Our bodies need minerals and we can get them from food. Do you know which are the most important and where can we find them? Now I’ll explain.
The body to function needs energy and this energy is obtained from the energy or macronutrient nutrients that are carbohydrates, fats and proteins. But to enjoy good health the body also needs other nutrients, called micronutrients, which despite not supplying energy and need them in small quantity, provide quality to our food. These micronutrients are mainly minerals and vitamins.
Each mineral performs one or several functions within this perfect gear machine, which is the body. Luckily, each mineral can usually be found in several foods, simply follow a varied diet, so that there are none.
Here is a short review to talk about the main functions of each mineral and the foods that contain them.
The vast majority of body calcium is concentrated in the bones. This calcium increases until the end of the growth stage, key moment to make a good reserve. During the adult stage the reserve is maintained, if the diet is sufficient. As we get older there is a tendency to lose some of this calcium reserve, making bones become somewhat more fragile.
Traditionally we have been told that milk and its derivatives (yogurt, cheese …) are the main source of calcium and it is true that they contain them. But there are also other foods very rich in this mineral, such as nuts such as almonds, green vegetables such as green beans or broccoli, citrus fruits like orange or kiwi, legumes, nuts like figs, Seeds such as sesame or even small fish that can be eaten with thorns like canned sardines. Therefore, it is clear that calcium does not only revolve around milk.
Vitamin D is needed for calcium to absorb properly. This is found in blue fish or dairy products. But the body is also able to synthesize a part of vitamin D through the sun. When the sun goes into contact with the skin, some of the cholesterol is converted to vitamin D.
In order for calcium to be absorbed more easily, physical activity is also very important, since movement facilitates this mineral to penetrate into the bones. Therefore, if we perform physical activity outdoors and we touch the sun a little, this is a very good combination. The simple fact of walking each day is already a positive practice for the health of our bones.
In contrast, there are other substances that hinder the absorption of calcium, such as sugar. An excess of sugar-rich foods and beverages demineralize the body, affecting calcium and many other minerals.
An excess of fiber can also hinder the absorption of calcium, as it could increase its elimination through depositions.
Also the excessive presence of oxalatos, substance present in vegetables like the beets or the spinach. These oxalates accumulate mainly in the water when they boil; therefore it is advisable not to take advantage of this water. And another element that hinders the absorption of calcium and as a consequence has a highly decalcifying power is the excess of phosphorus in the diet.
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The phosphor is directly related to mineral calcium, since excessive presence of this prevents the absorption of calcium. The problem is that it is a mineral present in a large number of foods commonly consumed, such as meat, fish or dairy products. This means that if the diet is excessively rich in animal proteins, the tendency leads to decalcification of the organism.
In this sense the cola drinks (the famous Coca Cola® and others of the competition) provoke this effect in containing much phosphorus. In addition, dairy products aside from containing calcium are also very rich in phosphorus, so they actually have much less calcifying power than we have ever been told.
The magnesium, with calcium and phosphorus, is also an important bone mineral. It also interferes with the transmission of the nerve impulse, making it an essential mineral for the nervous system. A lack can lead to depressive states, lack of concentration and insomnia, as well as muscle cramps.
It is found in many foods, but mainly in leafy vegetables rich in chlorophyll, legumes, nuts and whole grains. Refined grains, on the other hand, lose virtually all magnesium in the refining process.
Much of the iron in our body is found in hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is responsible for transporting oxygen to all cells of the body. If iron levels are low, this transport is not entirely effective. In addition we have an iron reserve in the form of ferritin in the liver, spleen and marrow, which should be kept within the correct limits to be used when necessary.
One of the most direct consequences of a lack of iron is iron deficiency anemia. Especially in women during childbearing age, due to blood loss during menstruation.
Foods with a higher iron content and greater bioavailability are foods of animal origin such as meat, liver, egg yolk or fish. Iron is also found in foods of plant origin, such as legumes or nuts. Plant iron is less bioavailable than animal iron, but bioavailability can be increased if it is mixed with foods rich in vitamin C, such as raw fruits or vegetables.
The iron present in lentils can be better used, if for example they are accompanied by a salad and a citrus for dessert.
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Most of the body’s iodine is found in the thyroid gland and is used for the synthesis of hormones. This mineral is found mainly in all foods of marine origin (fish, seafood, seaweed …). Entry vegetables are not rich in this mineral, but if they have been grown in areas near the sea, they may contain them a little thanks to the filtration of groundwater. Another alternative to bring this mineral into the diet is to include iodized salt.
The zinc is an important mineral for the immune system, since it favors the production of lymphocytes. It also plays a prominent role in the healing of wounds. And it is also fundamental for the correct development of the sexual organs, as well as in reproduction and fertility. It is found mainly in meat, fish, eggs, whole grains and legumes.
There is increasing evidence of the great importance of selenium, since along with vitamin E is a natural anticancer agent, thanks to its enormous antioxidant power. In addition it also has a cardioprotective effect and delays the cellular aging. It is found mainly in fish and whole grains.
Sodium is the main electrolyte of the extracellular part. It is responsible for avoiding excessive loss of water from the body, but on the contrary, the massive presence of sodium causes fluid retention. Sodium needs depend on these liquid losses. At high temperatures and with significant transpiration the needs increase. Sodium is mainly provided by salt added to foods, in addition to most foods (dairy, sausage, meat, fish, bread, fruits, vegetables …).
With sodium we usually have more problems of excess than of defect, being cause of habitual diseases like the arterial hypertension.
The potassium, unlike sodium, is the major intracellular electrolyte part. It is the mineral diuretic par excellence, and a diet rich in potassium prevents fluid retention. The foods richest in potassium are potatoes, vegetables and fruits. While it is true that potassium is directly related to sodium. Foods rich in potassium but low in sodium are the most diuretic.
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Apart from these, there is a long list of necessary minerals involved in our vital functions. Generally, if a balanced and varied diet is made, it is possible to obtain through food, which will allow us to enjoy an optimal state of health.