Friday, September 16, 2016

Minerals Essential in Minute Amounts

Although a number of minerals are considered essential for good human health, most of them are needed in only minute quantities.

Many people have heard about such essential minerals as iron and calcium, and some of us even know roughly what foods are likely to give us the doses we need.
But what of the rest of the minerals, which have names such as chromium and molybdenum? What do they do for us, and how can we make sure we get enough of them?

Unlike vitamins, which are synthesised by the plants and animals we eat, minerals have to be extracted from the earth by growing plants.

A lot depends on the soil in which a crop is grown. Humans can have access to minerals only by eating the plants, or by eating animals which in turn have eaten the plants.

Minerals vital to human health can be divided into macrominerals, which humans need in doses ranging from 100mg to1g, and trace minerals, which are needed in far smaller quantities.

  • The macrominerals include calcium, sulphur, potassium, chloride, magnesium, sodium and phosphorus.
  • The trace minerals include such things as zinc, copper, iodine, iron, fluoride, cobalt, manganese and selenium.

The most common mineral deficiencies encountered in modern society are of iron, calcium and zinc.

Zinc is found in human bone, pancreas, skin, liver, kidney, brain, red blood cells, the eye and the prostate gland. It helps the body heal wounds, helps the pancreas store insulin and plays a function in such bodily functions as protein manufacture and taste.

Many foods contain zinc and deficiencies are most common among heavy drinkers and strict vegetarians.

Calcium is the building block of human bones and teeth, but has other uses in the body, including regulating the heart, clotting blood and transmitting nerve impulses.

Phosphorus too is essential for healthy bones and teeth. Phosphorus deficiency is not common.

Deficiencies of sodium and chloride are rare too since these are the ingredients of salt, of which most of us eat too much, rather than too little. Sodium and chloride, along with potassium, control the movement of water in and out of cells.

Sulphur is contained in most foods which have significant levels of protein, particularly animal protein. It helps the body make hair, cartilage and nails.

Iron is a vital component of human blood. It enables the blood to carry oxygen around the body and take carbon dioxide back to the lungs to be exhaled.

Because the best sources of iron are the red meats, iron deficiency is reasonably common among people who do not eat enough red meat as well as among women whose iron needs are high at certain stages of life.

Iodine deficiency is not uncommon worldwide because so many soils have had the iodine leached from them by years of high rainfall.

Iodized salt has gone a long way towards minimising this shortage in many places.

Iodine is found in human hormones which regulate metabolism and control growth.

Selenium, found in useful quantities in whole grains, rice, meat and cheese, is used by the body as an antioxidant.

Copper deficiency too is uncommon among people who have a varied and balanced diet.

Copper is vital to the enzymes which control respiration and is also used in the development of red blood cells.

Fluoride, a mineral which is essential for strong bones and teeth

Manganese too is used to make bone and deficiencies are almost unheard of.

Chromium is found in meat, cheese and whole grains, as well as in beer. It helps the body metabolise glucose.

Less is known about the final group of minerals, which includes tin, nickel, silicon, vanadium and molybdenum. Their function is not yet clear.

Most, if not all, of the minerals, are poisonous when taken in excess. In fact, for some of the minerals poisoning is more common than deficiency.

Salt is a case in point. Most people eat far more than their bodies need and indeed more than their bodies can tolerate in the long term.

Autor: Her name is Natalia Moore, a health researcher and passionate blogger who enjoys learning, discovering, and sharing tips on Lifestyle & Wellness. 
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