Published on April 15th, 2013 | by Joe Starks0
Know Your Substances: Minerals
Most multivitamin supplements contain minerals. Most of us think of iron, gold and salt when we hear the word mineral, but we are not really sure if those are the things we are also supposed to consume. Not all minerals are edible as most of us know that lead is poisonous as are plenty of other minerals. So what is the difference between the minerals we are supposed to eat and those we should not? What exactly are minerals? Which foods contain them? These questions and a few more we’ll cover in this article.
What is a mineral and which of them are edible?
- They must occur naturally. This means that substances created only in the lab do not count. You should be able to find them in their natural form existing in nature.
- They must be inorganic. Substances which need living organism to be created do not count as minerals. They can be contained in living organisms, but not created by them.
- They must be solid in room temperature. They may not be solid in extreme temperatures or pressures, but in room temperature (25 degrees Celsius) they have to be solid.
- They must possess an orderly internal structure. This means that the atoms must be arranged in a very specific way which is always the same in the substance.
- The chemical composition has to be specific and can only vary slightly under certain conditions.
The two main groups of minerals are silicates and non-silicates. Any mineral needed by a organism to be able to stay alive is considered to be a dietary mineral.
Dietary minerals are absolutely necessary for life, but are not equally necessary in the same amounts. Those minerals that we need in some abundance are called “major” minerals.
The major minerals are: calcium, phosphorus, sulfur, potassium, chlorine, sodium and magnesium.
The minerals you only need traces of are called minor minerals and they are: iron, cobalt, zinc, copper, molybdenum, iodine and selenium.
An overdose of dietary minerals can actually be fatal. For instance selenium in large quantities is deadly. This is why minerals have very strictly measures amounts which should be consumed. One should never eat many minerals hoping they will be healthier. Balance is important when taking in minerals and excess consumption can be dangerous.
It is almost impossible to get an overdose of minerals through simple food. Minerals are usually found only in tiny traces in ordinary food items and can hard only if consumed in tremendous excess most people can’t manage. The ways with which most people get an overdose of minerals are fortified foods and mineral supplements.
While fortified foods and mineral supplements can be lifesaving for people who have digestive problems or suffer from debilitating diseases, they can be dangerous for the healthy individual. If you are healthy and you worry about missing a few minerals from your diet it is best to get your physician’s advice before self-medicating yourself. It is simple to find out if you are missing most minerals via blood testing. If you can’t be bothered to go to a doctor (I encourage you to go anyway though) you should always check that the amount of minerals contained in your supplement or fortified food is below the daily amount you need. You will get enough of most minerals from your food so it is not good to go to extremes.
Here are some of the main sources of minerals:
- You can find potassium in legumes, bananas, lentils, tomatoes, soy beans, turmeric etc
- For Sodium and Chloride simple table salt is the most common dietary source.
- Calcium can be found in dairy, leafy greens, nuts, fish with bones and eggs.
- Phosphorus is plentiful in red meats, dairy products, oats, fish, poultry, bread and rice.
- Magnesium can be found in raw nuts, cocoa mass, soy beans, tomatoes, halibut, beans, ginger and cloves
- Zinc can be found in mushrooms, calf’s liver, spinach, asparagus, meat eggs, dry beans
- Iron can be found in shrimp, soybeans, salad greens, lentils, beans tomatoes etc
- Manganese is contained in brown rice, strawberries, raspberries, rye, eggplant, cinnamon etc
- Copper can be found in mushrooms, greens, seeds, raw cashews, raw walnuts, tempeh and others
- Iodine is usually consumed via vegetables grown in lands where iodine is plentiful in the soil, through iodine fortified salt or sea vegetables.
- Selenium is contained in cold water wild fish, tuna, lamb, turkey, mushrooms, mustards and more
- Molybdenum can be found in onions, tomatoes and carrots.
These are just a few common sources of those essential dietary minerals. If you don’t like these choices you can always research which other foods you like have the minerals you need. A varied, balanced diet usually covers your needs without much research and tests needed.