Minerals add up to be only 4% of our total overall body weight but they are essential for our health. Rickets may be a disease of the past for most Americans, but there are a lot of common symptoms of mineral deficiency still in play. Depression, muscle weakness or cramps, mental apathy, thyroid imbalances, fat absorption, hypertension, panic attacks, loss of memory, and fatigue are just a few symptoms of mineral imbalance or deficiency.
Minerals are needed for proper metabolism, cellular activity, hydration and electrolyte balance, and mental capacity among other functions. Depending on the amount needed for proper health, some minerals are considered major or macro-minerals, and some are considered trace or micro-minerals.
It’s not as easy as just taking a supplement or two, as a lot of minerals interact with one another. Phosphorus plays a part in calcium regulation as does sodium and magnesium. Calcium and magnesium compete for absorption within the kidneys and magnesium can decrease calcium binding on the cell receptor site. Magnesium plays a part in phosphorus absorption, potassium concentration across the cellular membrane, and the activation of vitamin D. Too much copper or iron decreases zinc absorption. They interact with one another at numerous levels, regulate one another, and often influence the same physiological processes within the body.
It is not recommended to read this article, self-diagnose, and buy a mineral supplement. Mineral balancing is an art. The best thing to do (besides working with a qualified nutritionist ;-)) is to eat a nutrient dense whole foods diet.
Mineral rich foods:
- Iron – Beef, dark poultry meat, fish, muscles, oysters; lentils and beans, blackstrap molasses, liver
- Calcium – Almonds, broccoli, canned salmon, sesame seeds & tahini, garbanzo beans, dark leafy green vegetables, teff, and dairy
- Potassium – All fruits and vegetables, beans and nuts
- Magnesium -Avocados, bananas, fish, dairy, dark leafy green vegetables, nuts, wheat germ
- Zinc – All meats and fish, maple syrup, sesame seeds, soy beans, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, yeast
- Copper – Avocados, fish, legumes, liver, lobster, mushrooms, nuts, oats, peanuts, raisins, salmon, soybean, spinach
- Chromium – Apples, beef, yeast, broccoli, cheese, chicken, eggs, ham, molasses, sweet potatoes, tomatoes
- Phosphorus- Almonds, beans, dairy, eggs, fish, peanuts, peas, poultry, pumpkin seeds, red meat, sunflower seeds, tuna, whole grains
- Selenium -Bbroccoli, brown rice, cabbage, chicken, mushrooms, oatmeal, onions, seafood, tuna, whole grains
- Sodium – All processed foods have sodium and most Americans consume excess amounts. Healthy sources if you don’t eat packaged products include: green beans, seafood, sea vegetables, and quality sea salts like Celtic, Eden, Himalayan, Noirmoutier or Real Salt.
Getting enough minerals in your diet is part of the equation, but we aren’t what we eat, we are what we absorb and metabolize. We need the right amount of stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and environment to utilize and transport those minerals. We also need to ensure we are getting them in the right doses so that they aren’t depleting and competing with one another (one reason why sucking on a bag of zinc lozenges can be dangerous). Most minerals are only moderately absorbed even with the best diet. The best option is to eat a balanced diet, rich in the unaltered whole foods listed previously, and to prepare them in a way as to optimize absorption.
When you have leftover bones from beef or poultry, slow cook them in a crock pot with 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar for a few days to help you move the minerals out of the bones into the broth. If using grains and legumes for your mineral sources, it’s recommended to soak and sprout them prior to consumption. Phytic acid, which coats grains, beans and legumes decreases mineral absorption. Cooking with a cast iron skillet is an easy way to get more iron into your diet. Eggs and acidic foods like tomatoes products absorb the most iron from the pan.
Remember, if you can’t picture it growing or living, it’s not a whole food.
Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, Third Edition James L. Groff and Sareen S. Gropper