As we age what we ingest has a great effect on our functions, health, physical and mental abilities, and thus our relationships. Much is writen and said about vitamins, calories, carbs and protiens, but information about minerals is a little more difficult to come by.
Minerals are essential for life enabling normal cellular functions and metabolic reactions to occur. They maintain the structural integrity of the bones and facilitate the absorption of vitamins. The minerals, unlike vitamins, are not destroyed during food storage, cooking or processing. There are 16 minerals required for human life and they are divided into trace minerals, required in smaller quantity and macronutrients required in relatively larger quantities. The trace minerals include Chromium, Copper, Fluorine, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Selenium and Zinc. Themajor or macronutrient minerals are Calcium, Chloride, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium and Sulfur.
The American Dietetic Association provides the following information on minerals.
Calcium builds bones, both in length and strength, and prevents rapid bone loss as you age. It helps muscles contract, plays a role in normal nerve function, and helps blood coagulate when bleeding. Deficiency problems will affects bone density and increases the risk of osteoporosis and increases fragility leading to fractures.
Food sources include milk and milk products, some dark green leafy vegetables, fish with edible bones and tofu made with calcium. Many foods are fortified with calcium, such as some brands of orange juice, bread and soy milk. Too much calcium over a prolonged period can cause constipation, kidney stones and poor kidney function. It may also interfere with the absorption of other minerals, such as iron and zinc. Excess amounts are usually consumed through too much supplementation.
Phosphorus helps our body cells produce energy and is a major regulator of energy metabolism in our body organs. It is a major component of bones and teeth, and makes up part of our DNA and RNA. Deficiency isextremelyrare, except in some premature babies who consume only breast milk, or for people taking aluminum hydroxide containing antacid over long periods of time. Symptoms include bone loss, weakness, loss of appetite and pain. Food sources include protein-rich food, legumes, nuts, bread and baked goods. Too much phosphorus may lower calcium levels in the blood and increase bone loss if calcium intake is insufficient.
Magnesium is an important part of more than 300 enzymes which regulate body functions, energy production and muscle contractions, along with maintaining nerve and muscle cells. It is also an important component of bones. Deficiency may cause irregular heart beat, nausea, weakness and mental derangements. Food sources are in all foods in varying amounts but are highest in legumes, nuts, whole grains and green vegetables. Too much magnesium can cause nausea, vomiting, lower blood pressure and heart problems. Excess amounts from food are unlikely to cause harm except in cases of kidney disease preventing magnesium from being excreted.
Chromium works with insulin to help the body use glucose and maintain proper blood sugar. Deficiency may cause symptoms resembling diabetes, such as impaired glucose tolerance and nerve damage. Food sources include meat, whole grains and nuts. The effects of too much chromium are not fully understood and are being studied.
Copperis essential in making hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood. It is also an essential part of many body enzymes helping the body cells produce their needed energy. Deficiency is rare, except from certain genetic problems or by consuming too much zinc, which can hinder copper absorption. Food sources are organ meats, especially liver, seafood, nuts and seeds. Too much copper can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, coma and liver damage, but is rare.
Fluoride helps harden tooth enamel, protecting teeth from decay. It may also help protect against osteoporosis by strengthening bones. Deficiency causes weak tooth enamel and may promote decay. Food sources may include tea especially if made with fluoridated water and fish with edible bones, such as canned salmon. Many communities add fluoride to the water supply, and fluoride supplements may be used with a doctor’s supervision. Tooth paste is often made with fluoride enrichment. Too much fluoride can mottle or stain otherwise healthy teeth. It can also lead to brittle bones, increasing the frequency of bone fractures.
Iodine is an important part of thyroxin or thyroid hormone, which regulates the body’s rate of energy use. Deficiency will interferes with thyroxin production, slowing the rate at which the body burns energy. Symptoms include weight gain, goiter and hypothyroidism. Because of the use of iodized salt in the United States and other parts of the world we have virtually eliminated iodine deficiency as a cause of goiter in the in most of the developed countries of the world. Food sources include saltwater fish and foods grown near coastal areas. Iodine is added to salt. Ironically, too much iodine may also cause goiter, but rarely at levels consumed in the United States.
Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to body cells. Deficiency causes anemia, fatigue and infections. Deficiencies are more common among women with heavy menstrual periods. Food sources from animal are better absorbed than plant sources. These sources include meat, poultry, seafood, legumes, nuts and seeds, breads, cereals and other grain products. Supplementation can be dangerous. Adult iron supplements can be harmful to children; seek immediate medical attention if children accidentally take adult iron supplements. Iron supplements should also not be taken by men, post menopausal women without medical supervision. People with a genetic problem called hemochromatosis should not take iron supplements.
Too often we neglect the importance or proper hydration. Our nutrition must provide sufficient water required as a solvent, a transport medium, a substrate in hydrolytic reactions and for lubrication. Water makes up about 70% of our total body weight. Water needs continual replacement as it is lost from our bodies in urine, sweat, evaporation from lungs and in excrement. An average person requires 2-4 quarts of water a day supplied through drinks and liquid in our foods. Even a deficit of about 20% of our water needs can cause serious dysfunctions in our physical and mental abilities.