Let’s start with a little lesson on vitamins vs. minerals.
In today’s world, we normally see these lumped together or maybe put both of them under the “vitamin” umbrella. The main difference? Vitamins are organic compounds and minerals are inorganic. In short, vitamins are derived from living things and minerals are derived from non-living things.
That said, it is important to note that both are equally vital for life.
Rocks aren’t commonly considered to be an essential part of human nutrition, but rest be assured, the minerals that make up rocks are important. These minerals are broken down in the earth’s soil, and become a common component of many plant based foods. Shellfish are also great sources of minerals because of, well, the shells.
There are a few subsets of minerals, which are somewhat becoming household terms.
Some of these minerals may have synergistic relationships, while others may have antagonistic relationships. This means some may work together to support healthy levels in the body, whereas others it may be more of a balancing act. Because of this, you may need the help of a trusted provider.
Now, let’s unpack some minerals that are game changers to your health and vitality:
If you work with me you know, I will always bring up magnesium for a variety of reasons. One being that I wrote my graduate thesis on it, two being that it is involved in 300+ mechanisms in the body. Some of these include blood sugar balance, muscle relaxation, improved sleep, energy production, and brain health. Essentially, magnesium is involved in the enzymatic reactions for all of these processes, so think of it like a needed and trusted “middleman” for bigger processes in your body.
For food sources, think beans and greens. Supplements can be taken in different forms for different reasons. Magnesium glycinate can help with muscle relaxation and promotes a calming effect for the body and brain. Magnesium citrate can help with constipation. Magnesium l-threonate can is the only form that can cross the blood brain barrier and support mood, stress resilience and cognition.
This is in the trace element category, meaning that we do not need this in as large of doses as others, but it still does so much for your body. By now, I think it is commonly known that zinc does support immunity, and I’ve seen people come into my practice taking large amounts in the Covid era. Zinc also plays a leading role in supporting testosterone levels for both men and women. Zinc can also support mood and lower depression risk.
Oysters are by far the highest source, followed by grass fed beef, other shellfish, beans and nuts.
Potassium is needed for muscle contraction and nerve function, and an often overlooked electrolyte. As mentioned, we need to think of the delicate balance of minerals, so yes- all of them need some love. For this, I like to think of “roots and fruits”, so ensure you include root vegetables like potatoes or yams, and fruits such as bananas, mangos, and oranges.
This one was shoved down our throats with the “Got Milk” campaign of the 90’s, but there’s actually many sources higher than milk. One good thing about this campaign? We all know it is good for bone health. In fact, in healthy adults, over 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in bones and teeth. High sources include Greek yogurt, sardines, salmon, kale, tempeh or tofu, beans and chickpeas, almonds, collard greens, and bok choy. Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K are also essential for healthy calcium levels.
If you’ve worked with me on thyroid health, selenium has definitely been brought up. It is involved in both thyroid hormone production and the conversion from T4 to T3. This mineral is in the “trace” category. Brazil nuts are by far the highest source, and it would be helpful to work these in a few days a week.
Most of us know that sodium has been demonized for decades. Personally, I am not a fan of a blanket restriction on a mineral that one, has a function, and two, works in tandem with other minerals that also have specific functions. Sodium is essential for maintaining healthy energy, cortisol and hydration levels. Natural ways to incorporate sodium include sea vegetables, seafoods, and adding pure sea salt to foods.
We are now coming to find that copper plays a vital role in iron metabolism. In practice, I always want to be mindful of zinc levels, as supplementing this in too high of doses can impact copper levels. Sources include shellfish, nuts and seeds, and potatoes. Nature is cool in the sense that many shellfish have copper and zinc ratios that are just right for a healthy balance in the body.
This one is discussed a lot, especially in the women’s health space. One of iron’s main roles is oxygen deliverability, which can have a major impact on our energy levels on a day to day basis. Iron can be found in well sourced red meats, fish, and beans. Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and copper can support iron levels in the body. As a practitioner, I often lean towards beef liver supplements, as it does also contain these other cofactors.
Putting it all together
The magic is in the minerals for mood, energy, and vitality. I hope this serves as inspiration to get more intentional about your minerals. They can be finicky, so it is always helpful to discuss these with a trusted provider and potentially lab test.
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