Minerals are inorganic micronutrients. We need them in small amounts to help our body function properly. There are 16 minerals which are essential nutrients and must by supplied by the diet. These minerals are divided into two groups: major and trace minerals. Major minerals, like calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulfur, are found in our body in amounts larger than 5 grams. Trace minerals, like chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc, are found in our body in amounts less than 5 grams.
Calcium is important to bone growth and formation, blood clotting and nerve and muscle functioning. It also helps regulate the passage of nutrients in and out of the cell walls, lowers blood pressure, is important to normal kidney function and reduces blood cholesterol levels. It is the most abundant mineral in the body. In combination with phosphorus it forms calcium phosphate, the dense, hard material of the teeth and bones. Calcium is an essential dietary element.
A deficiency may result in arm and leg muscles spasms, softening of bones, back and leg cramps, brittle bones, rickets, poor growth, osteoporosis, tooth decay and mental depression.
Please click here for some good food sources of calcium.
Iodine is a trace mineral necessary for normal cell metabolism. It is required by the thyroid gland in the synthesis and secretion of hormones.
Good food sources are: seaweeds like dulse and kelp, bananas, blueberries, peaches, strawberries, watermelon, black walnuts, carrots, asparagus, eggplant, kale, green beans, okra, spinach and tomatoes.
Iron is an essential mineral. Its major function is to combine with protein and copper in making hemoglobin, the component of the blood that carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues throughout the body. People with iron-poor blood tire easily because their bodies are starved for oxygen. Iron builds up the quality of blood and increases resistance to stress and disease. Iron is also part of myoglobin, which is found only in muscle tissue and helps muscles store oxygen.
A deficiency may result in weakness, fatigue, paleness of the skin, constipation and anemia.
Please click here for some good food sources of iron.
Magnesium is an essential mineral. It helps in making new cells, activating B vitamins, blood clotting and the proper functioning of the muscles and nerves. It is also used to convert blood sugar into energy and for proper calcium and vitamin C metabolism.
A deficiency may result in calcium depletion, heart spasms, nervousness, confusion, kidney stones and muscle twitches. An excess of magnesium may result in mental depression and cardiac arrest.
Please click here for some good food sources of magnesium.
Phosphorus is after calcium the second most abundant mineral in the body. It is a principal mineral of bones and teeth. The main inorganic component of bone is calcium phosphate salts. Phosphorus is involved in most metabolic actions in the body, including kidney functioning, cell growth and the contraction of the heart muscle. It is also involved in converting food to energy.
A deficiency is unusual, but may have symptoms varying from painful bones, irregular breathing, fatigue, anxiety, numbness, skin sensitivity and changes in body weight. It is important that the calcium and phosphorus levels of the body are in balance. Higher levels of phosphorus relative to calcium can cause low blood calcium levels, which may result in increased risks of high blood pressure and bowel cancer.
Please click here for some good food sources of phosphorus.
Potassium is an essential mineral needed to regulate water balance, levels of acidity and blood pressure. It is important in controlling the activity of the heart, muscles and the nervous system. Potassium works together with sodium for the nervous system to transmit messages as well as regulating the contraction of muscles. Potassium works inside the cell and sodium in the fluid surrounding the cell. The body contains more than twice as much potassium as sodium and about 98 percent of the potassium in our body can be found in our cells.
A deficiency may result in muscle weakness and heart problems. Healthy kidneys are able to get rid of any extra potassium the body doesn't need. Damaged kidneys however, may not be able to get rid of enough potassium resulting in an excess, which can cause an irregular heart beat.
Please click here for some good food sources of potassium.
Sodium helps to control the amount of fluid around the body's cells and helps regulate blood pressure and the volume of blood. Together with potassium it is also essential for proper functioning of nerves and cells. About 60 percent of the sodium in our body can be found in the fluids around cells, 10 percent inside the cells and about 30 percent in the bones. A diet-induced sodium deficiency is rare but can occur. Sodium can be lost with excessive sweating and with vomiting and diarrhea. A sodium deficiency can also be caused by general malnourishment, particularly of carbohydrates.
A deficiency is usually accompanied by water loss and can cause decreased blood pressure, increased hematocrit (blood count), nausea, vomiting, dizziness, poor memory and impaired concentration, somnolence and muscle weakness. An excess is more common and can lead to increased blood volume and elevated blood pressure, especially when the kidneys do not clear the excess efficiently. Hypertension is more frequent in people who have a high salt intake, especially in people with low levels of potassium in their diets. Increased potassium can balance out some of the effects high sodium intake has on blood pressure. Other symptoms of an excess of sodium are premenstrual problems and toxemia of pregnancy.
Zinc is vital to immune resistance, wound healing, digestion, reproduction, physical growth, diabetes control, taste and smell and maintaining normal Vitamin A levels and usage. Zinc can be found in almost every cell of the body and serves as part of more than 70 enzymes that control body processes.
A deficiency may result in poor growth, acne-like rash, hair loss, diarrhea, delayed sexual maturation, impotence, sterility, eye lesions, loss of appetite, reduced sense of taste and smell, skin lesions and inflammation, poor wound healing, reduced resistance to infections, mental confusion, poor learning ability, changes in hair and nails and anemia. An excess of zinc is rare but possible. It is usually caused by oversupplementation. Excess zinc can cause a copper deficiency, diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, suppressed immune function, impaired formation of red blood cells and reduced levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol.
Please click here for some good food sources of zinc.
Copper is involved in the absorption, storage and metabolism of iron. It is important in the formation of red blood cells and keeps bones, blood vessels, nerves and the immune system healthy.
The symptoms of a copper deficiency are similar to iron deficiency. The average level of copper stored in the body is between 50 and 120 mg, most of this in the liver. Excess dietary copper is rare but may occur and can cause liver damage. An excess is usually caused by oversupplementation and can lead to symptoms such as weakness and nausea.
Please click here for some good food sources of copper.
Manganese is an essential trace mineral that is required in small amounts to manufacture enzymes necessary for the metabolism of proteins and fat. It also supports the immune system, blood sugar balance and is involved in the production of cellular energy, reproduction and bone growth.
A manganese deficiency is very rare in humans and does not usually develop unless manganese is deliberately eliminated from the diet. An excess of manganese can occur in people with chronic liver disease, as the liver plays an important role in eliminating excess manganese from the body. Manganese toxicity has also been found in industrial workers who are exposed to manganese dust. An excess can cause nervous system problems similar to Parkinson's disease, impotency, hallucinations, violent acts and irritability.
Please click here for some good food sources of manganese.
Selenium is an essential trace mineral which is a major antioxidant nutrient. It protects red blood cells and cell membranes. It also decreases the risk of cancer and disease of the heart and blood vessels by preventing free radical generation. Further it helps repair cells in the lungs and other organs damaged by oxidative stress.
A deficiency may result in premature aging, heart disease, dandruff and loose skin. Keshan disease which results in an enlarged heart and poor heart function, occurs in selenium deficient children. Keshan disease is mostly found in large areas of the Chinese countryside with selenium poor soil. An excess of selenium can cause problems with the strength of teeth and the tooth enamel and may cause hair and nail loss.
Please click here for some good food sources of selenium.
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