NUTRIENT FACT: Minerals
On the blog last week, we talked about Vitamins, the different types of vitamins and how essential they are to your wellbeing LINK and like we said, vitamins and minerals are essential substances that our bodies need to develop and function normally. They are micronutrients required by the body to carry out a range of normal functions.
So today, we will be talking about MINERALS.
Minerals are inorganic elements present in soil and water, which are absorbed by plants or consumed by animals. Minerals are needed in blood, bones, tissues and in the case of some, such as iron, in every living cell. They carry oxygen and carbon dioxide, and are part of DNA and RNA; they are a necessary component of metabolism, like vitamins.
In addition, some vitamins and minerals have antioxidant properties, which work to prevent oxidation in the body, lowering the risk of cancers and inflammation and eating a good diet can supply these minerals.
The body needs many minerals; these are called essential minerals. Essential minerals are sometimes divided up into
- Major minerals or macro minerals which consist of sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and sulfur.
- Trace minerals or microminerals which consist of iron, zinc, iodine, selenium, copper, manganese, fluoride, chromium and molybdenum.
These two groups of minerals are equally important, but trace minerals are needed in smaller amounts than major minerals. The amounts needed in the body however is not an indication of their importance.
Let’s now take a look into macro minerals, their importance to the body and food sources that they can be found.
MAJOR MINERALS (Microminerals)
- Sodium: Sodium is vital not only for maintaining fluid balance but also for many other essential functions. In contrast to many minerals, sodium absorption in the small intestine is extremely efficient and in a healthy individual all excess sodium is excreted by the kidneys. In fact, very little sodium is required in the diet (about 200 milligrams) because the kidneys actively reabsorb sodium but too much sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. It can also cause calcium losses, some of which may be pulled from bone.
Sodium isn’t generally a nutrient that you need to look for; it finds you. Almost any unprocessed food like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, meats, and dairy foods is low in sodium. Most of the salt in our diets comes from commercially prepared foods, not from salt added to cooking at home or even from salt added at the table before eating. (Salt, also known as sodium chloride, is about 40% sodium and 60% chloride. It flavors food and is used as a binder and stabilizer).
2. Calcium: Calcium is a mineral most often associated with healthy bones and teeth, although it also plays an important role in blood clotting, helping muscles to contract, and regulating normal heart rhythms and nerve functions. About 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in bones, and the remaining 1% is found in blood, muscle, and other tissues.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium for women 19–50 years of age is 1,000 mg daily; for women 51+, 1,200 mg. For pregnant and lactating women, the RDA is 1,000 mg. For men 19–70 years of age, the RDA is 1,000 mg; for men 71+ years, 1,200 mg.
Calcium is widely available in many foods, not just milk and other dairy foods. Fruits, leafy greens, beans, nuts, and some starchy vegetables are also good sources of calcium.
3. Potassium: is an essential mineral that is needed by all tissues in the body. It is sometimes referred to as an electrolyte because it carries a small electrical charge that activates various cell and nerve functions. Its main role in the body is to help maintain normal levels of fluid inside our cells. Sodium, its counterpart, maintains normal fluid levels outside of cells. Potassium also helps muscles to contract and supports normal blood pressure.
The National Academy of Medicine has established an Adequate Intake (AI) for potassium.
- For girls 14–18 years of age, the AI is 2,300 mg daily; for women 19+, 2,600 mg.
- For pregnant and lactating women, the AI ranges from 2,500–2,900 depending on age.
- For boys 14–18 years of age, the AI is 3,000 mg; for men 19+, 3,400 mg.
It is estimated that the average daily intake of potassium in adults is about 2,320 mg for women and 3,016 mg for men.
The functions of sodium and potassium in the body are closely related and often studied together.
Potassium and sodium are closely interconnected but have opposite effects in the body. Both are essential nutrients that play key roles in maintaining physiological balance, and both have been linked to the risk of chronic diseases, especially cardiovascular disease. High salt intake increases blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, while high potassium intake can help relax blood vessels and excrete sodium while decreasing blood pressure.
Potassium is widely available in many foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Leafy greens (spinach, broccoli), fruits (bananas, avocado,etc), beans, nuts, dairy foods (dairy and plant milk), and dried fruits (raisins, apricots) are rich sources.
4. Chloride; is the primary anion in extracellular fluid. It is an electrolyte that helps control fluid balance in cells and helps maintain pH balance. It forms part of the acid found in the stomach which is necessary for digestion.
It is also a component in table salt which makes salt one of the food sources of chloride. It can also be found in seafood, milk, meat and eggs.
5. Phosphorus; is part of the system that maintains acid-base balance. It is also very important for building strong bones and teeth. It forms part of every cell in our body and it is important in the genetic material of our gene composition. Phosphorus also forms part of phospholipids (phosphorus-containing lipids) and can be used in the transfer of energy and also for pH regulation.
It is recommended that healthy adults get between 800 mg and 1,200 mg of phosphorus each day. A balanced, nutritious diet provides plenty of phosphorus, because it’s found naturally in so many foods. Some food sources of phosphorus are meat, fish, poultry, eggs and milk.
6. Magnesium; Approximately 60 percent of magnesium in the human body is stored in the skeleton, making up about 1 percent of mineralized bone tissue. Magnesium is needed for making protein in our body. It is also needed for muscle contractions, nerve transmissions and immune health.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults 19–51+ years is 400–420 mg daily for men and 310–320 mg for women. Pregnancy requires about 350–360 mg daily and lactation, 310–320 mg.
Magnesium is found in plant foods like legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fortified cereals. It is also in fish, poultry, and beef.
7. Sulfur; Sulfur forms part of the vitamins biotin and thiamin and the hormone insulin. Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral in your body. It is present in methionine and cysteine, which are two of the amino acids you use to make proteins. Both of these amino acids are present in your skin, hair, and nails where they help to make these tissues strong and flexible. It is involved in the body’s detoxification processes.
Your body also needs sulfur to build and fix your DNA and protect your cells from damage that can lead to serious diseases such as cancers. Sulfur also assists your body to metabolize food and contributes to the health of your skin, tendons, and ligaments. Sulfur occurs in foods as part of protein in meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, legumes and nuts.
We will give you more tidbits on minerals next week. Hope you have learnt a few things from the blog today and if you have, kindly share with your friends so they can also learn from it and also follow us on all our social media pages.