7 Important Minerals for Your Health and Vitality
Minerals are essential nutrients needed by our body in small amounts to support different physical functions. The body demands a specific amount of each mineral depending upon factors like age, sex, and even our physiological state. Thus, eating a varied and well-balanced diet is crucial for maintaining adequate levels of all minerals in our body.
Some minerals are required in larger quantities and are known as macro minerals. These are sodium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulphur and chloride. Here we discuss the role of these 7 important minerals in our body and why they are necessary for our health.
Sodium helps in maintaining the body water content and electrolyte balance. It is essential for the absorption of certain nutrients and water. We largely consume sodium in the form of salt. However, daily sodium consumption of most people exceeds the amount desired for normal functions. Excess sodium consumption can contribute to high blood pressure and increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Sodium deficiency is uncommon as the kidneys regulate sodium concentration in our body. Most raw foods contain insignificant amounts of salt (sodium chloride). Salt is also included during the processing, preparation, preservation, and serving of some foods.
Calcium absorption in a diet is important as it facilitates in maintaining healthy bones and teeth. It plays a role in bodily functions like integration and regulation of metabolic processes as well as transmission of information via the nervous system, muscle contraction and blood clotting. Furthermore, you should maintain the calcium intake of children to ensure proper growth and development of the bones. Even slight variations in plasma calcium concentration can lead to severe health issues. Calcium deficiency results in weaker bones due to low bone density. Calcium absorption depends on many promoting and inhibitory factors.
Promoting factors such as vitamin D, dietary protein, lactose and an acidic environment enhances calcium absorption whereas inhibitory factors such as dietary fats and use of antacids inhibit calcium absorption. Food sources include milk, cheese, and other dairy products.
Phosphorus is essential for maintenance of cell structure, cellular metabolism (generation of energy), regulation of sub-cellular processes as well as bone mineralization. Additionally, our body maintains an equilibrium between phosphate and calcium for continual bone remodelling. Food sources rich in phosphorus include red meat, dairy products, fish, poultry, bread, rice and oats.
Potassium helps to lower blood pressure and protect against strokes. Additionally, it also maintains the electrolyte balance of the body and other physical functions. A high potassium diet can halt or slow down the progression of renal disease. However, potassium deficiency can lead to weakness, mental confusion and in extreme cases, heart failure. Food sources rich in potassium are fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, nuts, seeds, pulses, and milk.
Magnesium is an important nutrient for all our tissues and bones. It plays an important role in all physiological and biochemical functions. Furthermore, magnesium is required for the activation of different enzymes and parathyroid hormone secretion (involved in bone metabolism). It also helps in muscle and nerve functioning.
Low magnesium levels can lead to muscle weakness and neuromuscular disorders. Food sources include green leafy vegetables, nuts, bread, fish, meat and dairy products.
Chloride is important for the human body as it maintains fluid balance in blood vessels, aids in the conduction of nerve transmissions and muscle movements. It also maintains proper kidney function and acts as a major electrolyte of the body. A constant exchange of chloride and bicarbonate, between red blood cells and the plasma helps to maintain the pH balance and transport of carbon dioxide from the body.
Chloride deficiency can cause alkalosis (blood becomes alkaline) resulting in symptoms like muscle weakness, loss of appetite, irritability, dehydration, and lethargy. Foods with higher amounts of chloride include seaweed, rye, tomatoes, lettuce, celery, and olives.
Our body utilizes the sulphate from dietary sources to synthesize components of human cartilage. Certain compounds containing sulphur present in the blood contribute to a process that slows down and even prevents atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries clogging them and causing heart attacks.
The essential amino acid cysteine has a sulphur atom in its chemical structure. Sulphur also has a critical role in the formation of disulphide bridges. Disulphide bridges are one of the essential biochemical ‘threads’ holding the cells of your body together. Sources of sulphur include cruciferous vegetables, onions, garlic, radish, kale, and nuts.
Our body also requires some trace elements in smaller amounts than these minerals. As you have seen, the role of all these minerals is multi-functional and also extremely important for us. Thus, it is essential to have a well-balanced diet including different minerals as well as other nutrients such as fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and vitamins to lead a healthy life!