What are Minerals?
Minerals are substances that are simple-structured in nature yet play a vital role in several metabolic functions. Numerous minerals are components of enzymes, which are the catalysts of the body’s chemical reactions. Aside from that minerals help in controlling and regulating the normal function of animal and human tissues, muscles and organs. For instance, potassium and sodium are both important in keeping proper balance of fluid. Calcium acts as a major structural component of teeth and bone and iron transports oxygen in the entire blood stream of the body.
The significance of minerals to achieving good health has become more important throughout the years. Although individuals take in many forms of minerals, it does not ensure that the body will be able to absorb such minerals and that they will be utilized by body tissues.
Tissues in the body or in all living organisms are primarily comprised of four elements namely: hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen. These four elements are the constituents of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and water, the major compounds in animal and plant tissue. When the animal or plant tissue is burned, it will release gases and the ash will be the rest of the minerals that were present in the tissues.
The formation of bones, nails, teeth, hair, skin and all other tissues require such minerals. These same minerals also play a major role in the overall function of the body such as the control of body systems and the production of energy. Diseases, or the body’s system dysfunction or structural weakness results when any of the said elements are lacking. The deficient levels of a certain mineral may not mean that there is mineral deficiency in the body, but rather that the high levels of another mineral is interfering with the absorption of another minerals that are in depressing levels. The body’s mass consists of approximately four percent and are divided into two classifications which are major minerals and trace minerals.
Types of minerals
The body requires more than 100 mg/day of major minerals. This includes large amount of calcium, chloride, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, potassium and sulfur. The types of mineral needed in higher quantities are known as macro-minerals.
- Calcium. This is known as the top macro-mineral when it comes to bone development. Calcium helps in building strong bones and healthy teeth. Leafy green vegetable such as broccoli; canned salmon and sardines with bones; and dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese; are some of the good sources of calcium.
- Potassium. This mineral is responsible in keeping the nervous system and muscles to work properly. The blood and the body tissues like muscles contain water and potassium helps in making sure that they are receiving the right amount of water. Foods that are rich in potassium includes bananas, tomatoes, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, potatoes with skin, dried fruits, legumes such as peas, beans, peanuts and lentils; and citrus fruits like oranges.
Trace minerals or micro-minerals are the remaining minerals that are vital for good health. Some of the generally recognized trace elements that are essential to the body include iron, zinc, chromium, copper, iodine, fluorine, cobalt, manganese and selenium.
- Iron. This micro-mineral is needed by the body to transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. The entire body system is in need of oxygen in order to stay alive and functioning. Iron aids in the formation of hemoglobin, a part of the red blood cells that transports oxygen in the bloodstream. Some of the good sources of iron include eggs, red meat, beef, tuna, salmon, beans, whole and enriched grains such as oats and wheat, dried fruits like raisins, baked potato with skin and green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach.
- Zinc. This is another vital trace mineral in the body. Zinc helps the immune system, which is the body’ system responsible in fighting off infections and illnesses. Zinc also aids in healing wounds such as cuts, and assists in the formation and growth of cells. Beef, pork, lamb meat, and legumes such as peas, lentils, beans and peanuts are foods that are high sources of zinc.
Importance of Minerals
Minerals –both the major and trace minerals—are vital due to the fact that they provide structure in the formation of teeth and bones; aids in keeping muscle contractility, normal heart rhythm, acid-base balance and neural conductivity; and help in regulating cellular metabolism by being part of the hormones and enzymes that modulate cellular activities.
Most people in these modern times are in such a hurry that they don’t have sufficient time to munch on healthy and nutritious meals and therefore may have a mineral deficiency. This is the reason that many individuals need to supplement their diet with vitamins and minerals. Several vitamins and minerals work alongside and interact with one another, therefore a good balance of calcium, Vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, chloride, fluoride, sulfur, and copper is needed to have healthy bones. However, excessive amount of vitamin and mineral intake can lead to certain health disorders.
References and Further Reading
Mineral photographs under CC: Healthy Eating by adforce1, Mineral Supplements by cleanwalmart
Useful Information: Wikipedia; Linus Pauling Institute; MedlinePlus.