Nature’s Mighty MICRO-Minerals

By: Mary B. Hammock, MSN, CPNP

Nature’s Mighty MICRO-Minerals

Last month, the benefits and necessity of macro-minerals were discussed at length. To review, minerals are necessary for the production of vitamins, enzymes and hormones; the maintenance of healthy blood circulation; efficient nerve conduction; muscle growth and contraction; and for the metabolic processes that turn the food we eat into energy. Macro-minerals are necessary in larger amounts and include calcium, iron, magnesium phosphorus, and zinc. Micro-minerals, also called trace minerals, are needed in much smaller amounts but are still very necessary for good health. Micro-minerals include manganese, copper, iodine, cobalt, fluoride, and selenium.

Common Micro-minerals

Manganese, in addition to calcium and phosphorus, is critical in the formation of bone. It is also necessary in muscle contraction and the proper function of the nervous system. Manganese has also been found essential for enzyme reactions, especially those involved in the breakdown of carbohydrates and cholesterol. A deficiency of manganese could result in glucose intolerance leading to increased risk of diabetes or poor healing in the skeletal and cartilaginous systems. Manganese can be found in whole grains, nuts, berries, legumes, vegetables and tea. This micro-mineral can easily be lost in the processing of foods, making fresh foods a much better choice for manganese intake.

Copper acts as an antioxidant, which prevents chemical reactions that can damage tissues within multiple organ systems in the body. Copper, along with iron, is necessary to the production of red blood cells, helping to preserve one’s energy level. While copper is most concentrated in the liver and the brain, it is important for healthy cardiovascular, immune and nervous systems. Whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, and shellfish are great sources of copper.

Iodine is essential for the formation of thyroid hormones. The thyroid regulates one’s metabolism, as well as growth and development of the brain and body, making it extremely important during the fetal period and infancy. The good news is that iodine is extremely easy to obtain. Most of the salt available for resale is iodized. Milk contains iodine because it is used in the sterilization of equipment. Iodine is also found in shellfish, seafood and seaweed. The bad news is that very large of amounts of iodine can result in breathing difficulties or skin irritations for anyone with sensitivities or allergies. A typical diet provides for more than adequate iodine intake.

Cobalt is required for the formation of red blood cells and the proper functioning of some enzymes and the composition of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is important for good health in our DNA and blood. Cobalt can be obtained from liver, kidney, meats and dairy products. Toxic levels of cobalt would be extremely difficult to obtain through dietary intake.

Fluoride is well known for strengthening the enamel on teeth. Too much fluoride can cause permanent spots on the teeth, called fluorosis. Too little fluoride increases the likelihood of cavity formation and tooth decay. For these reasons, pediatric dentists and healthcare providers recommended the intake of tap water or bottled water fortified with fluoride beginning in infancy, as well as a small pea -sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste on toothbrushes for those over two years old. Fluoride helps new bone formation or in maintaining healthy bones. Fluoride can be found in seafood and tea, in addition to toothpaste and fortified waters.

Selenium has been discovered to work, in conjunction with vitamin E, as a powerful antioxidant, reducing the risk of abnormal cell growth. It also boosts the immune system, which fights against viruses and destructive bacteria. Selenium is required for healthy heart and thyroid function. Selenium has also been found to be a natural chelation agent, binding with toxic heavy metals, including lead and mercury, and rendering them harmless. Rich sources of selenium include cereals, meat, fish, dairy products, eggs and brazil nuts. Selenium is becoming increasingly uncommon in soil, making legumes, fruits, and vegetables less likely to contain selenium. Too much of a good thing isn’t so good. Toxic levels of selenium cause hair loss, skin changes, nausea and nerve damage. If taking a supplement, limit the intake to 200mcg a day.

Micro-minerals Help

Minerals help the body grow, develop, and stay healthy. A wide variety in a healthy diet is always the best place to start for mineral acquisition but a high quality supplement can make up for what may be lacking. Be sure to check with your child’s healthcare provider if you are considering a supplement. Healthy Steps Pediatrics is helping to grow healthy children one step at a time. Call 678-384-3480 for your child’s nutrition assessment today.