If you experience weak bones, fatigue, or a decreased immune system, your body may be deficient in some vital minerals. So, you need to check if you are getting the most essential minerals for your body. Mineral deficiency can lead to substantial harm to your body.
But first, let’s understand what could be the common reason for mineral deficiency?
Your body, over a period, may have an increased need for minerals. The reason could be that your eating habits may lack the required minerals in your diet. Or a poor diet that lacks adequate fruits and vegetables. Or worse, your digestive system may have difficulty absorbing the minerals from food. And of course, too much junk food can also be a probable cause.
Why Do We Need Nutrients?
Isn’t it simply astounding to realize that our body regenerates skin, muscle, and bone daily? The most crucial element is the rich red blood that carries nutrients and oxygen to every part of your body. Not just that, it sends nerve impulses along several miles of brain and body pathways.
Furthermore, it also formulates chemical messengers that literally communicate from one organ to another, issuing instructions that help sustain your life.
But to conduct these important tasks, your body requires some essential raw materials. These include 13 vitamins, 16 minerals, and dietary components. As your body cannot manufacture all these in sufficient amounts on its own, external sources provide the major chunk of it through food and supplements.
These essential nutrients help protect bones, heal wounds, and strengthen your immune system. It also converts food into energy and repairs cellular damage.
Vitamins and minerals differ in basic ways, making their characteristics complex and unique. Antioxidants are compounds naturally produced by your body. It acts as a defense mechanism to keep free radicals in check.
Vitamins are organic, and minerals are inorganic. You can find minerals in soil and water, which easily find their way into your body through food sources like plants, animals, fish, and fluids you consume. However, it is tougher to extract vitamins from food and other sources into your body because the original form of this fragile compound gets destroyed during cooking, storage, or even simple exposure to air.
Your body will require different amounts of each mineral to stay healthy. On the flip side, excesses in any can have an adverse effect on your body. It would be daunting to keep track of what all these minerals do and what your body actually needs more than the other.
Types of Minerals
There are 16 known minerals essential for the human body. We can categorize these into Major minerals and Trace minerals.
Major minerals comprise Calcium, Chloride, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, and Sulfur.
Trace minerals comprise Chromium, Copper, Fluoride, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Selenium, and Zinc.
One of the primary tasks of major minerals is to maintain a proper balance of water in the body, which is done by chloride, potassium, and sodium. Calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus perform the important task of maintaining healthy bones. And sulfur helps stabilize protein structures, including some of those for the healthy growth of hair, skin, and nails.
Similarly, trace minerals conduct a diverse set of activities in your body. Iron is best known for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Fluoride strengthens bones and prevents tooth decay. Zinc is essential for taste and smell, helps with blood clotting, and bolsters the immune response. Copper helps build several enzymes, one of which assists with iron metabolism and the creation of hemoglobin to carry oxygen in the bloodstream.
The remaining trace minerals perform equally vital jobs, such as safeguarding any damage to body cells and forming parts of key enzymes.
Mineral Deficiencies and Good Food Sources
There are five major categories of mineral deficiency: calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth. It also supports the proper functioning of your muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and hormones.
Medical problems or treatments usually cause severe calcium deficiency, such as medications (like diuretics), kidney failure, or surgery to remove the stomach.
Symptoms of Calcium deficiency include:
- Tingling in the fingers
- Poor appetite
- Cramping of the muscles
- Irregular heart rhythms
Food Sources of Calcium:
Yoghurt, cheese, milk, tofu, sardines, salmon, fortified juices, green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, and kale. Avoid spinach or Swiss chard, which have binders that lessen the absorption.
Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to your tissues. It is also a part of other proteins and enzymes that keep your body healthy. The red blood cells in your body contain more iron than other minerals.
Symptoms of Iron deficiency include:
- Feeling weak and tired
- Poor performance at work or school
- Low social and cognitive development by children
Food Sources of Iron:
Red meat, poultry, eggs, fruits, green vegetables, fortified bread, and grain products are excellent sources of iron.
Magnesium controls the proper functioning of the brain, muscles and nerves, energy metabolism, and protein production.
It may also cause magnesium deficiency because of certain medications and chronic health conditions like alcoholism.
Symptoms of Magnesium deficiency include:
- General Weakness
- Loss of appetite
Food Sources of Magnesium:
Green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, legumes, cashews, sunflower seeds, and other seeds, halibut, whole-wheat bread, and milk are good sources of magnesium.
Potassium functions as an electrolyte and helps in proper heart function, muscle contraction, and the transmission of nerve signals. A few enzymes also needed it, including one that helps your body convert carbohydrates into energy.
The most common cause of potassium deficiency is excessive fluid loss because of extended vomiting or kidney disease.
Symptoms of Potassium deficiency include:
- Muscle cramping and weakness
- Abdominal pain caused by paralysis of the intestines
Food Sources of Potassium:
Meat, milk, fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes are wonderful sources of potassium.
Zinc plays a vital role in the body’s metabolism. These include protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and immune system function. It also helps in growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence.
Symptoms of Zinc deficiency include:
- Loss of appetite, taste or smell
- Decreased function of the immune system
- Slow growth
- Loss of hair
Food Sources of Zinc:
Red meat, poultry, oysters and some other seafood, fortified cereals, beans, and nuts are excellent sources of zinc.
Impact of Mineral Imbalance
Minerals are essential nutrients. The deficiency of any one can trigger complications, but excesses of any can be counter-productive and lead to harmful consequences. Having too much of any major mineral can cause a deficiency of another.
For example, if you consume too much sodium through processed foods or table salt, you may end up losing needed calcium as your body rids itself of the surplus sodium. Likewise, too much phosphorus can hinder your ability to absorb magnesium.
Excessive intake from supplements, not food sources, usually causes such imbalances.
Similarly, trace minerals interact with one another; sometimes in ways that can set off imbalances. Excess of one can contribute to a deficiency of another.
A minor overload of manganese can worsen iron deficiency. And having too little can also cause problems. When the body has a low level of iodine, thyroid hormone production slows down, causing sluggishness and weight gain. The problem can worsen if the body also has too little selenium.
Ensuring an adequate intake of essential nutrients through a balanced diet and supplements is the ideal way to prevent mineral deficiencies. Food is the safest source of trace minerals, but if you take supplements, it is important to ensure you are within safe levels to avoid imbalances. Take blood tests at regular intervals to monitor the composition of the nutrients in your body.
Water delivers nutrients throughout the body; so, it is essential to drink sufficient clean water daily to maintain fluid balance and smoothly distribute nutrients.
Lastly, it is always wise to consult your doctor for any abnormal condition. Based on your symptoms, your doctor may suspect you of having vitamin or mineral deficiencies. They may advise you to get a blood test to confirm the inadequate percentage accurately. A prescribed diet based on your test results could make your system function normally and lead a healthy life.