Minerals: Sources And Roles In The Functioning of Body

Vitamins and minerals are two important words made familiar by advertisers promoting heath drinks and foods aimed at kids. Our body requires only tiny quantities of vitamins and minerals. Hence they are called micro nutrients. But both act as a team and play major roles in various functions of the body.

 

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When we hear the word mineral, what come to our mind are the naturally available substances like iron or silica. Small amounts of these minerals are required for body especially during growth stage to support various activities like strengthening of bones, teeth etc. 

Minerals: Organic Vs Inorganic

We know that chemical compounds are mainly divided into two; organic and inorganic. A compound with presence of carbon atoms is normally classified under organic category and remaining under inorganic category. There are certain exceptions in this definition. Organic mainly means living things and all living creatures are carbon based. This is the main reason for the classification based on the presence of carbon. Minerals are normally inorganic. A plant absorbs small quantities of minerals from the soil where it grows and synthesizes. The mineral stored in the fruits or leaves becomes organic. These minerals are absorbed by our body when we take fruits or vegetables. Body gets sufficient quantity of mineral from the food itself. Mineral prepared through chemical process are prescribed by doctors as supplements under unavoidable circumstances.

 

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Minerals: Classification

Minerals are classified into two: macro minerals and trace minerals. ‘Macro’ means ‘large’ and more quantity of this mineral is needed by body compared to trace (negligible) minerals. Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride and sulfur come under macro minerals while iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride and selenium fall under trace minerals. Body requires only a tiny bit of trace minerals.  As already mentioned, food is the major source of minerals for the body. 

Minerals: Sources and roles of macro minerals

Mineral

Function

Sources

Sodium

Ensure proper  level of water in cells  and fluids and helps muscle contraction and nerve transmission

Table salt, soy sauce, processed foods, milk, breads, vegetables, and unprocessed meats

Chloride

Helps fluid balance, controls stomach acid

Table salt, soy sauce, processed foods, milk, breads, vegetables and unprocessed meats

Potassium

Ensures proper  level of water balance in cells  and fluids and supports nerve transmission, and muscle contraction

Meats, milk, whole grains, low-fat milk and yogurt, low-fat milk and yogurt, bananas, tomatoes, citrus fruits like oranges and other fresh fruits and vegetables.

Calcium

Helps build strong bones and teeth, helps muscles relax and contract, important in nerve functioning and immune system, supports blood pressure regulation and blood clotting.

Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, canned fish like salmon and sardines with bones, leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli

Phosphorus

Important for healthy bones and teeth, found in every cell, maintains acid-base balance

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, processed foods (including soda pop)

Magnesium

Found in bones, needed for making protein, helps muscles relax and contract, important in nerve functioning and immune system

Nuts and seeds, legumes, leafy, green vegetables, seafood, chocolate, artichokes, "hard" drinking water

Sulfur

Required for formation of  protein molecules

Occurs in foods as part of protein, meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, legumes, nuts


Minerals: Sources and roles of trace minerals.

 

Mineral

Function

Sources

Iron

Carries oxygen in the body, important for formation of hemoglobin, supports energy metabolism

Meats especially  red meats like beef, fish, poultry, shellfish (especially clams), eggs, beans ,legumes, dried fruits, dark, leafy greens, cereals

Zinc

Helps wound healing, supports cell growth, normal fetal development, production of sperm, normal growth and sexual maturation, immune system health

Beef, pork, dark meat chicken, fish, nuts like cashew and almonds, leavened whole grains, vegetables

Iodine

Important for proper thyroid function, helps regulate growth, and metabolism

Seafood, iodized salt, foods grown in iodine-rich soil, bread, dairy products

Selenium

Functions as antioxidant

Meats, seafood, grains

Copper

Needed for iron metabolism

Legumes, organ meats, whole grains, nuts and seeds, drinking water

Manganese

Part of many enzymes

Widespread in foods, especially plant foods

Fluoride

For formation of bones and teeth, prevents teeth decay

Drinking water (either fluoridated or naturally containing fluoride), fish, and most teas

Chromium

Regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels along with insulin

Unrefined foods, especially liver, brewer's yeast, whole grains, nuts, cheeses

Molybdenum

Formation of  enzymes

Legumes; breads and grains; leafy greens; leafy, green vegetables; milk; liver

 

Minerals: Effects of deficiency

Shortage of minerals leads to health problems. For example, shortage of calcium in a growing child leads to weaker bones and teeth. Having a healthy diet is enough for the body to get sufficient minerals. Only in extreme cases, it becomes necessary to take mineral supplements.  

Elizabeth Paul

 

 

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