Diet rich in minerals

Humans need water, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals to live. Special attention should be paid to minerals, because although they fulfill so many different functions in our body, many people do not know what minerals actually are and what we need them for. Minerals are involved in life in two ways: the organism needs them as building blocks, for example for teeth and bones, and they take on important tasks in the body, such as managing many metabolic processes. Below you will find out why minerals are so important for our health.

Definition: What are minerals?

Minerals are inorganic substances and compounds that are essential to human life. The body cannot produce them itself, but it needs them for many functions. They must be supplied with food – they are therefore referred to as essential nutritional components.

Minerals are divided into  bulk and trace elements  – depending on the amount in which they occur in the body. A concentration of  more than 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight  is referred to as bulk elements, otherwise as trace elements.

What are the minerals?

The body needs a variety of different minerals. The amount required determines whether a mineral is counted as a bulk or trace element. The following lists show which minerals belong to which of the two groups.

List of set items

The bulk elements of which our body needs comparatively large amounts include:

List of trace elements

The trace elements, of which our body only needs small amounts, include:

  • Arsenic
  • Chrom
  • Eisen
  • Fluor
  • Iodine
  • Cobalt
  • copper
  • Mangan
  • molybdenum
  • Nickel
  • Selenium
  • silicon
  • Vanadium
  • Zinn
  • Zink

Importance of minerals in the body

Minerals are of particular importance for our health because they take on numerous important functions in the body and are involved in a wide variety of processes. Even tiny amounts have their place. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the body composition, its physical structure or the constantly running metabolic processes: Nothing works in the long run without minerals.

An undersupply or oversupply of minerals can have fatal consequences. However, the organism has numerous methods at its disposal to first compensate for possible deficiencies. The same applies to overdoses if they happen for a short time.

This is why deficiency symptoms or an oversupply of minerals are very rare in a balanced diet. Of course there are exceptions.

Task and function of minerals

Although minerals are not energy carriers, they influence almost all metabolic processes. As enzyme and hormone components, they regulate different processes. Their presence in the organism is essential for life.

Here are some examples of how different minerals work:

  • Calcium is a building block for bones and teeth. It has a structural function. The body needs a relatively large amount of it, which is why calcium is one of the bulk elements.
  • Iron, a trace element, is involved, among other things, in the production of the blood pigment (hemoglobin) and in the transport of oxygen. It is also necessary for proteins (enzymes).
  • The thyroid not only needs enzymes for its hormones, but also iodine. The importance of the thyroid gland is well known: it controls the release of insulin, for example.

The minerals influence each other. Not every function, every effect, every interplay has been sufficiently researched to be able to explain it precisely, because the human organism only functions perfectly when all building blocks are balanced.

Determine the right dose

The German Society for Nutrition provides information on the right dose of minerals and the recommended daily requirement in the form of tables, which are now supplemented by the European Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs). However, the recommendations for the respective daily dose of minerals are only guidelines. They cannot be more than that, since individual metabolic processes play a decisive role. It is very difficult to define how high the  personal need  actually is in order to be optimally cared for.

Some people have an increased need for minerals and should therefore ensure an increased intake. For example, athletes need a lot of magnesium, which contributes to energy production in the cells.

However, it is still not recommended to take additional mineral preparations (dietary supplements) only if you suspect or are concerned about malnutrition. A growing body of research suggests that  overdosing  on minerals can also be harmful. Vitamin and mineral tablets should therefore only be taken after consulting a doctor.

identify mineral deficiencies

A mineral deficiency is not easy to spot. It is almost impossible to judge for yourself whether you are sufficiently supplied with all the minerals or are suffering from a deficiency. For example, the daily requirement of selenium for adults is given as 60 to 70 µg. No one can control for themselves whether they consume this amount through their diet.

There are also few signs of well-being that indicate an unhealthy dosage of minerals. The cause is usually complex.

Typical assumptions of deficiency that are widespread in society include:

  • iron deficiency
  • Iodine deficiency
  • magnesium deficiency
  • calcium deficiency

 Such a mineral deficiency can be analyzed quite well by means  of blood tests . If the blood test shows that there is actually a deficiency, it can usually be easily compensated for with appropriate foods or dietary supplements.

What is the function of the individual minerals?

Minerals take on different tasks in the body, whereby they are also mutually dependent and influence each other in their effect. Some  examples  of minerals and their function are presented below.

The role of potassium in the body

Potassium belongs in every cell in the body. There it regulates the “osmotic pressure”. It affects the water balance and blood pressure. The mineral is also involved in heart and muscle activity and in the breakdown of carbohydrates and thus also in the energy supply. The body needs 4,000 milligrams of potassium every day.

Potassium is found in meat and fish products, fruit, vegetables and all grain products. Potatoes , grains,  avocados  and  nuts are rich in potassium  . But mushrooms, eggs,  lamb’s lettuce  and  peas also  provide potassium.

The body regulates the level of  potassium in connection with sodium  very precisely. Both substances should be present in the right ratio. If too much sodium is consumed, increased doses of potassium are excreted. The hormone aldosterone is responsible for this.

If there is a deficiency, this can perhaps be recognized by tiredness, muscle weakness, constipation, increased heart rate or cardiac dysfunction. Caution is advised when taking a variety of drugs that affect the potassium balance.

Taking dietary supplements can quickly create a dangerous excess. Such an excess of potassium can trigger symptoms such as  diarrhea , headaches or cramps, but also  cardiac arrhythmias  through to ventricular fibrillation.

calcium for the bones

Almost everyone knows that calcium and bones belong together. The mineral is not only important for building bones, but also for their constant renewal. But only when vitamin D and phosphorus are present is the calcium processed by the body.

Acute, prolonged calcium deficiency leads to so-called decalcification. If there is no calcium for blood clotting, nerves and muscles or organ functions, the body gets it from the bones. In children, bone deformity occurs as a result; in adults, this is referred to as osteoporosis. From middle age, however, the simple intake of potassium is no longer sufficient to counteract bone loss. Only a bone that is regularly loaded maintains its stability.

Due to its solubility, calcium is also found in liquid foods such as  milk  and (mineral) water. Dairy products are important suppliers of the mineral. Just one liter of milk covers the daily requirement of around 1,000 milligrams. Nuts and green foods are also high in calcium. These include  spinach , broccoli, leeks, or  kale .

If there is too much calcium in the metabolic cycle, so it can neither be processed nor excreted, there are risks such as kidney stones or calcification, up to and including a heart attack. At the same time, the absorption of other minerals such as iron or magnesium is hindered.

Magnesium: importance for the metabolism

Magnesium is important for the body. Magnesium plays a role in hundreds of metabolic processes. Protein synthesis, electrolyte balance or cell division are just a few examples. Magnesium can also   help against allergies because it prevents the release of the messenger histamine.

Typical signs of a magnesium deficiency can be nocturnal muscle or calf cramps, imbalance, difficulty concentrating or cardiac arrhythmia. Diagnosing a toxic deficiency in time is difficult, even for laboratory tests. The problem: Here, too, the body gets replenishment from hidden reserves, so that there seems to be enough in the blood.

The body gets magnesium from fruits and vegetables, grain products and legumes. Pumpkin seeds, nuts – especially cashew nuts – and dark chocolate,  bananas  and Emmental are also considered good sources of magnesium. Some (few) mineral waters also contain a significant dose. The recommended value (depending on age and gender) is 300 to 400 milligrams per day.

If you suspect a magnesium deficiency, it can help to reconsider your eating habits and – in consultation with your family doctor – the consumption of medicines. Acid blockers, for example, significantly impede magnesium absorption. Other medicines also have mineral traps ready.

Sodium: Deficiency rather rare

Together with potassium, sodium regulates the formation of electrical impulses. Nerve signals are transmitted by the flow of sodium into the cells and potassium out. Numerous enzymes require sodium, which is also important for a balanced water balance.

However, sodium consumption has fallen into disrepute. This essential mineral is part of salt and, if consumed in excess, contributes to  high blood pressure  . In the salt, the sodium has formed a compound with the chloride. Hence the name sodium chloride. Incidentally, stomach acid requires chloride for its function.

The daily dose of around 1,500 milligrams is usually exceeded. This is often due to industrially processed foods that contain too much salt overall.

Foods rich in minerals

Eat healthy! This wisdom is as well-worn as it is right. The most important thing is to eat as balanced a diet as possible and to eat fresh ingredients while avoiding finished products and fast food.

If all foods end up on the table in a varied way, you usually don’t have to worry about the mineral supply. All contribute, albeit in different concentrations, to a balanced mineral balance.

4 tips for a mineral-rich diet

The following tips can help you to eat healthy and rich in minerals:

  1. Also make sure that you use as few processed ingredients as possible: white flour, for example, contains hardly any valuable  nutrients because the minerals are mainly found in the surface layers of the grain and are sieved out during the production of white flour. It is therefore advisable to pay attention to the type number when buying flour: the higher the type number, the more healthy grain husk it contains.
  2. The most important nutrients are also often found under the skin of fruit and vegetables. It is therefore advisable to   simply eat apples and cucumbers with their skins and to cook potatoes unpeeled.
  3. Freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices or fresh  smoothies  are also a tasty way to provide your body with sufficient minerals and vitamins.
  4. Fish and lean dairy products should complement the diet.

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