Minerals: Why We Need Them for Better Health
By Charles Hopkins
Published 04/21/2006 | Food & Drink
MINERALS are basic elements found in the soil. Plants pick up these elements naturally. When we eat these plants or animals who have eaten the plants, we absorb these minerals into our own tissues.
SODIUM, POTASSIUM, MAGNESIUM and CALCIUM are minerals the body requires in large amounts, the focus of this report will be on these four minerals. There are many other minerals the body uses but the amounts are very small.
SODIUM, known as salt, regulates the water distribution in our bodies. Salt is the most abundant mineral in our blood and active people need it. Low salt levels will cause dehydration and muscle cramps.
This does not mean piling on extra salt while cooking or eating, we get enough salt depending on the foods we eat.
Meat, fish, chicken, grains, and nuts contain salt.
Other foods high in salt: milk and margarine except those advertised as low salt, canned foods, ketchup, popcorn, potato chips, french fries and sauerkraut.
According to a Harvard Medical School study, all our body requires is 0.2 grams of salt per day. Too much salt causes dehydration, potassium loss and serious medical problems.
POTASSIUM is a mineral that controls muscle heat and nerve conduction the transmission of nerve impulses. When we exercise and feel weak and tired, it's usually low mineral levels in muscle cells. Lack of Potassium is a common cause and there is no warning system to tell you this, unless a blood test is performed.
When exercising, muscle produces heat; Potassium released by the muscle prevents overheating by increasing blood flow. Sweat and urine excrete Potassium so replacing it is vital.
Fruit juices have high levels of Potassium, drinking generous amounts will replenish low levels of this mineral. Other Potassium rich foods are: fruits and vegetables, molasses, pecans, rye, flour, soy beans, walnuts and wheat germ.
MAGNESIUM helps to control muscle contraction and regulates the conversion of carbohydrates to energy. Low magnesium levels cause fatigue and muscle cramps.
A U.S. Department Of Agriculture report states that 36% of Magnesium is supplied through dairy products and meat. Other recommended foods are dark bread, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.
Believe it or not, beer is a great source of magnesium. Some professional athletes have been known to hit the beer cooler as a post game recovery drink.
CALCIUM is the most abundant mineral and the main structural material for bones and teeth. Calcium controls muscle contraction and regulates most of the chemical reactions in our body.
Unless you are growing, pregnant or nursing, calcium requirements are low. If your body needs calcium, your own bones will supply it.
Sources of calcium: almonds, asparagus, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, cheese, egg yolk, figs, lentils, milk, nuts, sardines and turnip greens.
Combining these four minerals into your daily diet will increase energy levels and add some snap to your exercise routine!