By Joan Ebsworth, guest writer for sense*, biologist and mother of sense* Founder, Jonathan on the Miracle of Minerals. Something that we find in our food every day but how does it get there. Why are minerals important?
What is a Mineral?
Whenever I think of the word “mineral “I think of a piece of rock, an ore or a gem stone. Just like the one pictured above.
The word seems to link more closely with geology or chemistry than it does with my diet and my health.
Yet I know that there are minerals that I need in my diet to enable me to be as healthy as I can be. The word is usually linked with vitamins on your supplement packaging.
How do minerals end up in our food?
So how does the piece of rock above (which is zinc) end up in our food?
Quite simply over time it is broken down into minute particles that today we call trace minerals.
Over millions of years, these rich seams of rock in our planet are exposed to the wind or rain or underground water erodes them so tiny particles end up in our soil.
Those tiny particles are then used by plants and animals including humans to help operate their bodies’ function properly.
Planet earth feeds us
In other words the planet feeds us and makes us live. It is a pity we don’t treat it better in return, isn’t it really?
How do minerals work?
We are more familiar with macro-nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
Micro-nutrients such as vitamins and minerals are a sort of tag on. Many people know little about them and what they do within the body.
Each mineral plays a specific role
Many of them seem to be ignored but each essential micro-nutrient plays a specific role in the body.
A varied intake of all of them is therefore necessary to get your body performing well.
Not only are many minerals good for our health – they are essential for good health. And in some cases, preventing disease. They can be the key to our biological functioning.
Having said that many trace minerals can be extremely toxic and can actually cause disease and even death.
Think of lead, arsenic, mercury, aluminium and cadmium to name a few.
I love the word “disease” meaning a lack of “ease. Which sort of sums up what we feel like when something goes wrong within us.
It could just be a mineral deficiency or even an overdose of a particular mineral. Every substance has a danger level for humans and minerals are no different but the range of toxicity is quite staggering.
What is a mineral in terms of our food?
As I said, minerals are found in the soil or in water in tiny particles or traces and plants take them in as part of their development.
We eat those plants directly or we eat animals that have eaten those plants. As a result you would think that we would all be brimming over with minerals but we are not.
Why have minerals depleted over time?
Minerals have depleted dramatically in both plant and animal food over the last 80 years. Why?
Well for a number of reasons and the main one is the industrialised way in which we grow our plants and animals.
We are now growing them both for yield and also speed is of the essence. Not for quality.
Quick turnover and larger profits. Driven to a large extent by the supermarket chains that demand cheaper and cheaper supplies from farmers and market gardeners.
No time for plants to absorb nutrients
Plants quite literally do not have time to absorb the vitamins and minerals to pass on to us.
Fertilisers reduce uptake
Add to that the use of phosphorous fertilisers which also reduce the uptake of minerals such as magnesium, zinc, boron and calcium by up to 30%.
Over use of land
And add to that the over use of land which depletes the soil of the nutrients that it once had.
Herbicides and pesticides
Then there is the use of herbicides and pesticides. They kill off the soil microbiome, destroying microbes which help plants to absorb nutrients.
Mono-cropping too is part of the problem. Thereby removing diversity of microbes in the soil.
These are the main reasons why I keep saying that our food, even organically grown foods, are just not as nutrient dense as they used to be.
It all adds up. And it is little wonder that we have a “sick” society dependant on symptom led pharmacology.
So even if the soil was full of minerals the poor old plants wouldn’t be able to access them.
Regenerative farming is the solution
We need regenerative farming to return food into the nutrient dense substance that it used to be. To give us the nutrition upon which the human brain and body has developed over millions of years.
But it will increase the cost of naturally produced food I have no doubt.
Industralised foods aren’t real food
Then there are the processed industrialised foods that fill supermarket shelves. They are not really foods at all.
Check the labels carefully. They are often “fortified” with minerals because they lack the essential micronutrients that would make them proper foods.
Chronic health & medications
Other things can reduce mineral absorption too. Chronic health conditions, for example. As can the medications that are prescribed by doctors or just bought over the counter.
The gut can become damaged by these industrialised foods and medications. And just cannot absorb these micronutrients in the amounts needed or at all in some cases.
It seems like a vicious circle or a fight that we can’t win! But the problems can all be overcome.
What are the most serious mineral deficiencies?
The most serious mineral reductions leading to deficiencies are magnesium, calcium, copper, zinc and iron.
Most of us know about calcium and bone health. I wrote recently about osteoporosis and the misapprehension of thinking that dairy products and absorbable calcium go hand in hand. But they don’t.
Also iron and blood health. Iron is central to the haemoglobin molecule, essential for carrying oxygen in the blood.
Enabling us to release energy from our foods. See my recent email on mitrochondria and the release of energy.
Many women are fully or partially anaemic which can arise from iron deficiency and reduces energy levels substantially. Particularly during menstrual cycles.
After that we seem to run out of detailed knowledge about the importance of minerals.
Top ten minerals
I listened recently to a podcast involving Dr James Di Nicolantonio (one of my health gurus) who reckons the top 10 minerals that we need for health are the following (in no particular order):
So if you were feeling anxious, fearful or edgy, would you reach for a bottle of magnesium or a glass of alcohol or smoke a cigarette?
Magnesium is so important for the nervous system and our muscles too. It is believed that it is involved in at least 300 chemical reactions in the body.
But most of us are still not getting enough in our diets. Not even if it is an extremely “healthy” diet.
Magnesium is central to the chlorophyll molecule which is found in plants. So eating anything green would provide more magnesium.
I supplement with 400mg daily and I have found it particularly useful during these pandemic times – when fear has been made to predominate in our lives.
I have not suffered as many people have done. So many people are anxious. So many cannot sleep well.
So many people are having mood disorders and feelings of depression.
Magnesium could be the answer or one of them. It can reduce blood pressure too!
It is difficult to test for magnesium via a blood test –otherwise it might even be prescribed by the medical profession one day.
Then there is zinc as pictured above. Again most of us are low on this one too.
Zinc is a strange one as it finds it difficult to enter our cells. Yet when it does it is so protective.
Especially in protecting us from viruses that we don’t want inside our cells. Think CV 19!
Eating onions, leeks and garlic (containing quercetin) helps us to absorb it better. The quercetin acts as an ionophore which helps zinc enter our cells.
It is involved in many of our bodies’ processes such as wound healing, making proteins for our DNA, our ability to taste and smell things too.
You need between 10-50mg per day depending on if you are feeling unwell. Great for the immune system hence zinc’d by sense* as shown below.
Minerals act in synergy
As with all of these minerals, they are not needed for just one thing but for many. And they act synergistically, they need each other for maximum benefit.
For example, too little magnesium can cause deposition of calcium in the arteries which is not good.
I could go on – one by one – but I will leave that for another day. I hope that I have got the message across.
RDA or NRV Levels
We really do need all these minerals in our bodies in generous amounts. The RDA or NRV recommended amounts are rarely enough for good health.
These amounts that you see on supplement packaging are set at a level to stop deficiency symptoms but not for optimal health.
Which is why you often see examples of much greater doses in supplements.
If you do, it is nothing to worry about because no products will be on the market if it was close to or beyond the recommended safety level.
For optimal health, we need optimal dosages and most reputable supplement companies carry out a good deal of research to recommend the best levels.
Multivitamins v single supplements
Some minerals are not best placed in multivitamins if you have a serious deficiency because to put it right you need large amounts on a daily basis.
But if you have a reasonably balanced diet you can top up most of your requirements with a multivitamin supplement.
You can get blood tests for some minerals and there are urine tests too. Here are links to home test kits that can be used to see where you stand.
It is undoubtedly the best route if you can afford it so you know what your levels are and can react in the best way for you. But other minerals cannot be picked up in the bloodstream or urine such as calcium or magnesium.
You just have to try it and see how you feel.
Doctors focus on serious deficiencies not health
That said you have to be significantly deficient to be taken seriously by doctors. But from what I have seen, the home test kit results are usually more advanced.
Believe me I have a high respect for doctors. It is their training and the brainwashing they receive at medical school that I deplore.
Once again balance is all, be it mineral intake or your immune system working to protect us.
sense* passes the test
When I was asked to write this piece, I was so happy to discover that the 3 sense* superfood supplement products in my cupboard contained the vast majority of the minerals that I need.
I immediately read all of the information on the back of the packets and I was pleased by what I found!
How much we actually absorb is another question but I can see that sense* also includes a number of synergistic ingredients so the absorption is always top of the priority list. Here is the sense* ethos.
In addition, the sense* products act in a system or in synergy. The minerals in sense* for busy lives and sense* for joint & bone will be better absorbed by having a well functioning, healthy gut using sense* for gut health.
Which is why I take all 3 of their superfood supplement powders every day. And why they encourage you to buy all 3 with a special healthy discount of 40% off recently for a superfood supplement hamper.
Importance of Gut Health
I am old and am very lucky that I don’t have to take any pharmaceutical drugs. That is where gut health becomes of vital importance. If you protect your gut health, your all round health improves at the same time😊
Summing it all up
As always, these are complicated issues – and books have been written on single minerals like sodium chloride alone.
One day, maybe, the medical schools will be teaching a lot more about human biology, the metabolic pathways and what we can do to enable them to function as they should.
None of us want to suffer chronic health conditions. None of us want to be taking multiple medications to suppress symptoms.
Find out the root cause
We want to know the root causes of those symptoms –and how to put them right. In most cases this is possible.
So next time you go to the doctor ask about basic micronutrient tests for the symptoms you are suffering. Perhaps do some research before you go.
You can also get numerous tests from a reputable home testing provider such as Medichecks (click below).
Add to this lifestyle changes too that I have written about at length – and voila – who knows what we might be capable of doing!
So the next time that you hear that word “mineral” like me, you might have changed the way in which you think about it.
Part 2 will provide more details on what the less well known minerals are good for.
But be aware I have just touched the surface of a massive topic.
Good luck with your health.
This is not a sense* article. The views expressed in this article are those of the author so there may be opinions or statements in this article that are not approved by sense* and do not represent the views and opinions of the company.