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Minerals

by Zia, Nutritionist

Published on 08 May 2009


A guide to minerals

Most of us are aware of the importance of vitamins in our diet and from which foods we can get them. However, very few have adequate knowledge about minerals and the role that they play in the proper functioning of our body.

There are 16 different minerals that our body require. They can be classified under the grouping of macro-minerals (those required in fairly large amounts), micro-minerals (required in smaller quantities) and trace elements (needed in minutes amounts).

Some of the most important ones are:

Minerals Functions Sources
Calcium
  • Needed to maintain strong and healthy bonesand teeth.
  • Involved in normal blood clotting, muscle andnerve function, lowering blood pressure.
  • Can help prevent colon cancer.

Deficiency: Muscle weakness, spasms and cramp, softening of the bones, which could lead to osteoporosis, back pain, brittle bones and fractures.

Important to have regular intake since from the age of 25/30 onwards, there is an automatic loss from our bones that cannot be prevented but can be minimized. In women, the loss is accelerated after menopause and more so from age 50+.

Dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese, broccoli, almonds, sardines eaten with the bones and sesame seeds.

Iron
  • Required for formation of haemoglobin, blood component that transport oxygen around the body and of myoglobin, that carries oxygen to our muscles.
  • Help fight against fatigue.
  • Promotes healthy looking skin.

Deficiency: tiredness and fatigue, poor concentration, prone to infection, shortness of breath, anaemia, brittle hair and heart palpitations.

Liver, lamb, beef, oysters, shellfish, clams, mussels, beans, peas, yeast, dried fruits, fortified breakfast cereals, molasses, wheat bran and green leafy vegetables.

Zinc
  • For healthy immune system, and helps inkeeping colds and flu at bay.
  • For healthy reproductive system & normal growth.
  • Can be used to treat fatigue, skin problems

Oysters, red meat, poultry, eggs, shellfish, cheese, nuts, sunflower seeds, beans and wheat germ.

Phosphorus
  • Important for formation and maintaining healthy, strong bones and teeth.
  • Required for absorption of certain vitamins.

Meat, poultry, fish, milk, cheese, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

Potassium
  • Regulate fluids in the body.
  • Maintain regular heartbeat and low bloodpressure.

Fresh fruit and vegetables, particularly avocados, bananas, oranges, potatoes. Also dried fruit, nuts, seeds, meat, poultry and milk

Magnesium
  • Needed to convert blood sugar into energy, control muscle and nerve function, maintain a normal heart rhythm and blood clotting.
  • Can be used to protect and treat heart disease, lower high blood pressure.
  • Can ease asthma attacks and Pre-Menstrual Syndrome.

Whole grains, green leafy vegetables, shellfish, nuts and bananas.

Iodine
  • Required for production of hormones (for thethyroid gland) that regulate fat conversion to energy and for stabilizing blood cholesterol levels.

Deficiency (rare): enlarged thyroid gland, dry skin and tiredness.

Table salt, seafood, saltwater fish and seaweed.

Fluoride
  • Important for healthy bones and protectsagainst tooth decay.

Toothpaste, tap water and tea.

Selenium
  • Acts as an antioxidant and fights againstcancers, cataract formation and heart diseases.
  • Also delay development of AIDS and relatedinfections.
Seafood, eggs, offal, dairy products, citrus fruits, brazil nuts, avocados and lentils

From the above table, it can be seen that minerals are obtained from a variety of food sources. Therefore, it is important to include foods from different and varied sources in our diet and not to focus on only a restricted number of foods, as so often happens with children and old people.

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