Trace Minerals – What They Are & How They Supplement Our Health?
All the life on this planet is fuelled by reactions between various elements. These chemical elements are known as nutrients. Minerals form a broad category that we get from our food. Trace minerals, also called micro minerals, are needed in small quantities in the body. Without these minerals and other nutrients, our cells would not grow, function properly or produce the hormones and enzymes required to sustain our living. Minerals help the body perform its processes and functions in an efficient way. There is no bodily process that can function at its best or continue functioning without the right amount of minerals. Trace minerals are very critical to the daily functioning of our body.
The recommended daily intake of most trace minerals ranges from 0.2 to 15 milligrams. If the body does not get enough of these critical nutrients, there is an increased risk of ailments and health problems. This is why these minerals have an important effect on weight management, blood pressure, pain, depression, cancer prevention, digestion and other aspects. We must have heard of calcium, sulphur, sodium, potassium, magnesium and other minerals. However, trace minerals are also quite important for our health though we need them in smaller quantities. Iron, copper, zinc, manganese, iodine, chromium and selenium are some of the examples of trace minerals that we need to extract from the environment.
Here are some of the most essential functions trace minerals have an impact on:
- Facilitate a number of biochemical reactions
- Important building blocks for enzymes
- Serve as anti-oxidants
- Crucial for growth and development and support neurological functions
- Support the blood system
- Essential for some hormones
- Required for normal gonadal development
To acquire the right dose of these trace minerals, you can either consume some rocks or eat the right food. Trace minerals are present in plants as they take them from the soil for their growth. So, we can get minerals by eating plants or eating animals who have eaten these plants.
Here are some of the most important trace elements required in the body –
One of the most essential trace minerals, Iron forms an important part of enzymes and proteins. It is used in the transportation of oxygen around the body and making red blood cells. iron deficiency is very common across the world, mainly in children, pregnant women and people suffering from medical conditions like gastroenteritis. Strict vegetarian diets can also cause iron deficiency. Inadequate levels of iron can result in stiff muscles, anemia, reduced cognition, reduced oxygen and more.
A lot of people use supplements or iron pots but these sources are generally difficult to absorb. You can get iron from organic sources like seafood, dark leafy vegetables, red meat and poultry. Fermented grains and cereals also contain this trace mineral.
Copper works as an ingredient in a lot of enzymes responsible for important functions like iron metabolism, energy production, creation of hormones and enzymes and promotion of nerve and organ health. Copper work with iron to make hemoglobin; so people with copper deficiency are also deficient in iron and suffer from anemia. Deficiencies can occur in those with obesity, fatty liver disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Some of the symptoms of copper deficiency include reduced immune function, abnormal blood cells, increased risks of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative problems, bone and tissue changes and bone demineralization. Overdosing on zinc supplements can cause copper deficiency.
Copper can be found in most fruits and vegetables in small amounts. It is present in large quantities in nuts, seeds, shellfish, kidneys, liver and other organ meats as well as unrefined whole grains.
Zinc is another universal trace mineral that exists throughout the body. this trace mineral plays a vital role in providing protection from free radicals, facilitating toxin elimination and maintaining the immune system. The human body uses zinc to produce DNA and proteins, to develop and repair tissues, to heal wounds and to grow. Most people get sufficient zinc from their diet though deficiency is common in undeveloped areas. Zinc deficiency can lead to skin rashes, anemia, impaired development, reduced immune function and neurological problems.
Extreme deficiency of this trace mineral can also cause weight loss, hair loss, appetite loss, sexual impotence and diarrhea. Foods rich in zinc include turkey, pork, dark meat chicken, crab meat, beef, oysters, milk, yogurt, almonds, cheese, chickpeas, peanuts and more.
This trace mineral generally controls glucose metabolism and insulin function. It is used to maintain sugar levels and also affects the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. It is found in both plant and animal sources. Not getting the right amount of Chromium can lead to a higher requirement of insulin. It can give rise to symptoms that resemble diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance. It also plays a role in maintaining the vitality of bones in the body.
The deficiency of chromium is rare but the old and malnourished are at risk. Those who consume a lot of processed carbohydrates on a daily basis can run out of their chromium store. A lot of fruits, vegetables and grains contain this trace mineral. Some of the richest sources include nuts, mushrooms, prunes, broccoli, meat, black pepper and other spices.
A well-known component of the thyroid hormone, Iodine is responsible for the regulation of metabolism and the overall balance in the body. Those who don’t get adequate iodine from their diets can’t produce sufficient thyroid hormone for good well-being. Taking too little iodine can cause weight gain, slow metabolism, mental sluggishness and abnormal lipid profile. Deficiency can have serious effects on mental development in children and can cause impairment and retardation.
A number of countries fortify edible salt with iodine to deal with deficiency. Vegetables contain iodine in small amounts while seafood like cod liver oil, fish, algae and seaweed are rich in iodine content. Eggs, grains and dairy products are also good sources of iodine.
This mineral is closely related to enzyme activity in the body. This is why it affects the anti-oxidative benefits for bone development, metabolic functions and would healing. Manganese also influences thyroid hormone, blood sugar regulation, free radicals and cerebral function. Low levels of manganese lead to weaker bones, weight loss, slow nail and hair growth, skin rashes and blood lipids decline. Deficiencies occur in places where poor quality soil is used for cultivating food.
Supplementing with manganese can treat sports injuries because it interacts directly with the immune system and boosts antioxidants in the body. Some of the best sources of this trace mineral include nuts, cereals, whole grains, tea, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger and other spices.
This trace mineral is important in the body for DNA production, reproduction, bone health and thyroid function. It also helps fight off infections and reduce free radical activity. Deficiency of Selenium can cause symptoms like a compromised immune function, thyroid imbalances, infertility, cardiovascular problems and brittle bones. This trace mineral plays an important role in sustaining our vitality and youth. As it decreases with age, it is important to maintain the right levels to protect the body from free radical damage and maintain longevity.
Excess of Selenium can result in brittle nails and hair, dermatitis, discoloured teeth, diarrhea, nausea, hair and nail loss and irritability. Consuming this mineral in small amounts on a daily basis gives the best absorption in the body. Most foods contain Selenium though the content can vary depending on the soil quality. Some of the rich sources of this trace mineral are mushrooms, seafood, Brazil nuts, whole grains, cereals, meat and dairy products.
Cobalt is a key trace mineral that forms the structure of vitamin B12. In conjunction with vitamin B12, cobalt is needed in the diet in trace amounts wherein vitamin B12 encourages proper health of the nervous system and other metabolic processes in the body while cobalt ensures efficient functioning of all the cells. Cobalt is necessary for the healthy production of red blood cells and the formation of haemoglobin. It also helps absorb iron in the body more effectively. Cobalt is also known to help in the repair of myelin, a key component that is present all around the nerve cells in order to protect them.
Similar to other trace minerals, cobalt is most bred in growing plants and hence the highest concentration of cobalt can be found in dark leafy vegetables. Apart from that, the most abundant food sources of cobalt are oysters, chicken, milk and organ meats. A deficiency of cobalt content in the body can lead to imbalances in the production of red blood cells which can further lead to anaemia. In contrast, too much intake of cobalt can lead to overproduction of red blood cells, higher blood volume and anaemia. Another risk of cobalt overconsumption is decreased fertility rate in men.
Even though our body needs it in tiny amounts, the trace mineral molybdenum is essential to our health. Without the presence of which life-threatening toxins will start building in our body. It is a mineral that breeds in the soil and enters our body when we consume plants or meat of animals who have fed on those plants. The richest source of this mineral can be derived from whole grains, lentils, beans, liver, kidney, cheese, nuts, milk and dark leafy vegetables.
Molybdenum once consumed, gets absorbed into the blood and travels to the liver and kidney where it gets stored. But most of the molybdenum content gets converted to molybdenum cofactor. Molybdenum cofactor activates four key enzymes which break down waste components, harmful sulphites and other related toxins in our body. An average adult requires around 45 mcg of molybdenum content per day. Since it is needed in the body in minimally trace amounts, molybdenum deficiency is quite rare. Similarly, instances, where too much molybdenum has been consumed, is also quite rare. As long as people eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes a healthy portion of whole food then molybdenum is a mineral to not be worried about.
Fluoride has been an indispensable part of dentistry treatments for ages. It is mainly needed for two key areas of our body – bones and teeth. In these areas, fluoride works by strengthening our bones and preventing tooth decay. It protects our teeth by either topical fluoride applications or through dietary fluoride supplements both of which fight harmful bacteria in the mouth and stops early signs of teeth decay. Once our teeth erupt from the gums, fluoride slides into the picture and takes our teeth through a process of remineralization, where it rebuilds the tooth enamel that’s weak and hence reverses symptoms that lead to tooth decay.
An average adult requires around 3-4 mg of fluoride content per day to keep their oral health in top-notch condition. Fluoride is available in small concentrations in food like meat, seafood, infant supplements, grapes and cereals. The tiny amounts of fluoride that enters our body through food get mixed with saliva to bathe our teeth with the fluoride content. This repairs weak teeth enamel and reverses decay caused to the teeth. An excessive amount of fluoride either through intake or application causes side effects like ugly stains of the teeth and brittle bones.