostate gland function, reproductive organ growth & development, vitamin B1, phosphorus & protein metabolism. Found in brewer's yeast, fish, liver, meat, mushrooms, onions, oysters, seafood, soybeans, spinach, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, whole grains. Counter-mineral: Calcium, Copper Weakened by: alcohol, diuretics, excess fiber, oral contraceptives, phytic acid, vitamin A & D deficiency.
Once you've identified some possible mineral issues, then focus on those foods. Remember that each mineral has an antagonist, and that the presence of heavy metals and toxicity can alter how minerals are absorbed and utilized. Minerals are a key, so don't get locked out!