By Interactive Metronome - April 17, 2014
Heavy Metal, Rock and Your Health
We aren’t talking about Metallica or Judas Priest. No, today is about metal and rock (well, rocks), but not the kind that comes on the radio. Minerals are next up in our series on nutrition, and whether they are macrominerals or trace minerals, most come from the Earth’s crust. So, the next time you drop some food on the ground and it gets sand on it, just think of all the minerals you will get if you eat it. Of course we are kidding. Let’s move on with the serious business of your health.
First, we will discuss seven important minerals. These minerals are macrominerals, or “bulk minerals,” because humans need them in relatively substantial quantities. While most of them function as electrolytes, many of them are also critical for our body’s major structural components. Those minerals include:
· Calcium – Calcium accounts for 2% of your total body weight, which means that it is a big deal. We all know how important calcium is for our teeth and bones; in fact, 99% of our body’s calcium is stored in our bones and teeth. Low levels of calcium can lead to rickets in children, osteoporosis and problems with blood clotting. However, most people don’t know calcium’s important role as an electrolyte, which makes it essential to muscle contraction and neurotransmitter release. Those neurotransmitters keep your brain working properly, and that is kind of a big deal. Be wary, some studies suggest too much calcium could be bad for the heart.
(Sources: Milk, cheese, soybeans, spinach, chard, broccoli, nuts, kelp and eggshells)
· Chlorine – Consumed with sodium as sodium chloride. Chlorine gas is a deadly weapon and chlorine salts are a great way to keep your pool clean, but do you know what chloride does for your body? Chloride makes sure you can digest food, as it is necessary for hydrochloric acid production in the stomach. It is essential for your body to keep proper pH, transfer fluid across cell membranes and transmit the nerve impulses that allow your brain to control your body.
(Sources: Pretty much just sodium chloride, otherwise known as common table salt)
· Magnesium – If you ranked the elements in the human body by weight, magnesium isn’t in the top ten…but it is number 11. There are 300 enzymatic processes in your body that rely on magnesium, including the production of ATP (basically cell energy), the replication of DNA and RNA and bone growth in children. Those functions are all pretty important, but it doesn’t stop there. Low levels of magnesium have been associated with diabetes, asthma, stroke, heart attack, fibromyalgia and osteoporosis. Poor health is bad for the brain, and high risk of stroke and heart attack don’t mix well with anything, especially not diabetes.
(Sources: Coffee, tea, spices, spinach, legumes, nuts and chocolate)
· Phosphorus – Phosphorus is also a big one; it makes up 1% of your body weight. Like calcium, it is used in bones and teeth. In fact, phosphorus is directly tied to tooth decay and gum problems. Also, phosphorus aids in protein metabolism, cell repair, hormone balance, proper digestion and excretion/urination. If that weren’t enough, phosphorus is essential for proper cognitive development and function. Phosphorus deficiency has even been linked to early onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Yikes.
(Sources: Potatoes, white bread, tuna, sunflower seeds, rice, broccoli and pork)
· Potassium – Although structurally very similar, potassium can actually offset some the negative effects of high levels of sodium intake. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure, prevent heart disease and increase blood flow. It also helps reduce cramps and the inflammation associated with arthritis. Your cells might also pile up with waste if potassium didn’t help in transfers across cell membranes. Last but not least, potassium helps nerves send signals to your muscles and it helps your muscles contract when the signal gets there.
(Sources: Bananas, spinach, avocados, sweet potatoes, grapes, carrots and oranges)
· Sodium – Salt, please? Everybody knows sodium. Most of us take in too much sodium. It is in everything-soda, cereal, cookies, popcorn and even your Healthy Choice meal. Humans definitely need it; that is not the issue. We just don’t need so much. Salt helps water transfer in and out of your cells, and unlike some minerals, it doesn’t degrade in heat. You ever notice how salty your sweat is? That is because salt is your body’s most abundant electrolyte. If you sweat it out, you better put it back. Salt helps prevent heat exhaustion, cramps and sunstroke by regulating fluid levels. It is also good for your skin. Sodium defends against free radicals and helps keep your skin looking young. If that wasn’t enough, it helps remove waste and CO2 from your body, and helps keep your pH balance. It doesn’t stop there. Where there is water, there is sodium. You guessed it, your brain needs salt too. Sodium levels affects nerve impulses in the brain and low sodium levels will lead to confusion, inattentiveness and fatigue.
(Sources: Everything, which is a huge problem. If you eat food, keep an eye on sodium intake.)
· Sulfur – This stinky element is one of the most abundant in our bodies, coming in around seventh or eighth (depending on how much potassium you have at any given time). It is no surprise that we associate sulfur with the smell of eggs. Eggs actually have a lot of sulfur because the element is really important to birds; sulfur is essential in the production of the disulfide bonds in feathers and hair (it is what gives them their strength while staying lightweight). While not generally tied to brain health, sulfur is tied to protein formation, joint health and a number of enzymatic reactions, which makes it pretty important for overall health.
(Sources: Eggs, fish, poultry, milk, garlic, cabbage, turnips, onions and Brussels sprouts)
Well, those are the minerals humans need in bulk, hence the name “bulk minerals.” The next group of minerals we will discuss are the trace minerals, or microminerals. Now, we aren’t going to cover all of those right away. There are eight (more recently, nine) trace minerals that are considered really important and that is the next part of the series. Be on the lookout for that in the coming weeks. After that, we will cover several trace elements, some of which are occasionally classified as minerals, which your body uses in small amounts; then, all other trace compounds and water will be the topic for the last part of our series on nutrition.
Check out more on nutrition here…
Part II – Vitamins = Better You
Part IV – Dietary Change: How eating metal can help your body and brain
Part V – More Dietary Change: The US Mint, fireworks and your health