If everything you know about copper is tied up in images of copper kettles, copper wiring, copper pipes, and copper pennies, you might be surprised to learn that copper is also an essential trace mineral in your body and plays an active role in maintaining and enhancing your health.
You might even say that copper is key to your survival, in that it can be found in all your body tissues. It fills a role in all of your body tissues, contributes to the production of red blood cells, and is actively involved in regulating your immune system and nerve cells, per medicalnewstoday.com.
What Is Copper?
Per readersdigest.ca, copper is the third-most-plentiful trace mineral in your body, even if you don’t often hear it discussed when it comes to your health, medical treatment, and your daily diet. Most of the copper in your body can be found in the liver, brain, heart, kidneys, and skeletal muscle, as medicalnewstoday.com also points out. You would have to consume about six medium-sized avocadoes a day to get a sufficient amount of copper into your body daily. Yes, it takes copper to “feed the meter,” so to speak.
Besides being naturally available in some foods and available as a dietary supplement, copper is a "cofactor for several enzymes (known as “cuproenzymes”) involved in energy production, iron metabolism, neuropeptide activation, connective tissue synthesis, and neurotransmitter synthesis," per National Institutes of Health (NIH). Note that your body stores only a small amount of copper, which is why it must be replenished regularly through what you eat or how you supplement.
Copper Is Key to Collagen Production
One of the key health-related functions that copper performs is aiding in the formation of collagen, a basic protein instrumental in the integrity of your bones, skin, and connective tissue. In that respect, copper can help prevent bone loss that potentially leads to osteoporosis.
Per medicalnewstoday.com, a study of healthy women between the ages of 45 and 56 found that their daily consumption of a 3-milligram copper supplement resulted in no loss of mineral bone density while those women given a placebo showed substantial loss. Note, too, that an actual deficiency of copper, while rare, has the potential to lead to cardiovascular disease and other health complications. Those include Alzheimer’s disease as well as neutropenia, which is a shortage of white blood cells needed to fend off infections.
A healthy supply of copper in your body can also aid in preventing or delaying the development of arthritis; acting as an antioxidant that can block the production of harmful free radicals; regulate the activity of nerve cells; and enhance cardiovascular health as low levels of copper have been linked to high cholesterol and hypertension (high blood pressure), per medicalnewstoday.com.
Food Sources Abundant in Copper
Before you go out and fill a couple grocery carts with the following foods, you should discuss your intent, if any, to ramp up the amount of copper in your daily diet with your physician. You don’t want to be consuming copper indiscriminately, because regular consumption of more than a recommended dietary allowance (RDA) could lead to health problems, starting with vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea and eventually leading to insomnia, hypertension, and depression.
Per naturalfoodseries.com, here are some foods to toss into that grocery cart (and you should be keeping count of how much copper you are putting in there):
- Asparagus. It also provides valuable nutrients such as zinc, selenium, calcium, and thiamine.
- Dark chocolate. An ounce a day keeps the doctor away? Maybe. Such a small piece of dark chocolate can contain sufficient copper for meeting the daily requirement.
- Eggs. Its supply of copper helps explain why consumption of eggs is linked to strong bones.
- Fish. Sardines, tuna, and salmon are at the top of this list.
- Fruits. You can almost never go wrong with fruits. The ones rich in copper include blackberry, banana, apricot, guava, and pineapple.
- Nuts. Think walnuts, pistachios, peanuts, and cashews.
- Spices and herbs. These include chervil, thyme, tarragon, chili powder, curry powder, cumin, mustard, and coriander.
- Tomatoes. Rich in copper, their health benefits include enhanced cardiovascular health and skin elasticity.
- Other copper-rich foods to include on your grocery list are turnip greens; meats such as beef liver; and seeds (flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, and squash seeds) that make handy snacks.