Take a Peek at Microminerals
It is said that good things come in small packages. When it comes to nutrition, good things come in small amounts — microminerals. Some commonly-known microminerals are iron, zinc, copper, iodine and selenium but boron, cobalt, fluoride, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium and others are also required. Although we need microminerals (also known as trace minerals) in very tiny amounts, they still have vitally important functions. Microminerals are part of hormones, enzymes and cofactors (substances that help enzymes function). Enzymes aren’t just for digestion, they play a part in virtually all physiological actions, so getting adequate amounts of trace minerals is essential.
Let’s take a peek at several microminerals and see some of the many ways they enhance our health:
This micromineral plays a part in oxygen transport and storage via hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells) and myoglobin (a protein in muscle tissue). It is necessary for cellular respiration, division and growth as well as energy metabolism. Iron concentrates in bone marrow and spleen as the iron-storing protein ferritin. Iron deficiency can cause menorrhagia (excessive menstrual flow) and iron itself helps counteract the loss of red blood cells from heavy bleeding. Iron also plays a role in the condition of our hair and nails.
There are two dietary forms of iron: the well-absorbed heme form and the poorly-absorbed non-heme form (vitamin C, B12, folate and zinc can enhance absorption). Dietary sources include meats, poultry, egg yolks, fish and seafood (heme) and dark, leafy greens, legumes, dried fruit (non-heme) as well as iron-enriched foods. Plus, foods cooked in cast iron will absorb iron from the pans. As a supplement, ferrus gluconate, fumarate or glycinate are easy on the digestive tract.
This metalloenzyme is necessary for the function and/or production of over 200 enzymes as well as hormones such as insulin, leptin, melatonin and testosterone. It concentrates in the heart, retina and beta cells of the pancreas, but is also necessary for the function of our cell membranes, for sperm production, fetal development, growth and sexual maturation. Zinc also functions as an antioxidant and is necessary for immune health, eye health, and healing of wounds and fractures. In addition, zinc influences our perception of taste and thirst (zinc deficiency may thereby contribute to dehydration). Zinc may also inhibit hair loss. Be careful not to take too much zinc, as it can negatively influence copper and iron levels.
Oysters are quite high in zinc. Other dietary sources include meats (especially dark meat), fish and seafood, poultry, legumes and whole grains. For the common cold, try zinc gluconate lozenges; chelated forms like citrate and picolinate are well absorbed.
Again we have a micromineral that is part of many enzymes and helper to others. For example, copper helps superoxide dismutase function as an antioxidant, it enables lysyl oxidase to produce collagen and elastin (proteins in connective tissues) and aids an enzyme in the cell respiration process. In addition, copper helps with the uptake of iron into hemoglobin.
Raisins are a rich source of copper. Other sources include meats, liver, shellfish, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains and, sometimes, drinking water. As a supplement, copper gluconate and citrate are good sources.
Iodine is well-known for its role in the production of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), which regulate growth, development and metabolism. A deficiency will cause goiter (enlarged thyroid) and deficiency in children may lead to severe developmental deficiency. Lesser-known roles for iodine include carbohydrate metabolism, conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A, and the health and condition of hair, skin and nails.
Fish, seafood and seaweed are reliable sources of iodine. Other sources include food grown in iodine-rich soil, iodized salt. An iodine/iodide combination is a good way to supplement.
Selenium is an essential component of the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase that protects us from oxidative damage. Selenium has a particular synergy with vitamin E and it works well with other antioxidant nutrients like vitamin A and vitamin C. This micromineral offers health benefits to the immune, cardiovascular, nervous and digestive systems. It also may be useful for the treatment and/or prevention of autoimmune conditions like thyroiditis and some forms of cancer. The best form for supplementation is selenomethionine since it is well absorbed and retained by our bodies, plus it is the only form that can cross the blood-brain barrier.
Brazil nuts and kelp are high in selenium.
Molybdenum (pronounced “mo-LIB-dah-num”) is abundant in tooth enamel and may decrease the risk of tooth decay. It also concentrates in and enhances the function of the liver and kidneys. It is also abundant in the adrenal glands, skin and bones. In addition, this antioxidant mineral is an essential cofactor of enzymes and helps with the metabolism of amino acids, fats and carbohydrates. Molybdenum also detoxifies sulfites by converting them to sulfate via the sulfite oxidase enzyme and it can reduce elevated copper levels.
Legumes/beans, liver, nuts, dairy, leafy greens are dietary sources of this mineral. Molybdenum deficiency is rare in the U.S., but, if supplementing, look for chelated forms.
A Few Other Microminerals
- Manganese is part of many enzymes. It has a variety of metabolic, musculoskeletal and nervous systems benefits.
- Chromium concentrates in the adrenal glands. It helps regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels and has many cardiovascular and metabolic benefits.
- Boron concentrates in the bones and enhances calcium absorption and reduces the excretion of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. It also enhances the function of vitamin D and contributes to the health of the nervous system.
- Fluoride strengthens bones and tooth enamel and helps prevent tooth decay. It is also a cofactor for enzymes.
As you can see, microminerals are vital for a wide variety of physiological functions — and we have only taken a peek at what they do.
Minerals naturally come from the earth and from water, so the amount of any given mineral in food will depend on the condition of the soil and water used to grow that food. Organically grown food is a good, healthy choice because organic farming enriches the soil with a variety of nutrients and microorganisms. In addition, minerals are lost to cooking water, so you may want to drink it or water your garden with it.
Since our bodies do not make minerals, we must get them from food or supplements. Evergreen has several choices of trace minerals including tablets and liquids. Stop by the store and take a look.
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