Minerals are inorganic materials found in rocks and soils, and our bodies wouldn’t be able to survive without them. Of the more than 100 known minerals in existence, at least 18 of them are essential to our good health. Seven of them are classified essential minerals, also known as “macro-minerals”: calcium, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, sodium and chloride.
Minerals do a lot: their roles range from regulating our body’s tissue growth to building strong bones to maintaining proper nerve conduction, and a lot of other things in between. Here’s one irony about minerals: as much as our bodies depend on them, they can’t produce them on their own. That task belongs to us and what we eat.
Our bodies depend on us to provide the minerals through our diets, especially a balanced one that includes all seven of the essential minerals as well as about a dozen “trace minerals,” such as iron and zinc, which although needed in smaller amounts, still fulfill important functions for our bodies. Where do we get these minerals from? They are among the ingredients in the plants (such as vegetables) that we eat as well as in the meat from animals that we consume, with the animals gathering them for themselves by grazing on plants.
Think of minerals this way, per divinehealthfromtheinsideout.com: they are “basically the spark plugs of life, or keystones to our heath. Minerals are the catalysts that keep our ‘battery’ going and hold its charge. Minerals compose about 4 percent of the human body.”
Mineral Imbalance a Widespread Problem
One of our challenges is making sure we maintain a proper balance of minerals in our bodies, but many Americans are missing the mark. Mineral imbalance has been described as an “epidemic.” It has been estimated that about 30 million Americans 50 and over are now vulnerable to fractures because of mineral shortages in our bones.
Zinc deficiency is another common problem and has been linked to a number of health issues such as various cancers, hormonal imbalances and hydrochloric acid (HCL) deficiency – with HCL essential for our digestive system and breaking down proteins. Our bodies simply need minerals to stay healthy, strong and energized, and mineral deficiencies are at the root of almost every health problem, per bodyecology.com.
Uses of Minerals in the Body
Here is a breakdown of the main functions of minerals in the body:
- Bone and teeth health. We need strong bones to provide a supportive framework for our skeleton. Although our bones seem to be hard and unyielding, they are constantly being reabsorbed and reformed by our bodies, per healthyeating.sfgate.com. Several minerals are involved with our bones/skeleton – calcium, phosphorous and magnesium, with calcium being the most prevalent mineral in our bodies. Calcium also is important for our teeth.
- Generation of energy. Oxygen is the key element in this regard in that it is needed to help produce the energy required for every one of our body’s functions and processes. In order for that to happen, red blood cells must give oxygen a lift, transporting it to the almost infinite number of cells in our bodies. The mineral iron is what binds to the oxygen as it is being carried through the blood.
- Immune system: As a trace mineral, zinc is not an abundant mineral in the human body quantitatively speaking, but it is unquestionably an important one. Zinc is vital for maintaining the strength of our immune system, aiding our bodies when it comes to fighting off infections, healing wounds and repairing damaged cells. Good food sources of zinc include meat, beans, peas and lentils.
- Nerve and muscle function. Potassium is indispensable in assisting us in properly regulating the water balance in the cells of our nerves and muscles. If lacking potassium, our nerves would be unable to produce the impulses needed to signal our bodies to move, and likewise for the muscles in our heart, organs and throughout the rest of our bodies to contract and flex, per healthyeating.sfgate.com.
- Other roles of minerals include making our enzymes work and function, maintaining the pH balance within our body and facilitating the transfer of nutrients across cell membranes, per divinehealthfromtheinsideout.com.