Humans need water, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals to live on. Special attention should be paid to minerals, because although they perform so many different functions in our body, many people do not know what minerals actually are and what we need them for.
Minerals are involved in life in two ways: The organism needs them as building blocks, for example, for teeth and bones, and they perform important tasks in the body, such as managing many metabolic processes. Below you will learn why minerals are so important to our health.
Definition: What are minerals?
Minerals are inorganic substances and compounds that are vital for humans. The body can not produce it, but needs it for many functions. They have to be fed with food.
Minerals are subdivided into quantity and trace elements - depending on their occurrence in the human organism. At a concentration of more than 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight one speaks of quantity elements, otherwise of trace elements.
Importance of minerals in the body
Minerals are of particular importance to our health because they perform many important functions in the body and are involved in a wide variety of processes. Even tiny amounts are justified. Regardless of whether the body structure, its physical structure or in the constantly expiring metabolic processes: Without mineral substances in the long run, nothing works.
A shortage or oversupply of minerals can have fatal consequences. However, the organism has numerous methods to compensate for possible deficiencies first. The same applies to overdoses when they happen for a short time.
Therefore, with reasonable nutrition deficiencies or an oversupply of minerals are very rare. Of course, there are exceptions.
Task and function of minerals
Although minerals are not sources of energy, they probably influence all processes of the metabolism. As enzyme and hormone components, they regulate different processes. Their presence in the organism is vital.
Here are some examples of the role of various minerals:
- Calcium is a building block for bones and teeth. It has a structural function. The body needs a lot of it, so calcium is one of the quantity elements.
- Iron, a trace element, is involved in, among other things, the production of blood pigment (hemoglobin) and oxygen transport. It is also necessary for proteins (enzymes).
- The thyroid gland not only needs enzymes for its hormones but also iodine. Its importance is well known: it controls, for example, the insulin secretion.
The minerals affect each other. Not every function, every effect, every interplay has long since been sufficiently researched to be able to explain it exactly, because only in the balanced totality of all components does the human organism function perfectly.
Determine the right dose
For the right dose of minerals, the German Nutrition Society provides advice, which is now supplemented by the European Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs). The recommendations of the daily doses are only indicative. They can not be any more, since individual metabolic processes play the decisive role. How high so the personal needs Actually, to be optimally cared for is very difficult to define.
Some people have an increased need for minerals and should therefore pay attention to increased intake. For example, athletes need a lot of magnesium, which contributes to the production of energy in the cells.
However, it is not recommended to take additional mineral supplements only on suspicion or out of concern for malnutrition. This may well be - but it is not helpful. There are increasing studies that sow doubt on this practice. So better "keep away" from vitamin and mineral tablets from the supermarket.
Recognize mineral deficiency
A mineral deficiency is not easy to recognize. It is almost impossible to judge for yourself whether you are sufficiently supplied with all minerals or suffer from a deficiency. For example, the daily requirement for selenium is given as 30 to 70 μg. No one can control for himself whether he takes that amount through the diet.
Also, there are few signs of well-being that indicate an unhealthy dosage of minerals. Mostly the cause is complex.
Typical misconceptions prevalent in society include:
- iron deficiency
- Iodine deficiency
- magnesium deficiency
- calcium deficiency
Using blood samples, such a lack of minerals can be analyzed quite well.
Quantity elements and trace elements
To the Quantity elements, of which our body needs comparatively larger amounts, include:
To the Trace elements, of which our body needs only small amounts, one calculates:
Some minerals and their function are presented below.
The role of potassium in the body
Potassium belongs in every body cell. There it regulates the "osmotic pressure". It affects the water balance and blood pressure. Likewise, the mineral takes part in the heart and muscle activity and in the breakdown of carbohydrates and thus also in the energy supply.
The body needs 2,000 milligrams of potassium every day. Potassium occurs in meat and fish products, fruits, vegetables and in all cereal products. High in potassium are potatoes, cereals, avocados and nuts. But also mushrooms, eggs, lamb's lettuce or peas provide potassium.
The body regulates the mirror Potassium related to sodium very accurate. Both substances should be present in the same amount. If too much sodium is added, increased doses of potassium are eliminated. The hormone aldosterone is responsible for this.
If there is a deficiency, it may be due to fatigue, muscle weakness, constipation, elevated heart rate or cardiac dysfunction. Caution is advised when taking a variety of medications that affect the calcium balance.
The handle to the dietary supplement tablet can quickly generate a dangerous surplus. Such an excess of potassium can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, headache or cramping, but also cardiac arrhythmias and even ventricular fibrillation.
Calcium for the bones
Calcium and bones belong together, almost everyone knows that now. The mineral is not only important for building the bones, but also for their constant renewal. But only in the presence of vitamin D and phosphorus is the calcium processed by the body.
Acute, prolonged calcium deficiency leads to so-called descaling. If there is no calcium for blood clotting as well as nerves and muscles or the organ functions, the body gets it from the bones. In children, it comes as a result of bone deformation, in adults it is called osteoporosis. From a middle age, however, the simple supply of potassium is no longer sufficient to counteract bone loss. Only a bone, which is also regularly loaded, gets its stability.
Due to its solubility, calcium also occurs in liquid foods such as milk and (mineral) water. Dairy products are important suppliers of minerals. Already one liter of milk covers the daily requirement of about 1,000 milligrams. Nuts and green foods are also rich in calcium. These include spinach, broccoli, leek or kale.
If there is too much calcium in the metabolic cycle, it can neither be processed nor excreted, risks such as kidney stones or calcification, even to infarction. At the same time, absorption of other minerals, such as iron or magnesium, is hindered.
Magnesium: importance for the metabolism
Magnesium has an important meaning for the body. Magnesium plays a role in hundreds of metabolic processes. Protein synthesis, electrolyte balance or cell division are just a few examples. Also, magnesium can help against allergies because it prevents the release of the messenger histamine.
Typical signs of a magnesium deficiency may be nocturnal muscle or leg cramps, imbalances, difficulty concentrating or cardiac arrhythmias. Diagnosing a toxic deficiency on time is difficult even for laboratory tests. The problem: Here, too, the body gets supplies of hidden reserves, so that there seems to be enough in the blood.
The body gains magnesium from fruits and vegetables, cereal products and legumes. Pumpkin seeds, nuts - especially cashews - and dark chocolate, bananas and Emmentaler are also considered to be good suppliers of magnesium. Also, some (few) mineral waters contain a significant dose. As a guide, apply 300 to 400 milligrams daily.
If one suspects a magnesium deficiency, it can help to think over his eating habits and - in consultation with the family doctor - the drug consumption. Acid blockers, for example, hinder the absorption of magnesium considerably. Other medicines also provide mineral traps.
Sodium: lack rather rare
Together with potassium, sodium regulates the formation of electrical impulses. Nerve signals are transmitted by sodium into the cells and potassium flows out. Many enzymes require sodium, which is also important for a balanced water balance.
Sodium consumption is discredited. This vital mineral is part of the salt and, taken in excess, contributes to hypertension. In the salt, the sodium has entered into a compound with chloride. Hence the name sodium chloride. By the way, gastric acid needs chloride for its function.
The daily dose of about 550 milligrams is usually exceeded. This is often due to industrially processed foods, which in sum contain too much salt.
Mineral rich foods
Eat healthy! This wisdom is as well-worn as it is right. The most important thing is to be as balanced as possible and to feed on fresh ingredients while doing without finished products and fast food.
If all food lands varied on the table, you usually do not have to worry about the mineral supply. All contribute, albeit in different concentrations, to a balanced mineral balance.
Tips for a mineral rich diet
Make sure to use as few processed ingredients as possible: For example, white flour contains hardly any valuable nutrients, because the minerals are mainly found in the outer layers of the grain and are sieved out during the production of white flour. It is therefore recommended to pay attention to the type number when buying flour: the higher the type number, the more parts of the healthy cereal peel are included.
Even with fruits and vegetables, the most important nutrients are often found under the shell: It is therefore advisable to simply eat apples and cucumbers with peel and boil potatoes unpeeled.
Freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices or fresh smoothies are also a tasty way of adding enough minerals and vitamins to your body. Fish and lean dairy products should complement the diet.