Many of us already know lots about vitamins; that they’re groups of organic compounds that are essential for healthy growth and development. We know that we can get more Vitamin C by eating citrus fruits like oranges, and that we can absorb Vitamin D by spending a little time in the sun. However, we tend to know a bit less about minerals; about what they are, why they’re good, and how we get them.
What are Minerals?
Minerals are essential nutrients that are required by practically every living organism on the earth in order to regulate and perform a number of processes that are needed to live. The reason why it’s so important for us to ensure we have a healthy and varied mineral intake is because the body cannot make minerals; instead, minerals are derived from nature — from soils, from water sources, and so on.
Types of Mineral
There are 5 minerals that are considered to be vital for human life: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. However, there are also many other minerals that are hugely important and really can make a significant difference to the way the body functions. These minerals are called ‘trace elements’, and the group includes iron, copper, zinc, iodine, selenium, manganese, and cobalt.
Health Benefits of Minerals
Like vitamins, minerals can bring a number of health benefits. Many of us will already know that calcium is needed for strong teeth and bones, that iodine is important for healthy cells, and that iron ensures we have a good number of red blood cells, but there’s more! Alkaline minerals such as basica could help to improve chronic pain, while a large number of minerals could help to reduce PMS symptoms in women.
Unfortunately, despite the health benefits of minerals, mineral intake in the developed world is remarkably low. In fact, it is believed that average intake of potassium in western countries is just 70 mmol per day, which is about one third of what the body needs to function optimally. Potassium is one of the most effective minerals for protecting the heart, so boosting intake really is important for health.
Minerals in Foods
There are two ways that foods can give us the essential minerals we need to live. Firstly, some foods naturally contain minerals, such as dairy products like milks, cheeses, and yogurts which are naturally rich in calcium. The other way is through fortification. Some foods can be fortified so that minerals are added to them. It is not uncommon to find Calcium-enriched juices, or salt fortified with iodine.
Despite the name, multivitamins include a range of both vitamins and minerals, and are one of the quickest, easiest, and most convenient of ways to give the body what it needs. However, for those with specific health needs, it is also possible to buy minerals separately. Zinc tablets, iron tablets, selenium, potassium, and calcium are just some of the minerals that are widely available to buy online today.
The Importance of Supplements
While it is always important to include a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, and aim to consume your ‘5 a day’, we may not be able to rely on fresh produce alone to give us the nutrients we need. Modern farming techniques are believed to be depleting soils of their mineral content, and experts claim that between 1975 and 1997, calcium levels in fresh vegetables dropped by 27%, and iron by 37%.