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Nutrition Basics: What Are Minerals?

Posted by HealthyMuslim on Thursday, November 06, 2008
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Minerals are essential nutrients that your body needs in small amounts to work properly. We need them in the form they are found in food. That's why it's so important to make a point of including a variety of foods - which contain different minerals - in your diet every day.

Minerals can be found in varying amounts in a variety of foods such as meat, cereals (including cereal products such as bread), fish, milk and dairy foods, vegetables, fruit (especially dried fruit) and nuts.

Minerals are necessary for three main reasons:

  • building strong bones and teeth
  • controlling body fluids inside and outside cells
  • turning the food we eat into energy

Some of these minerals are: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, chlorine, sodium, magnesium, iron, manganese, silicon, copper and iodine. There are also trace minerals which are needed in lesser amounts, such as zinc, cobalt, molybdenum, chromium and selenium. The trace elements are also needed to ensure the efficient occurrence of certain metabolic functions

If our foods do not contain enough of the right kinds of minerals we simply starve to death. It does not matter how much "good nourishing food," as this is commonly understood, that we consume, if these minerals are not present in sufficient quantities we suffer from slow starvation, with glandular imbalance or dysfunction, more disease and other evidences of decay.

Life and health are so directly related to these minerals, that we can never have satisfactory health without an adequate supply of them. We may be sure that each mineral has its own separate function to serve, while certain combinations of them have long been known to serve vital services in the body.

Minerals can be divided into three groups: the macrominerals (bulk elements), microminerals (trace elements) and ultra-trace elements (elements that are consumed in microgram quantities).

Interestingly enough, minerals make out about 4-5% of your body weight. More or less 50% of this weight is calcium.

There are a number of important things to bear in mind about minerals:

  • First, their use in the body: No mineral is used in isolation within the body. All minerals interact with other minerals, vitamins, enzymes and so on. It is overly simplistic to say that "iron builds rich blood" or "calcium makes strong bones." For instance, copper must also be present for the iron to be used in blood-building. Likewise, a certain amount of phosphorus must also be present along with the calcium to build bones. However, it is also a fact that certain minerals are utilized by the body as nutrients for specific organs moreso than other organs. Also, the body uses certain minerals in performing certain body functions. Nonetheless, in studying an individual mineral, keep in mind that it is only a part of a whole complex process.

  • The recommended allowance of a mineral: This can be almost meaningless. Mineral requirements depend upon individual constitution, climate, type of work, personality, age, sex, body weight, level of health and hundreds of other factors. There can never be one recommended allowance of a mineral that applies to everyone. All given Recommended Allowances may vary considerably and they should not be considered as "law."

  • Finally, Food Sources of a mineral: minerals are abundantly supplied in all foods natural to man's diet (fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and sprouts). Such sources will be covered in more detail for each mineral in future articles.

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