Minerals are critical to the function of your body. Mineral imbalances or insufficiencies can cause a host of health problems. For this reason, increasing the quality of your foods or taking mineral supplements can improve a number of health conditions.
What are Minerals?
Minerals are solid and inorganic elements and compounds. They are the building blocks of everything. Your bones, tissue, muscles, cells, and blood all have minerals in them. Minerals help with fluid balance in your tissues and affect the function of your heart, among countless other biological processes in your body.
There are some minerals of which your body needs more than others. These are called macrominerals and they include calcium, sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus and sulfur. Your body requires at least 100 mg of each of these on a daily basis. Your body also need other minerals in lesser amounts. These trace minerals include iron, iodine, copper, and zinc. These are not less important, in fact, they are quite necessary. You just don’t need as much of them.
What are the Macro Minerals?
Calcium is needed for your bones and teeth. It is also necessary for digestion and the heart. Calcium sources include dairy products, dark leafy greens, nuts, and fish with bones.
Magnesium is needed for your bones and muscles. It is also needed for proper assimilation of calcium. Whole grains, beans and nuts provide the body with magnesium.
Potassium is an electrolyte and is found in foods like bananas, tomatoes, potatoes (white and sweet), prunes, oranges, and dairy products.
Chloride is needed to make HCL for digestion. Salt is the primary source of chloride in the body.
Your bones and cells need phosphorus. Sources of phosphorus include animal products and grains.
Your body needs sulfur to make insulin. Your hair skin, nails and joints are all dependent on sulfur to be healthy. Sulfur is found in beef, poultry, eggs, garlic and onions.
Sodium helps to maintain the fluid balance in your body. Salt is the main source of sodium in most diets.
What are the Best Sources of Minerals?
Salt, chemically made up of sodium and chloride, is usually not difficult to get into your diet. Because of the body’s need for sodium and chloride, a completely salt free diet can leave your body depleted. However, if you are on a salt restricted diet, do not up your salt intake without medical counsel.
Ideally your salt will be a natural salt, which also contains trace minerals. Iodize table salt is void of these trace minerals, though it does have iodine, which is a necessary trace mineral and commonly lacking in most diets.
Foods that have been processed have often been stripped of minerals. When whole wheat berries are processed into white flour, large amounts of minerals are lost including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, not to mention numerous trace minerals, vitamins, and fiber.
Unfortunately, white flour and sugar compose a great number of calories of many diets. For this reason, a person could be overweight from the consumption of processed foods, but actually be suffering from malnutrition due to insufficient nutrients in food.
"Superfood" are more densely packed with nutrients than other foods. They contain a variety of minerals and vitamins. These “superfoods” are good choices to include in your diet to give you a more concentrated form of nutrition.
Some superfoods to include in your diet include the following:
You will notice that the above mentioned foods have one thing in common. They are all single ingredients. Taking oatmeal and adding some coconut oil, sea salt and blackstrap molasses and blueberries gives you a densely packed super breakfast! Each ingredient has nutrients. On the other hand, many breakfast cereals start with a grain that has been processed (and nutrients removed) and then sugar (or high fructose corn syrup) is added and then vitamins and minerals are added back in. Similarly, prepackaged oatmeal has sugar, guar gum, and artificial and natural flavors added.
This does not mean you can never grab a granola bar for a snack or eat birthday cake. But it does mean that if a large proportion of your calories come from processed foods, you will be missing out on nutrients.
Even if you eat a completely “whole” diet, you may still be lacking minerals. If your body does not adequately absorb nutrients, you will be lacking. Excessive sweating can cause you to be lacking minerals. And some diets, even when the ingredients are "whole" lack variety, which can mean some minerals are lacking.
Stress can cause your body to use up minerals more quickly. Magnesium and zinc can be depleted when your body is stressed.
Trace minerals are also critical to your body's proper function. To read more about trace minerals, see this page.
Have you corrected a mineral deficiency and improved your health? We would love to hear from you!