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General Mineral Requirement: Overview
Every living cell on this planet depends on minerals for proper function and structure. Minerals are needed for the proper composition of body fluids, the formation of blood and bone, the maintenance of healthy nerve function, and the regulation of muscle tone, including that of the muscles of the cardiovascular system.
Like vitamins, minerals function as coenzymes, enabling the body to perform its functions, including energy production, growth, and healing. Because all enzyme activities involve minerals, minerals are essential for the proper utilization of vitamins and other nutrients.
Minerals, like vitamins, are essential to good health. Calcium and zinc, for example, are essential for bone growth and immune system support. Calcium plays an important role in everything from our bones to our cell membranes, while zinc promotes wound healing and supports the immune system. Unfortunately, it has become more difficult to get enough minerals simply from the food we eat.
Minerals are naturally-occurring elements found in rock formations. As erosion gradually breaks down the rock and stone through a process that can take millions of years, the resulting dust and sand forms the basis of soil which in turn passes these minerals to plants. Our bodies obtain these minerals by consuming plants and animals. However, modern agricultural and food preparation practices rob our food of many of their life-giving nutrients, especially minerals.
Having moved away from nature’s cycle, in which animals consume plants and then return minerals to the soil through excretion and death, minerals are now ending up in the sea or landfill sites instead of back in the soil. The modern flush toilet, monoculture and long-range transportation of produce are but a few of the factors exacerbating this situation. Under ideal circumstances plants typically absorb some 70-80 different minerals from the soil: the number being returned to the soil by farmers can now often be counted on the fingers of one hand.
For this reason, modern crops are frequently grown in depleted soils; in fact, most American farmland is severely depleted of selenium and often contains only marginal levels of zinc,magnesium, calcium and other minerals. Once harvested, the food is often stored for long periods and then processed into bread or other refined products. All of these practices strip foods of their essential vitamins and minerals.
One example is the milling of grains, such as wheat, where great nutritional losses occur. When wheat is processed into white flour, many minerals are lost including 59% of magnesiumand 72% of zinc. More than 70% of other essential trace minerals such as manganese, boron,chromium and selenium also are lost. Purchasing whole grain foods that are organically grown and as minimally processed as possible are steps in the right direction. Many feel that mineral supplementation has become a requirement of modern living.
Causes and Development
Present-day increased mineral need is due, in part, to the high-stress lifestyles that most of us lead. Studies have shown that stress depletes our bodies of vitamins and minerals. If the food we eat isn’t supplying us with enough minerals to begin with and then our stressful lifestyles destroy more nutrients – we end up deficient. Mineral deficiency can take the form of everything from a lowered immunity – causing frequent colds and flu – to muscle cramps, slow wound healing and fatigue.
The human body, as with all of nature, must maintain its proper chemical balance. This balance depends on the levels of different minerals in the body and especially the ratios of certain mineral levels to one another. The level of each mineral in the body has an effect on every other, so if one is out of balance, all mineral levels are affected. If not corrected, this can start a chain reaction of imbalances that leads to illness.