Macro Minerals – What They Are & How They Supplement Our Health?
The human body needs a variety of nutrients on a daily basis to stay healthy. Minerals are one of these essential nutrients that play a vital role in metabolic functions. They form parts of enzymes that cause chemical reactions in the body. They also regulate and control bodily functions. These nutrients are divided into two categories – major minerals and trace minerals. While both of these are equally important for health, major minerals are needed in higher quantities to provide the body with the right amount.
Major minerals are also known as macrominerals and they include sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulphur, chloride and phosphorus. While the individual amounts vary, one should take more than 100mg of each mineral to give the body what it needs each day. Some of these minerals have their own functions but they work together to keep your body healthy and functioning at the optimum level.
Calcium works with phosphorus to keep the bones and teeth healthy while calcium, combines with other macro minerals like potassium, sodium and magnesium to ensure that your nervous system works properly. A combination of sodium, potassium and chloride maintains the right balance of fluid in the body while aiding digestion.
Here are the most important macro minerals with brief information on each of them:
One of the most essential macro minerals in the body, Sodium works with potassium and chlorine to maintain a balance of fluids, ions, acids and bases in the body. It is required to make sure all the cells perform properly, muscle contractions, nerve signal transmission and kidney function. It is also an active transport mechanism that boosts the passage of metabolic material through cell walls.
Excessive intake of sodium can cause problems leading to increased blood pressure, interference with heart function and glucose metabolism and more. This is why patients with obesity, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease are advised to cut down their sodium intake.
There is very little sodium found naturally occurring in foods. It can be mainly ingested from salt added to food preparations at home and restaurants. Processed foods also provide sodium as it is added for the taste and preservation of foods.
Potassium is one of the macro minerals that a human body needs in large amounts to maintain optimal health and well-being. It is one of the primary electrolytes and plays a vital role in maintaining fluid balance, nerve function, kidney function, muscle contraction and transportation of material from and to the cells.
This mineral also helps retain calcium in bones and convert blood sugar into glycogen that is stored in the body. Deficiencies are common and result from elevated blood pressure or impaired heart or kidney function. Mild deficiencies of potassium can be experienced at different times during vomiting, diarrhea, sweating or the use of laxatives. Severe deficiency of potassium is rare and can cause symptoms like high blood pressure, reduced cognition, irregular heartbeat, weak bones, breathing difficulty and paralysis. Sodium and potassium need each other to get absorbed and remain in balance. All the fruits and vegetables are rich sources of potassium. One of the best sources of this mineral is bananas. Other dietary sources include grains, milk, legumes, meat and coffee.
The most abundant macromineral in the body, Calcium is required for healthy teeth, bones and nails. Its primary function is to build and maintain skeletal tissue. More than 99 per cent of this mineral is present in bones and teeth while the remaining exists in the blood and is used by different cells for vital functions.
This mineral is involved in blood clotting, nerve signal transmission and fluid control through cell membranes. It also plays a vital role in the relaxation and contraction of muscles. The level of calcium in the body depends on how much is absorbed from the diet. Calcium absorption is generally 20-40 per cent of dietary intake but it increased during periods of need like growth and pregnancy.
Calcium is consumed in the form of enriched foods and dairy products but a lot of people are deficient in this mineral or have excess in wrong tissues. The deficiency of calcium causes brittle bones leading to an increased risk of fractures and bone-related injuries.
Vitamin D3 is essential for the absorption of this mineral while vitamin K2 is required to make sure bones can retain calcium. This is why people deficient in these vitamins can have a deficiency of calcium. Some of the main sources of calcium include organic dairy products, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach as well as fish such as salmon.
A large part of phosphorus is utilized in the formation of bones and teeth in the body, making it as important as calcium. The rest of the mineral is used in different aspects of metabolic processes and has a vital role in body functioning.
Phosphorus is also a component of the energy storage molecule and is important for energy production in the body as well as the immune system. A health impact associated with this mineral is the excess without calcium to balance it. One should ingest double the amount of calcium to balance phosphorus to remain healthy.
The deficiency of phosphorus can affect the body in various ways including muscle weakness and impaired growth. This macromineral is found in the same foods that contain high amounts of calcium. The richest sources of phosphorus are milk and dairy products. Cereal grains, eggs and meat also provide this mineral.
One of the most essential macro minerals needed in large amounts for different body processes, Magnesium is used for regulation of glucose levels and blood pressure, nerve and muscle function and maintenance of bones, DNA and protein.
A lot of people don’t get sufficient magnesium from their diets. Deficiency can cause appetite loss, nausea, weakness, fatigue and stiffness. Extreme symptoms of magnesium deficiency include nerve-tingling, cramps, numbness and even seizures.
This macromineral facilitates digestion and muscle relaxation and helps to deal with migraines, stress, cramps and PMS. Magnesium can be found in abundance in many foods but its main sources are soybeans, nuts, cacao, green leafy vegetables, cereals, legumes, yogurt, dairy products and seafood.
As a major electrolyte mineral, Chloride performs a variety of different functions in the human body. Chloride is responsible for holding a balanced amount of fluids inside the blood vessels without which we run at a high risk of being dehydrated. Chloride transmits nerve signals between our brain and our body. It also helps maintain a healthy level of blood pressure. Apart from these, one of the most important functions that chloride carries out is to maintain the extracellular fluid balance which exists outside of the cells.
Chloride works in relation with other minerals like potassium, sodium and carbon dioxide to maintain the proper functioning of our nervous system and also maintain the health of our heart. Further, chloride aids the digestive system by mixing with hydrogen and producing a powerful digestive fluid known as hydrochloric acid which is an important element of the gastric juices in the stomach. An average human adult requires around 2.3 grams of chloride content in their body each day to not slip into a phase of a chloride deficiency. Chloride can be found in high concentrations in food items such as table salt, soy sauce, processed foods and fast foods, milk, tomato, lettuce and olives.
As a macromineral, Sulfur is available in all our living tissues. It is known as the beauty mineral of the body because it gets mostly stored in our skin, hair and nails ensuring healthy skin and hair care. It also produces key proteins in our body which safeguards cells and tissues against damage. Sulphur is also an important element in the production of amino acids which gives life to enzymes. Certain sulphur compounds prevent the immune system from getting weak and keeps it strong and going.
Sulphur is an important component in the production of insulin wherein insulin makes the cells convert glucose into a source of energy to carry out essential tasks. Sulphur is also responsible for the production of collagen. Collagen provides our skin with its strength and structure.
Sulphur holds around 0.25% of our body weight out of which 140 grams is stored in the form of proteins which is further spread across all cells and tissues. There is no set daily intake limit of sulphur. However, you need to make sure that you are including some amount of sulphur in your everyday diet. Foods that are high in sulphur compounds are eggs, milk, seafood, chicken, broccoli, beef, garlic, etc.