Our body needs minerals to perform several physiological functions necessary for good health. Minerals cannot be synthesized in the human body and hence should be taken through the diet. For humans, plant food, animal food, water are the sources of dietary minerals. Minerals are classified into two groups based on the amount required by the human body.
Calcium, potassium, sodium, chloride, phosphorus, and magnesium are macrominerals that must be consumed in higher quantities. Trace minerals, such as iron, copper, fluoride, selenium, zinc, chromium, molybdenum, iodine, and manganese, are required in lower amounts but are as essential.
Minerals are required for the regulation of bodily fluids, such as blood, as well as tissues, bone, teeth, muscles, and neurons. They are also crucial in maintaining neuron function, regulating muscle tone, and keeping the cardiovascular system healthy. Minerals also act as coenzymes in the body, thus helping the body perform biochemical activities such as energy production, development and growth, and the efficient utilization of vitamins and other nutrients. The chemical homeostasis of the human body is determined by the amounts of various minerals in the body as well as the ratios of specific mineral levels to one another. If one mineral level is out of balance, it may impact all other mineral levels. If this sort of imbalance is not addressed, it can set off a chain reaction of imbalances that can result in sickness or disease.
Various functions performed by different minerals in the body :
- Calcium is required by the body to maintain healthy bones and perform a variety of vital activities.
- It is mainly stored in bones and teeth, where it helps to maintain their structure and hardness.
- It is also required for the movement of muscles and the transmission of messages and signals between the brain and other areas of the body through nerves.
- Calcium also helps to assist blood arteries in moving blood throughout the body and to aid the production of hormones and enzymes that impact nearly every function in the human body.
- Phosphorus is primarily involved in the development of bones and teeth.
- It has a significant impact on how the body utilizes carbohydrates and lipids.
- It also helps in the synthesis of some amino acids which are required for the development, maintenance, and repair of cells and tissues in the body.
- Phosphorus also aids in the production of ATP, a molecule that stores energy in the body.
- It also aids in maintaining kidney health, contractions of the muscles, regulating heart rate, and nerve communication.
- Sodium is an electrolyte as well as a mineral. It aids in maintaining the body’s water and electrolyte balance (the quantity of fluid within and outside the cells).
- Sodium is also necessary for the proper functioning of neurons and muscles.
- The majority of sodium in the body (about 85%) is contained in blood and lymph fluid.
- Potassium is required by the body to function correctly. It’s an electrolyte.
- It aids the functioning of nerves and the contraction of muscles.
- It aids in the maintenance of a normal pulse and heartbeat.
- It also helps in the movement of nutrients into the cells and the excretion of waste products out of the cells.
- Potassium-rich foods can assist to counteract some of sodium’s negative effects on blood pressure.
- It helps to maintain a healthy balance of fluid within and outside the cells.
- It also aids in maintaining the appropriate blood volume, pressure, and pH of the bodily fluids.
- Magnesium is required in the body for around 300 metabolic processes.
- It aids in the maintenance of proper nerve and muscle function, as well as a healthy immune system, a steady pulse rate, and strong bones.
- It also aids in the regulation of blood glucose levels.
- It helps with energy and protein synthesis.
- Sulfur is required by the body to create and repair DNA as well as to protect the cells from damage that may lead to major illnesses such as cancer.
- Sulfur also aids in the digestion of food and helps in the maintenance of your skin, tendons, and ligament.
Trace minerals (microminerals)
- Iron’s main role is to help hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying pigment in erythrocytes (red blood cells), transport oxygen.
- Iron is required for the conversion of blood sugar to energy in our bodies.
- It aids in the synthesis of hemoglobin, which promotes oxygen transport and thus helps to relieve fatigue and exhaustion.
- Iron is also required for the synthesis of enzymes (which are essential for the production of new cells and amino acids).
- It helps in promoting good hair, skin, and nails.
- It helps in improving immune function.
- It is required for the proper functioning of the body’s defense (immune)system.
- It is involved in cell division, cell development, wound healing, and carbohydrate breakdown.
- The senses of smell and taste require zinc as well.
- The body needs zinc to grow and develop effectively during pregnancy, infancy, and childhood.
- Zinc also helps insulin work better.
- It plays an important role in thyroid gland functioning.
- It helps in regulating thyroid hormones.
It plays a crucial role in the metabolism of nutrients and growth and development.
- Selenium aids in the production of antioxidant enzymes.
- These aid in the prevention of cell damage.
- According to some research, selenium may prevent certain malignancies
- Selenium protects the body from the toxicity of heavy metals and other potentially hazardous chemicals.
- Copper and iron work together to help the body make red blood cells.
- It also supports the health of the blood vessels, neurons, immune system, and bones. Copper promotes iron absorption as well.
- Manganese is involved in a variety of biological activities, including amino acid, cholesterol, glucose, and carbohydrate metabolism.
- It also aids in bone growth, blood coagulation, and inflammation reduction.
- Fluoride’s primary role in the body is to aid in the mineralization of bones and teeth.
- Fluoride also helps to prevent dental caries(tooth decay).
- Chromium is required for fat and carbohydrate breakdown.
- It promotes the production of fatty acids and cholesterol.
- They are necessary for brain function as well as other bodily functions.
- Chromium also assists in the action of insulin and the breakdown of glucose.
- It helps break down toxic sulfites and prevents carcinogens and toxins from building up in the body by activating enzymes.
Ways to improve the intake of minerals in food :
Some of the best sources of minerals that must be included in the diet are listed below :
Nuts and seeds: They are naturally packed with nutrients. They are abundant in various minerals like magnesium, zinc, manganese, selenium, copper, and phosphorus. Pumpkin seeds are loaded with magnesium. Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium. They can be added to smoothies or cereal bowls or can be eaten as a healthy power-packed snack.
Cruciferous vegetables: Consuming cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, Swiss chard, and Brussel sprouts has been
linked to a variety of beneficial effects, including a decreased risk of chronic illnesses. These health advantages are directly
connected to the nutritional density of these vegetables, which includes their high mineral content. Sulfur is abundant in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, and watercress, and is required for cellular activity, DNA creation, detoxification, and the synthesis of glutathione, a strong antioxidant generated by your body. They are also a good source of magnesium, potassium, manganese, and calcium.
Shellfish: such as oysters, clams, and mussels, are rich mineral sources with high levels of selenium, zinc, copper, and iron.
Beans: Beans are high in fiber and protein, but they are also high in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, copper, and zinc. The best way to consume beans to ensure maximum nutrient absorption is by soaking or sprouting and then cooking. This will remove any anti-nutritional factors.
Cocoa and cocoa products are excellent sources of magnesium and copper. They can be added to smoothies or oatmeal.
Avocados: They are considered a superfood for the right reasons. Avocados are packed with good dietary fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals like magnesium, potassium, manganese, and copper.
Berries: strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, are not only tasty but also high in vital nutrients. Potassium, magnesium, and manganese are all found in abundance in berries.
Spirulina: It is a blue-green alga that comes in powder form and can be added to smoothies, yogurt, or oats. It’s high in minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese, and eating it can help you feel better in a variety of ways
Eggs: For good reason, eggs are often referred to as nature’s multivitamin. Whole eggs are nutrient-dense and include a variety of essential minerals. Iron, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium, as well as a variety of vitamins, healthy fats, antioxidants, and proteins, are present in eggs.
Tips to boost nutritional absorption :
Eating a good nutritious diet is the best way to fulfill the body’s nutritional intake.
Here are some tips to ensure that the nutrients or the food you are eating gets properly absorbed and you get the most out of the diet you are consuming :
- Eat a combination of foods in your meals. Instead of eating the same foods every day add different foods to your diet to ensure a variety of nutrients.
- Add healthy fats to each meal. Good fats help in increasing the absorption of various vitamins and minerals.
- Consume vitamin C-rich foods and iron together. Vitamin C helps in better absorption of iron.
- Maintain good gut health by consuming probiotic foods such as
- yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, and other fermented foods.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
- Make sure to have at least a 2-hour gap between tea and meals.
- Ensure proper hydration.
- Engage in physical exercise
- Manage stress levels.
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.