The phrase ‘vitamins and minerals’ often occurs inarticles. But they have distinct differences. Everyone is familiar with some of the essential vitamins (A, B, C, D and others). But what are the essential minerals and why are they essential?
What are labeled minerals are often elements from the Periodic Table, things like iron (Fe), calcium (Ca), zinc (Zn) and potassium (K). They’re called minerals, though, because they readily combine with oxygen (O) and other elements or molecules in the body to produce what are technically minerals. Elements are simple atoms, minerals are always combinations of atoms.
They’re essential because they play an indispensable role in so many vital biochemical processes that contribute to health.
Iron, for example, is a key element in the hemoglobin molecule. This complex molecule is a necessary component of red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the entire body. That oxygen is a major factor in a wide variety of biochemical reactions that take place within the cells making up living tissue.
Children should get about 10 mg per day, while adolescents need about 11 mg (for males) and 15 mg (for females). Adult males need about 8 mg, females around 18 mg though the number drops to 8 mg after age 51. Chicken liver is an excellent source of iron and can supply up to 70% of the daily requirement. Beef, turkey, oysters and clams are other good sources.
Calcium is another common element that is vital to good. Its role in the development and maintenance of bones and teeth is well known. But it also plays a part in maintaining the heart and nerves. It performs a major function in muscle contraction, and participates in the secretion of hormones and enzymes.
While bone loss is slow, calcium is lost out of the body all the time through the hair and nails, in feces and sweat, and other means. Getting an adequate amount isn’t difficult, though. Milk is a well known source, but for the lactose intolerant orange juice is often fortified with calcium. Leafy green vegetables are another good source.
Younger children should get about 800 mg per day, while adolescents need approximately 1300 mg daily. Adults should be sure to get 1000 mg (1 gram) daily, with no more than 500 mg at one time. The number rises to 1200mg for those over 51. Avoid consuming more than 2,400 mg daily since this can lead to imbalance of other minerals and a type of toxicity.
Key to good blood pressure is an element very similar to sodium: potassium. Both participate in the mechanism that keeps the heart pumping. But potassium has a much wider role in the human body. It’s found in almost every cell and the fluid surrounding them. It participates in good kidney function and digestion.
Getting potassium from the diet is easy. Adults need about 4700 mg daily, while the proper amount for children ranges from 3000-3800 mg, with adolescents at 4500 mg. Good sources include potatoes (610 mg), bananas (420 mg), milk (380 mg), orange juice (355 mg) and halibut (490 mg). Yogurt nearly tops the list at 580 mg for one cup of nonfat, plain.
There are a dozen or more minerals that play a vital role in any balanced diet, including magnesium, selenium, sodium and more. All these can be gained from a healthy diet, but that can be hard to achieve. For those who tend to eat on the run, supplements can play a valuable role.