Magic Minerals: Discover their benefits

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Magic minerals

Discover the healing power of minerals and which ones you need for optimal health.

In theory, a healthy diet should take care of all your nutrient needs. However, in practice, most of us could do with a little help from supplements. For example, if you cannot tolerate dairy foods, you may not be getting the calcium you need; or, if you need to take conventional medications, you may not be aware that many of them affect the absorption or retention of certain minerals – for example, diuretics deplete zinc and magnesium. Also, since calcium cannot be absorbed properly without vitamin D, if you are not getting adequate sunshine, this can cause calcium deficiency. 

Here are six of the most important minerals and their health benefits: 

  1. Magnesium: This is involved in energy production, nerve function, muscle relaxation and bone and tooth formation. It also plays an important role in heart health by lowering blood pressure and preventing blood clot formation. Magnesium levels are easily depleted by stress, alcohol and a diet high in processed foods, which contain next to no magnesium. Good food sources are whole grains, nuts, legumes and leafy greens.  
  2. Calcium: Although calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, most adults do not get the amount they need every day (800 mg, rising to 1,000 mg if you are a post-menopausal woman). Calcium prevents osteoporosis and may help lower blood pressure. It provides strength to bones and teeth, and is also needed for effective communication between nerve cells, for blood clotting and wound healing, and for muscle contraction. Dairy is one of the best sources of calcium; nondairy sources include canned salmon and sardines, broccoli and almonds.  
  3. Iron: This is vital for all-round good health, energy and stamina, and it is essential for healthy blood and for preventing anemia. By helping the blood and muscles deliver oxygen to every cell in the body, iron keeps your immune system functioning optimally and also keeps your memory and cognitive skills sharp. Low levels of iron can result in fatigue and short attention span, and may also be a cause of poor academic performance in teenagers. Women who lose iron through heavy menstrual periods may be more at risk of deficiency if their diet is inadequate. Endurance athletes, vegetarians and people favouring extreme or restrictive diets may also experience iron shortfalls. Iron-rich foods include liver, beef, and lamb; vegetable sources are berries, beans, leafy greens, peas, dried fruits, seeds, yeast, kelp and wheat bran.  
  4. Selenium: This trace mineral acts as an antioxidant, countering the free radicals that damage DNA and accelerate the ageing process, and helping to prevent diseases triggered by free radical damage, such as cataracts, cancer and heart disease. Research also suggests that supplementing with selenium results in a lower risk of certain cancers, including of the prostate, ovaries, bladder and liver. Selenium is found in Brazil nuts, garlic, poultry, seafood, oats and brown rice. 
  5. Zinc: A crucial mineral for a strong immune system, zinc is involved in hundreds of body processes, from making and repairing DNA to wound healing, sexual health, thyroid health, fertility and immunity. Taking zinc helps to protect the body from pathogenic bacteria and viruses, notably colds and flu, as well as mouth ulcers. It may also play a role in preventing and helping other immune-related diseases, such as fibromyalgia and arthritis. Good food sources include meat, eggs and seafood (particularly oysters); pumpkin seeds, nuts and wheatgerm also provide zinc. 
  6. Iodine: Iodine only has one job to do in the body, but it is a critical one: to support thyroid health by triggering the thyroid gland to make thyroxine, the hormone that regulates metabolism in all the body’s cells, which in turn controls growth and development in children, body temperature, reproduction, nerve and muscle function and the growth of nails and hair. Seaweed products, notably kelp, dulse and nori, are rich natural sources of iodine; it is also found in seafood and fish.
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