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Preventive Maintenance: Minerals – a Vital Part of Balanced Diets

We know of 16 minerals that are essential for human nutrition: calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, magnesium, and sulfur. The trace minerals are iron, iodine, zinc, chromium, selenium, fluoride, mo...



We know of 16 minerals that are essential for human nutrition: calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, magnesium, and sulfur. The trace minerals are iron, iodine, zinc, chromium, selenium, fluoride, molybdenum, copper, and manganese.

They are inorganic. They don’t have any carbon in them. Nutrition in its simplest form. Each mineral is simply a chemical element. In or out of your body, a mineral atom is like every other atom of that same mineral. For example: an iron atom, since it’s a mineral, is the same atom, raw or cooked. When you eat iron in a food, when iron travels around in a blood cell, when the blood cell breaks down, and when the iron molecule is excreted (in any form) an iron atom is just an iron atom. Minerals can’t break down into smaller parts.

But they can combine to play a vital role in the structures in your body (bones and teeth). Some minerals float around in your body fluids and affect how they work. No matter what minerals are being used for, they aren’t metabolized and they don’t create heat. Your body doesn’t get any energy directly from minerals. Yet they are vital for good health.

Luckily, you don’t have to be careful when preparing mineral rich foods the way you did with the vitamins. Minerals don’t get harmed by heat or air (just be careful not to throw them out in the cooking water, after you’ve boiled your veggies.)

But you may have to be careful about getting too much. Because they are easily stored in your body – some minerals tend to accumulate and can cause these problems:

Calcium: constipation, a greater chance of getting kidney stones, interference with your body’s ability to absorb other minerals.

Copper: a genetic disorder impairs the way your body uses copper. In Wilson’s disease, copper accumulates in the liver and brain, becoming life threatening. Fortunately, this condition is treatable with chelating agents.

Fluoride: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, numbness or tingling of the face, fingers and toes. (It is unusual to get too much fluoride, unless the fluoridation process at a water treatment plant has failed.)

Iodine: strangely enough, both too much and too little iodine can cause the thyroid gland to enlarge, creating a large swelling under your chin (goiter).

Iron: infections, lethargy, joint pain, blotchy skin, hair loss, organ damage, enlarged liver, impotence. A condition-hemochramotosis-makes your body absorb iron more easily than normal, making you more prone to high iron levels. Vitamin C can do this, too.

Molybdenum: gout-like symptoms.

Potassium: muscle weakness, vomiting.

Selenium: vomiting, diarrhea, loss of hair and nails, lesions of the skin and nervous system, tooth damage.

Sodium: swelling, and high blood pressure.

Trace minerals: You need to be especially careful with these since you need such a small amount. You can easily exceed the recommended daily dosage. They really interact with other nutrients. A bit too much manganese can aggravate a lack of iron since it hampers the body’s absorption of iron. Too little iron can lead to lead poisoning. Balance is vital.

Again, if you choose to supplement your diet with minerals, read the labels. Since minerals aren’t easily excreted, don’t overdose on them.

Also, you may have a health condition that could cause problems if you get too high a dose of some minerals. Ask your doctor first. n

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at karen_bowen@yahoo.com.


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