Minerals

Minerals
 

Definition

Minerals are essential nutrients that play many important roles in the body. Unlike most other nutrients, minerals are inorganic and cannot be made by the body (they come from the earth). Most of the minerals in our diet come directly from two sources – water and plants – but they can also come indirectly from animal foods. The amount and type of minerals in water and plants varies by geography.

Description

There are many types of minerals necessary in order for the body to remain healthy, they have many functions, and are required in different amounts. Their main functions are as follows:

  1. Providing structure to bones and teeth.
  2. Energy production.
  3. Blood formation.
  4. Building protein.

According to the amount of these minerals required a day, they are categorized into major and trace  minerals. Major minerals are those, which have to be consumed in amounts larger than 100mg a day, while trace minerals are those the body requires less than 100mg a day of. The terms major and trace  do not denominate importance – only the required amount.

There are body processes that require a combination of minerals, for example, the formation and repair processes of bones require magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. Some minerals compete for absorption and interact with other nutrients, thus affecting their bioavailability.

Mineral Bioavailability

The term bioavailability refers to the degree to which a nutrient is absorbed and made available to the body. Mineral bioavailability in particular depends on several factors. 1) It depends on whether the body has a sufficient or deficient amount of the mineral (deficiencies make minerals easier to absorb); 2) Some elements can decrease bioavailability by binding themselves to the mineral; 3) If used in excess, some minerals decrease the absorption of others (e.g. too much zinc decreases absorption of iron and copper); 4) Vitamins increase mineral absorption (depending on the type).

Minerals from animal sources are absorbed than those that come from plants, because minerals in animal sources have already been absorbed in the past, and therefore lack elements that hinder absorption.

Supplementation

It is always better to acquire your mineral needs from your diet, but there are cases when mineral supplements are required. This happens when there is a deficiency of one mineral or another. For example, minerals, such as calcium and iron are rarely consumed in amounts required for a fully healthy diet, therefore, in this case supplementation is a necessity. A classic case is pregnant women, who require a lot more iron and calcium, and thus require supplements.

Major Minerals

Major minerals include potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, and sodium. They have many functions in the body, including maintaining fluid balance (sodium, potassium and chloride), tight control, absorption of other nutrients (sodium), creation of hydrochloric acid (chloride), structure of some enzymes (potassium, sodium), Bone and teeth structure (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus), maintaining cell membranes and connective tissue,  structure of enzymes, hormones, and proteins, aids blood clotting, etc.

Trace Minerals

Trace minerals include zinc, copper, iron, chromium, fluoride, iodine, selenium, molybdenum, manganese, arsenic, boron, nickel, and so on. These are required in small amounts. The functions of trace minerals include roles in nutrient absorption, and aiding enzymes and hormones in essential activities. For example, iron is an essential part of hemoglobin in red blood cells. Cellular energy production requires many trace minerals. Trace minerals are important for many other vital functions as well.

 

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