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What are minerals?

kobieta_labolatoriumWhat are minerals and how do they work? To begin with, dietary minerals, also referred to as dietary elements or mineral nutrients, are chemical elements required by human organism to work properly. They are delivered from food, and can be divided into 2 different categories. First category are macro elements (major elements) and include 7 chemical elements, while second category, called micro elements (trace elements), include 9 chemical elements. Dietary minerals excess, as well as their deficiency, can lead to serious health problems.

Micro and macro elements

Dietary elements are divided into 2 categories:

  • Macro elements (major elements) – they need to be delivered in larger amounts compared to minor elements and include: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine and magnesium.
  • Micro elements (trace elements or minor elements) – they might be underestimated because of their name. Those elements are called minor due to smaller organism’s demand. However, their role is equally important to major ones. They include: iron, cobalt, copper, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, iodine, bromine and selenium.

What are minerals tasks

Those chemical elements are responsible for many different body features. For instance, calcium is essential for strong and healthy bones and potassium keeps proper fluid balance. What is more, iron builds up hemoglobin, that transport oxygen through the organism, and some minerals like phosphorus are found in every cell of the human body. Certain dietary elements, like copper or iodine are even taking part in metabolism.

owoce_lekiWell balanced diet, in most cases, will provide enough dietary elements. Thereby, any insufficiency or excess can be easily adjusted by making changes in eating habits. This method should be considered at first, because it is relatively more secure than taking supplements.

Possible disorders related to minerals

Minerals deficiency, as well as excess, is often leading to serious ailments. In general, those disorders are causing nonspecific symptoms. Excess of any dietary element can result in e.g. muscle weakness, general discomfort, dehydration or fatigue. On the other side, insufficiency might manifests itself through increased blood pressure, muscle cramps, neuromuscular irritability or headache. The most common diseases related to minerals deficiency or excess are included in the table below.

Mineral involved Excess Deficiency
Calcium Hypercalcaemia Hypocalcaemia
Potassium Hyperkalemia Hypokalemia
Magnesium Hypomagnesemia and hypomagnesia Hypermagnesemia
Sodium Hyponatremia Hypernatremia
Iron Anemia Hemochromatosis

Minerals source

Dietary elements can be found naturally in variety of foods. Possible sources are nearly infinite. Some of the high density products include:

  • Table salt – rich in sodium and chloride.
  • Tomatoes – they contain potassium, magnesium and iron.
  • Eggs – Calcium, zinc and iodine can be found in them.
  • Fish – rich in phosphorus, selenium and calcium
  • Spinach – which is probably the greatest source, since it contains potassium, sodium, magnesium, zinc, iron and copper

what are mineralsIn addition, certain manufacturers may enrich their products freely. There are also many dietary supplements, which contain either one element or multiple elements mixed with required vitamins. Some minerals often interact with vitamins, thus it is recommended to maintain harmony between them, in order to secure proper nutrition.

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