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Healthy Eating: Mighty Minerals

Chloride is another electrolyte that works closely with potassium and sodium. Chloride also helps regulate body fluids in and out of body cells. Chloride joins sodium in surrounding the fluids outside the cells. This mineral is a component of stomach acid that helps with the digestion of food and the absorption of nutrients. Chloride also helps to transmit nerve impulses.

A deficiency of chloride is rare since salt, which is made of sodium chloride, is such a large part of the typical American diet. The deficiency symptoms of chloride are similar to those of sodium. As stated earlier, many salt substitutes also contain chloride in the form of potassium chloride.

Every cell in the body needs magnesium. Magnesium is a requirement for more than 300 body enzymes, body chemicals that regulate all kinds of body functions. This mineral helps maintain normal nerve and muscle function, keeps heart rhythm steady, and helps keep bones strong. Magnesium is involved in energy metabolism and protein production.

Magnesium deficiency is rare in the United States. When magnesium deficiency does occur, it is usually due to excessive loss of magnesium in urine, gastrointestinal system disorders that cause a loss of magnesium or limit magnesium absorption, or a chronically low intake of magnesium, Deficiency can also result from an increase in urine output (like that caused by diuretics), poorly controlled diabetes, and alcoholism. Symptoms can include irregular heartbeat, nausea, weakness, and mental confusion.

Too much magnesium is not harmful unless the mineral is not excreted property due to disorders such as kidney disease. Signs of excess magnesium include mental status changes, nausea, diarrhea, appetite loss, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, extremely low blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat. The UL for magnesium is 350 mg per day for adults over eighteen. Magnesium can be found in a wide variety of foods. The best sources include legumes, nuts, avocados, wheat germ, and whole grains. Green vegetables can be good sources, too.

Phosphorus is second only to calcium in terms of its abundance in the body. Phosphorus contributes to the structure of bones and teeth. It helps generate energy in every cell in the body and acts as the main regulator in converting dietary carbohydrate, protein, and fat to energy. Phosphorus is vital to growth, maintenance, and repair of all body tissue. This mineral is also a component of many proteins. It helps activate B vitamins and is a component of the storage form of energy in the body.

Fact: Soft drinks contain as much as 500 milligrams of phosphoric acid, which can contribute to excessive intake if consumed regularly.

A deficiency of phosphorus is very rare. However, absorption can be reduced by the long-term and excessive use of antacids containing aluminum hydroxide, increasing the risk of deficiency. Symptoms can include bone loss, weakness, loss of appetite, and pain.

Too much phosphorus can lower the level of calcium in the blood, which can really be a problem if calcium intake is already low in the diet. This can result in increased bone loss and an increased risk for osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease.

Phosphorus is found in almost all food groups. The best sources are protein-rich foods like milk, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Legumes and nuts are also good sources. Whole grains can also be good sources of phosphorus.

Phosphorus has a daily UL set at 4 grams for adults aged eighteen to seventy, 3 grams for adults over seventy, 3-5 grams for pregnant women, and 4 grams for breastfeeding women.

Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body. The average healthy adult male body contains about 2 to 3 pounds of calcium; the average healthy female body contains about 2 pounds. Of course this amount depends on body composition, the size of the body frame, bone density, and on how much bone has been lost through the aging process. About 99 percent of the body's calcium is in the bones. The remaining 1 percent is found in body fluids and other cells.

Calcium's primary function is to help build and maintain bones and teeth. In addition, calcium helps blood clot, helps your muscles contract and your heart beat, helps regulate blood pressure, plays a role in normal nerve function and nerve transmission, and helps regulate the secretion of hormones and digestive enzymes. Calcium works in conjunction with vitamin D, phosphorus, and fluoride to help promote strong and healthy bones. Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium in the body.

Fact: A constant supply of calcium is needed throughout life, especially during growth spurts in childhood, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding. But these are not the only times calcium is needed. It is important to get adequate calcium throughout your life.

Low levels of calcium intake can lead to osteomalacia (softening of the bones) and an increased risk of osteoporosis. A deficiency in children can interfere with growth. Even a mild deficiency throughout a lifetime can lead to a loss of bone and bone density. A decreased intake of calcium can also contribute to muscle spasms and leg cramps, as well as high blood pressure.

Calcium has a UL set at 2,500 mg per day for adults and children. No UL is established for infants. When consuming supplements up to this amount, no adverse effects are likely. However, higher doses over an extended period of time may cause kidney stones and poor kidney function, as well as reduce the absorption of other minerals such as iron and zinc.

Essential: Label claims on food packages can tell you a lot about the vitamins and minerals they contain. The terms "high," "rich in," and "excellent source of" mean the food has 20 percent or more of the daily value. The terms "good source," "contains," or "provides" mean 10 to 19 percent of the daily value is provided. And the terms "more," "enriched," "fortified," or "added" mean the food provides 10 percent or more of the daily value.

Some of the best sources of calcium are foods in the dairy group, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. In addition, some dark green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, kale, and collards, are also good sources. Other good sources include fish with edible bones, such as sardines and salmon, as well as calcium-fortified soymilk, tofu made with calcium, shelled almonds, cooked dried beans, calcium-fortified cereals, and calcium-fortified orange juice.

Copyright © 2002 by Kimberly A. Tessmer. Excerpted from The Everything Nutrition Book: Boost Energy, Prevent Illness, and Live Longer with permission of its publisher, Adams Media Corporation.

To order this book visit Amazon.com.


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