Essential Minerals: A Beginner's Guide

In this blog, we delve into the fundamental aspects of essential minerals. From calcium to zinc, these crucial nutrients play a vital role in supporting various bodily functions, from bone health to immune system function. Join us as we unravel the basics, clarify the world of minerals, and equip you with the knowledge you need to support your journey to better health.

Understanding Minerals and Their Importance

Minerals are necessary for proper physiological function and general health. They are required for the body's correct growth, development, and function. Without minerals, our bodies are unable to conduct their many activities properly.[11]

There are two types of minerals: Trace minerals and Macrominerals

Macro Minerals: Macro minerals are required in huge quantities, while trace minerals are required in small amounts. The body needs both sorts of minerals to function properly.[11]Macrominerals have important roles in the body, including bone and tooth formation, fluid balance, and nerve impulse transmission. Macrominerals include calcium, magnesium, and potassium.[11]

Trace Minerals:Trace minerals are required for many body activities, including hormone and enzyme synthesis, optimal development, and good immunological function. Trace minerals include iron, zinc, and selenium.[11]Overall, minerals are essential for proper bodily function and overall health. It is critical to ensure that your body receives an adequate supply of these nutrients.[11]

Calcium: The Pillar of Bone Health

Calcium is widely recognized as "The Pillar of Bone Health" because of its fundamental role in developing and maintaining strong and healthy bones. Here's a more detailed explanation:

  1. Calcium is needed for normal growth and development of bone in children: Calcium is a vital mineral for building strong bones and teeth, particularly during the rapid growth seen in childhood and adolescence. During these stages, the body needs a higher intake of calcium to support the development of the skeletal system. [1]
  2. Calcium contributes to normal blood clotting: Calcium plays a crucial role in the blood clotting process, which is essential for stopping bleeding when injuries occur. It is a key component in the sequence of events that lead to the formation of a clot. In the clotting process, calcium helps in the activation of various clotting factors, leading to the transformation of prothrombin into thrombin and eventually resulting in the formation of fibrin, which is the substance that forms the actual clot. [1]
  3. Calcium contributes to normal muscle function: Calcium is vital for muscle contraction. When a nerve stimulates a muscle, calcium is released; it helps with the interaction of actin and myosin, which are the proteins directly involved in the contraction of muscle fibers. The regulation of calcium within muscle cells is crucial for both muscle contraction and relaxation. [2]
  4. Calcium is needed for the maintenance of normal bones: Throughout life, bones undergo continuous remodeling, with old bone being resorbed and new bone being formed. Calcium is essential for maintaining bone density and overall bone health. In all stages of life, adequate calcium intake is important . [2]

Sources of Calcium [3]

Milk, cheese, and other dairy foods

Green leafy vegetables – such as curly kale, okra but not spinach (spinach does contain high levels of calcium but the body cannot digest it all) [10]

Seeds are tiny nutritional powerhouses, and many are high in calcium, including poppy, sesame, celery, and chia seeds.

Beans and lentils

Sardines and canned salmon are loaded with calcium, thanks to their edible bones.

Magnesium: The Relaxation Mineral

Magnesium is regarded as the "Relaxation Mineral" because it aids in muscle relaxation, nervous system modulation,tiredness and fatiguereduction, and sleep enhancement. It promotes muscular relaxation by competing with calcium, which increases muscle contraction. Magnesium modulates neurotransmitters in the nervous system and promotes the calming neurotransmitter GABA, which helps with stress alleviation and sleep quality. Magnesium is also beneficial to heart health since it helps to maintain normal cardiac rhythm.[4]Most dietary magnesium comes from dark green, leafy vegetables. Other foods that are good sources of magnesium are:[5]

  • Fruits (such as bananas, dried apricots, and avocados)
  • Nuts (such as almonds and cashews)
  • Peas and beans (legumes), seeds
  • Soy products (such as soy flour and tofu)
  • Whole grains (such as brown rice and millet)
  • Milk

Iron: Vital for Energy and Vitality

Iron is an essential mineral that plays several critical roles in the body, including in cell division, immune function, and reducing tiredness and fatigue:

  1. Role in Cell Division: Iron is vital for the process of cell division. It is a key component of certain enzymes and proteins that are essential for DNA synthesis, which is a crucial part of cell division. Without adequate iron, cells might not divide properly, which can affect growth and repair processes in the body. [6]
  2. Normal Function of the Immune System: Iron contributes significantly to the normal function of the immune system. It is crucial for the proliferation and maturation of immune cells, particularly lymphocytes, which are essential for a robust immune response. Iron deficiency can impair immune function, making the body more susceptible to infections. [6]
  3. Reduction of Tiredness and Fatigue: Iron plays a critical role in energy metabolism. It is a component of hemoglobin in red blood cells and myoglobin in muscle cells, both of which are essential for transporting and storing oxygen. Adequate iron levels ensure that enough oxygen is delivered to various parts of the body, including muscles and the brain, which is crucial for reducing feelings of tiredness and fatigue. Iron deficiency is one of the leading causes of anemia, which is characterized by fatigue and weakness. [6]

Good sources of Iron [7]

  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Eggs  
  • Beans, peas, lentils, tofu
  • Some vegetables such as spinach and beets
  • Whole grains such as quinoa, whole oats and whole-grain bread
  • Nuts, seeds, and some dried fruit like raisins

Zinc: Guardian of Immunity

  1. Protection Against Oxidative Stress [8]: Zinc is integral in defending cells against oxidative stress, a condition caused by an imbalance between the production of harmful free radicals and the body's ability to counteract their damaging effects. It achieves this by being a part of several antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutase, which neutralizes free radicals.
  2. Macronutrient Metabolism [8]: Zinc plays a critical role in the metabolism of macronutrients—proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. It forms an essential component of numerous enzymes that are responsible for breaking down these nutrients, facilitating their conversion into energy and other vital substances. Zinc is particularly important for the function of insulin, a hormone that regulates carbohydrate metabolism, highlighting its significance in overall metabolic health and blood sugar regulation.
  3. Fertility, Reproduction, and Immune Function:

Here are several good sources of zinc: [9]

  • Oysters
  • Beef (steak)
  • Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • Crab
  • Oats (rolled, cooked in water)
  • Cheese (cheddar)
  • Sardines (canned in oil, drained)
  • Milk (1% fat)
  • Peanuts
  • Egg
  • Salmon (cooked)
  • Rice (white, long-grain)
  • Bread (white)