We often hear about vitamins, superfoods and antioxidants but rarely do we talk about minerals, which is unusual as they are vital to our health. Minerals are responsible for many of the chemical reactions in our bodies, for strong bones and teeth, for healthy blood, and healthy heart function.
Macro and Trace Minerals
Minerals fall into two categories based on relative size of need. Our bodies require larger amounts of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur and these are referred to as macrominerals. The trace minerals include iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, and selenium. They are equally important to our health, our bodies just need smaller or trace amounts to function properly.
Our bodies can’t produce minerals, we must eat plants and drink water to replace them. As a plant grows it absorbs minerals from the soil it grows in. The healthier the soil, the more nutrients and minerals the plant absorbs and are available to us when we consume them. Unfortunately, plants grown in depleted soil absorb fewer minerals. Additional sources of minerals include meat and milk from animals grazing on fertile soil.
Minerals we hear about most often and their sources include:
- Calcium builds strong bones and teeth and is available from dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli and calcium-fortified foods.
- Potassium maintains the function of your muscles and nervous system and is critical for the muscular contractions of the heart. Foods rich in potassium include bananas, potatoes and sweet potatoes, spinach and broccoli, milk and yogurt beans and lentils.
- Zinc supports your immune system, promotes cell growth and helps heal wounds. Foods rich in zinc include beef, pork, almonds, peanuts, and legumes.
- Iron is vital for the formation of hemoglobin which carries oxygen in the blood. Foods rich in iron include red meat, eggs, tuna and salmon, leafy green vegetables, beans and dried fruits like raisins.
- Sodium supports muscle and nerve function, sodium also helps maintain blood pressure and blood volume, one of the reasons that too much sodium causes high blood pressure. Sodium occurs naturally in foods like celery, milk and beets. We receive most of our sodium from table salt – sodium chloride.
- Your body needs iodine to make thyroid hormones necessary for growth and metabolic functions. Foods rich in iodine include spinach, lima beans, sesame seeds, Swiss chard, turnip greens and squash.
Look out for the next health article on Neuben all about vitamins!