Nutrition Basics

5 Key Roles of Minerals and a Downloadable Cheat Sheet!

Minerals play almost magical roles in the body. Learn which foods they’re in and what they do for you. Here are five important functions and why you wouldn't perform well without them.

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1. Regulate tissue growth

There are many different types of tissues in the body and minerals help regulate their growth. Keep in mind that your body is constantly regenerating itself. Your cells and tissues are turning over. You’re constantly making a new version of, well, YOU. Minerals help regulate this growth process. 

2. Contract and relax muscles

Several of the macro-minerals - like sodium and potassium - are particularly implicated in the contraction and relaxation of muscles. In other words, every time you move, you’re reliant on these minerals to facilitate that process. Sometimes twitchy muscles can be a sign of potassium needs.

3. Facilitate nutrient transfer across cell membranes

Nutrients are absorbed by cells in several ways. In some cases, the process of getting nutrients from outside of your cell to the inside of your cell requires the help of minerals! It’s like the nutrient needs an escort to get inside the cell and certain minerals can play that role. This means that even if you are ingesting certain nutrients, it doesn’t mean that they are actually getting inside of your cells to be used if you don’t have the appropriate mineral balance in the body. 


4. Maintain proper nerve conduction

One of the macrominerals - Calcium - is particularly important for nerve conduction. What does that mean? Well, our nervous system is responsible for sending electrical signals that allow for thought, locomotion (movement), and many other basic bodily functions that we tend to take for granted. Without minerals, nerve conduction can be compromised. 

5. Act as cofactors for enzyme reactions

Enzymes are proteins that “chop” or break things apart - like for example the food that we eat often is comprised of molecules that have to be broken into smaller bits to be used by the body. 

Enzymes can also be thought of as catalysts in certain reactions. That means they are like the spark that gets a fire going. Even if you have great kindling and logs, you can’t get a fire going without the initial spark. So, as you can see, enzymes are really important in these two roles. Some enzymes can’t do their job without their mineral cofactor “buddies.” 

Key Micro-Minerals

Micro-minerals are known as trace minerals. Learn which foods they’re in and what they do for you.

Boron - Important for building bones. Foods: Nuts, fresh and dried fruit, legumes, bone meal. 

Chromium -A.k.a. “glucose-tolerance factor.” Is needed for proper insulin function. Foods: Egg yolks, meat, cheese, broccoli, and liver.

Cobalt - Required for the uptake of B12 which is necessary for iron absorption. Foods: Organ meats, shellfish, dried fruits, nuts, chocolate.

Copper - Important for properly functioning adrenal glands. Foods: Beef liver, eggs, seafood, chocolate, fresh and dried fruits, nuts.

Germanium - Therapeutic to support the immune system. Foods: Shellfish, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, ginger, ginseng, watercress. 

Iron - Blood builder and necessary for strength and energy. Foods: Liver, shellfish, beef, lamb, duck eggs. 

Iodine - A component of every cell and necessary for thyroid hormone synthesis. Foods: Dairy products, seafood, sea vegetables.

Lithium - Strengthens nerve cell connections in the brain that regulate mood, thinking, and behavior. Foods: Dairy, eggs, meat, seafood, vegetables.  

Manganese - Important for connective tissue and joint health. You need good gallbladder function to absorb it. Foods: Nuts, spices, shellfish.

Molybdenum - Important for the body’s detox process. Foods: Liver, meat, dairy, eggs, legumes, leafy vegetables. 

Rubidium - Can serve as a replacement for potassium. Foods: Poultry, freshwater fish, uncooked fruits, and vegetables.

Selenium - Antioxidant key to adrenal and thyroid function and hormone conversion. Supports the immune system. Foods: Eggs, meat, seafood, mushrooms, nuts. 

Silicon - Important to bone and tissue health. Foods: Fruits, vegetables, spices, sprouts.

Vanadium - Supports blood sugar regulation. Foods: Dairy shellfish, mushrooms, olives, oats.

Zinc - Supports immune, mental, and sexual function. Significant enzyme cofactor. Foods: Oysters, shellfish, meat, dairy, hemp hearts.

Note: Whole food sourcing is recommended. Supplementation is not advised without the supervision of a medical professional. 

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