Minerals play a vital role within the body. They are a part of several key metabolic processes. Minerals in the body are divided into two sub-classes, Major minerals & Trace minerals. The dividing factor between them is a requirement level of 100 mg/day. Major minerals are required in higher quantity than that, and trace minerals are required in lesser quantity. As the name suggests ‘trace’ minerals are required or stored in the body in very tiny amounts.  

The Major minerals (required) in the body are Sodium (Na), Chloride (Cl), Potassium (K), Phosphorus (P), Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), and Sulfur (S).

Both Na (Sodium) and Cl (Chloride) are provided by our salt intake, where Na is approximately 40% in content. They work in maintaining the water balance within and outside of our cells. They also play an important part in transmitting our nerve impulses. Separately, Na also participates in glucose and amino acid absorption, while Cl forms part of the HCl (hydrochloric acid) in the stomach and thereby helps in maintaining acid-base balance.

While plant sources are the best for K (Potassium), it is also found in meats, milk, grains and dried beans. It has practically the same functions as Na & Cl in maintaining water balance, imparting nerve impulses and muscular contractions.

P (Phosphorus) as a part of ATP (our unit of energy), is an essential mineral required by every cell in the body. It is also a part of the phospholipids that form the cell membranes and the cholesterol transport system. P is a major component of bones and teeth as well. Many hormones depend on their  phosphorylation to become activated.

Dairy sources are the best for providing Ca (Calcium) to the body. Though plant sources also contain Ca, the absorption of plant based Ca is very low in the body. Ca is an important part of our bones and teeth. In the growing years, the body’s absorption of Ca is much higher than in the adult years. Ca also works as part of fibrin within blood clots, and also in nerve impulses, and muscle contractions.

The chlorophyll in plants is the best source for Mg (Magnesium), however, milk and meats can also provide it. Mg helps stabilize ATP by binding to phosphate groups and is used by over 300 enzymes that use ATP. It also has a subsidiary role in maintaining water balance.

S (Sulfur) is provided by proteins containing amino acids methionine and cysteine. S is widely used in biochemical processes and metabolic reactions. S compounds serve as electron donors, and S is an important part of many enzymes and in antioxidant molecules.

Trace Minerals are essential inorganic substances required in very small quantity. All trace minerals even when combined, are less than 1% of the minerals in the body. The important trace minerals are Iron (Fe), Zinc (Zn), Copper (Cu), Iodide (I2), Flouride (Fl), Manganese (Mn), and Selenium (Se). There are several more, and many are being added to the nutrient list constantly.

Animal sources of Fe (Iron) are preferred by the body over plant sources. Fe is the most important of the trace minerals yet its deficiency is very common. As a part of “heme”, it is an essential part of the proteins hemoglobin and myoglobin. It also works in oxidation/reduction reactions within cells as a carrier of our Oxygen. It also plays a vital role in energy metabolism as a part of a co-factor for all major neurotransmitters. It’s deficiency can compromise Immunity, work performance and cause anemia.

Meat and seafood are the best sources for Zn (Zinc), though it can be provided by alternates like nuts, beans and wheat germ. More than 300 enzymes use Zn. Zn contributes to DNA/RNA synthesis, heme formation, bone formation, taste activity, immune function, growth & development.

Cu (Copper) is a component of many enzymes because of its ability to alternate between 2 oxidative states (+1) & (+2). It is an essential mineral which has vital functions as a part of many important proteins and enzymes in the body. Organ meats, shellfish, nuts & seeds are good sources.

I(Iodine) is present in foods as iodide. The sole function of I2 is to synthesize the Thyroid hormones in the body. Seawater fish, seaweed, iodized salts & dairy products are good sources for this mineral.

Fl (Flouride) is the ionic form of fluorine. It helps in fighting tooth cavities and decay. Though it is available in seafood, many countries are supplementing the water supply with it. Tooth paste also contains added Fl.

Both Mn (Manganese) and Se (Selenium) are a part of many enzymes and proteins and take part in several metabolic reactions. While Se is found abundantly in seafood and meats, Mn can be sourced from whole grains, cereals, nuts and legumes.

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