Our bodies not only need a range of vitamins to keep it working at its best but it also needs minerals working alongside to keep bone and blood cells healthy. Your body needs them to perform vital functions.
Zinc for example is necessary for the enzyme which activates vitamin A for good eyesight and without it, vitamin A cannot be used properly by the body. Adequate zinc levels are needed for proper immune function and zinc deficiency results in an increased susceptibility to infection. It is essential for the maintenance of vision, taste and smell. Zinc can be found in fish, shellfish, lean red meat, seeds, nuts, legumes and wholegrains.
Magnesium is an extremely important mineral and works to activate many enzymes, muscles and nervous functions. It provides energy, helps keep your cells healthy and strong and enables your cells to communicate with one another and enhance optimal functioning. Magnesium also helps regulate blood pressure, keeps your bones strong and prevents insulin resistance and migraine headaches. Symptoms of deficiency may include muscle cramps, headaches, loss of appetite, insomnia and a predisposition to stress. It can be found in kelp, seaweeds, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, almonds, wholegrains – bran cereal, brown rice etc and tofu.
Calcium is important in the activity of many enzymes in the body and is essential for building and maintaining bones and teeth. The contraction of muscles, release of neurotransmitters, regulation of heartbeat and clotting of blood are all dependent on calcium. Periods of growth, pregnancy and lactation may require increased demand. Deficiency in children can result in rickets, in adults it can contribute to high blood pressure and osteoporosis. Calcium is found in dairy produce, small-boned fish such as sardines and anchovies, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds such as almonds and sesame seeds, spinach, beans, tofu and apricots.
Phosphorous is one of the most essential minerals, important in energy metabolism, calcium absorption and converting protein for growth, maintenance and repair of cells and tissues. It is mainly sourced in meat, milk and wholegrains, nuts and seeds.
Iron carries oxygen throughout your body and without it, you may end up feeling tired and even have trouble thinking straight. Research suggests iron may even help prevent postpartum depression. In addition iron functions in several key enzymes in energy production and metabolism including DNA synthesis. Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency worldwide and can lead to anaemia. Iron is best found in red meat, sardines, dark green leafy vegetable such as kale, other good sources include offal, egg yolk and fortified cereals.
Selenium is important for a healthy immune system, fertility and thyroid metabolism. It works with vitamin E in preventing free radical damage to cell membranes. It also helps to regulate blood pressure. Good sources of selenium are Brazil nuts, offal, shellfish, prawns, butter, avocados and wholegrains.
Potassium can help your muscles and nerves to function properly, lower your risk of high blood pressure and heart problems, ease fatigue, irritability and confusion. Older people are more at risk of too much potassium in the body as their kidneys are less able to eliminate excess. Potassium is an electrolyte, meaning that it helps to conduct electricity in your body. It helps regulate blood pressure by offsetting the blood pressure-raising effects of sodium.
Potassium is found in many foods – all meats, salmon, flounder, cod and legumes contain substantial amounts of potassium, as do dairy products, and is especially easy to obtain in fruits and vegetables such as chard, mushrooms and spinach. But because it’s found mainly in fruits and vegetables, which most of us don’t get nearly enough of, many of us fall short of this all-important mineral.
Sodium, besides playing a key role in muscle and nerve function, helps maintain blood pressure and blood volume. Sodium is a component of salt, which is naturally present in the majority of foods we eat. Most people eat more salt than is good for their health. Three quarters of our salt consumption comes from packaged foods such as breakfast cereals, soups, sauces and ready meals. Sodium also occurs naturally in foods such as celery, milk and beets.
Chloride helps keep the right balance of body fluids. Some examples of good chloride-containing foods are seaweed, lettuce, olives, rye and tomatoes.