In technical terms, minerals are chemical molecules that cannot be reduced to simpler substances. The human body is comprised of about 4-6% minerals and they all are important. A lack of any one can cause imbalance in the body. Optimal mineral intake and reserves help form our body structure, carry out central roles in energy production and transmission, and are required as co-factors in order for vitamins and enzymes to work.
There are three types of minerals: metallic, chelated, and hydrophilic. Metallic minerals are typically from ground up rocks and old seabeds. They are not water soluble and difficult to absorb. The body only absorbs about 8% of metallic minerals. Chelated minerals are also inorganic but are wrapped in an amino acid or protein that helps us absorb the inorganic substance. They still require efficient digestion before providing any benefit. Hydrophilic minerals are those we receive from eating plant foods. They enter the growing plants through their root system and are 200 to 2,000 times smaller than metallic minerals. They are water soluble and easy to absorb. The body absorbs almost 100% of hydrophilic minerals. This is the natural and most effective means of providing minerals to our body.
Critical Macro Minerals:
Calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin C, boron, phosphorus, and fluoride are important for the development and strength of bone tissue and teeth. Although most calcium is found in the bones, the small amount found in the blood is essential to metabolic functions and acid/alkaline balance of the blood. When one’s diet lacks sufficient calcium to maintain the metabolic process the bone’s supply becomes depleted. Additionally, calcium is required for vascular dilation and contraction, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling and hormonal secretion. Less than 1% of your body’s total calcium is needed to support these critical metabolic functions.
The National Institute of Health recommends 1,000-1,500 mg of dietary calcium per day but must be accompanied by vitamins D and K, trace minerals like boron, and weight bearing exercise for proper absorption to create healthy bone density. The myth that dairy has enough calcium to satisfy our body’s need is inaccurate. Dark, uncooked, leafy greens are a must for balanced intake of nutrients to create healthy bone growth. See the chart below for more details.
Magnesium is a factor in more than 300 enzyme systems for essential metabolic reactions that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, acid/alkaline balance, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, metabolism of blood sugars, proteins and carbohydrates, and blood pressure regulation. It’s required for energy production, oxidative phosphorylation, and glycolysis; it contributes to the structural development of bone, is required for the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and the antioxidant glutathione. It also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm. It is also vital for proper bone growth and necessary for adequate calcium absorption. A 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium is essential for the effectiveness of taking calcium supplements to maintain strong bones.
Magnesium deficiency is considered one of the most under-diagnosed nutrient deficiency based illnesses in the US today, suffered by approximately 70% of the US population. Indications of a magnesium deficiency may include muscle twitches (e.g., Restless Leg Syndrome), nervousness, abnormal heartbeat or disorientation. It also counteracts the effects of sodium.
Healing properties of magnesium-rich foods include the calming of nervous system functions, mental and emotional imbalances including irritability, depression, bipolar disorder, sleep disorders and PMS. It is also helpful in relaxing the functioning of muscles, reduction in symptoms of migraines, cramps and digestion.
Phosphorus is stored in the bones at normally a 1:2 ratio to calcium. It is a major structural component of bone (hydroxyapetite) and a major component of cell membranes (phospholipids) and other soft tissue and cells, where it contributes to the body’s chemical processes. Phosphorus is involved in the energy production necessary for metabolism, energy storage, and the formation DNA and RNA. Too much phosphorus in the diet, especially from soft drinks, fast food, and processed foods can lead to reduced calcium mineralization of the bones. Some phosphorous is present in almost all foods. With this and the fact that it is easily absorbed by the body, it is not found in most supplements. People taking aluminum hydroxide for extended periods however may end up with a deficiency, as these normally contain aluminum that prevents phosphorus absorption. See the chart below for more details.
Sulphur is a major component found in all cells of the body. It is needed for the production of keratin, a protein that is found in all cells of the body, and is essential for the formation of bone, cartilage and tendons. It is also needed for digestion, elimination (helps rid itself of harmful toxins such as lead and cyanide) and bile secretion as well as production of the hormone insulin that keeps blood sugar levels in balance. It can also relieve the symptoms of conditions like arthritis, eczema, psoriasis and hemorrhoids.
Sodium, potassium, chloride, and plenty of water, are all essential to maintaining healthy electrochemical activity. Sodium and potassium are positively charged and chloride is negatively charged. Typically, we get plenty of these minerals in our daily diet, but through exercise, high temperature conditions such as fever, and other mechanisms that raise body temperature, they are excreted through the sweat glands and must be replenished to avoid serious health risks. Potassium, along with sodium, is responsible for the regulation of fluids inside of the cells. Potassium is crucial for a healthy nervous system in nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and blood pressure. Levels are controlled by water consumption and kidney function.
Deficiencies in electrolyte minerals are not common in healthy people, who consume a high plant based diet, but are common in individuals who use chemical laxatives and diuretics, or who have had excessive vomiting, diarrhea, or kidney failure. Symptoms of deficiency include muscle weakness, intestinal issues, heart and respiratory problems. Potassium is only toxic if taken in excess of 18,000 mg/day.
The following table of minerals includes some key activities and good food sources.
Remember there is no match for plant-sourced minerals!
|Mineral||Key Activity||Food Sources|
|Calcium||● One of the primary electrolytes|
● Helps prevent precancerous cells from becoming cancerous
● Blood's primary alkaline buffer against acid forming foods
● Important for healthy bones and teeth; helps muscles relax and contract; important in nerve impulse functioning, blood clotting, blood pressure regulation, immune system health
|Sesame seeds, sea vegetables like kelp, kale, parsley, almonds, broccoli, mustard greens, legumes, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, hazelnuts, walnuts and sunflower seeds|
|Magnesium||● One of the primary electrolytes|
● The primary nutritional support for our parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system
● Helps maintain the proper electrical gradient of our cell membranes
● Is central in many enzyme systems
● Found in bones; needed for making protein & fat, muscle contraction, regulation of heart rhythm, energy production, conduction of nerve impulses, immune system health
|Sea vegetables like kelp, leafy greens like spinach, chard, collard greens, walnuts, almonds, seeds, artichokes, raw chocolate (cacao), cashews, dulse, hazelnuts, pecans, beet greens, coconuts, apricots, and avocados. Small quantities are found in most foods.|
|Phosphorus||● Involved in energy production as part of the energy molecule ATP|
● Reduces lactic acid accumulation during exercise
● Important for healthy bones and teeth; found in every cell; part of the system that maintains acid-base balance
|Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, beans, Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, dulse, kelp, most foods contain it|
|Potassium||● Is the primary positively charged mineral inside our cells|
● One of the primary electrolytes and central to proper electrical activity across cell membranes
● Active with magnesium in supporting our parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system
● Needed for proper fluid balance, nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, heart function, carbohydrate metabolism, and maintenance of cellular integrity.
|Sea vegetables such as dulse and kelp, garlic, cayenne pepper, cauliflower, celery, spinach, almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, legumes, avocado, banana, almost all unprocessed vegetables|
|Sodium||● One of the primary electrolytes|
● The primary negatively charged mineral inside our cells
● Needed for proper fluid balance, nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, heart function, blood volume regulation, and blood pressure regulation.
|Sea vegetables, celery, dandelion greens, kale, olives, virtually all foods|
|Silicon||● Helps maintain elasticity and firmness of our skin|
● Helps stabilize soft tissues such as tendons and ligaments
● Facilitates incorporation of calcium into bones
|Dandelion greens, cucumber, onion, strawberry, asparagus, spinach|
|Sulphur||● The third most abundant mineral in the body present in bones, cartilage, muscles, and skin|
● Is an essential component of many amino acids, vitamins and antioxidants
● Found in protein molecules
● Obtained from and used for amino acids, and therefore should be adequate in any diet containing enough protein.
|Kale, kelp, watercress, cabbage, cauliflower, raspberries, garlic, onion, legumes, nuts, beans, peas, cabbage, pineapple, avocado, lettuce|
|Chlorine (Chloride)||● A primary electrolyte|
● A component of hydrochloric acid in our stomach
● Needed for proper fluid balance, stomach acid
|Tomato, celery, kelp, cabbage, kale, radish, parsnip, spinach|
|Boron||● Enhances function of vitamin D|
● Shown to be protective against some cancers
|Pears, tomato, prunes|