Minerals

CALCIUM

This important mineral is vital for all at every stage of life and it's functions within the body are many. Calcium salts are found in every tissue and are particularly essential for the growth and health of bones, teeth, nails and hair and all types of muscle. Osteoporosis, the disease caused by calcium loss from the bones, is particularly prevalent in women, especially when menopausal, in those who have lowered oestrogen production due to illness or surgery or during pregnancy and lactation, therefore extra calcium is needed during these times. Women are also prone to low calcium levels before and during menstruation.

Calcium builds stamina and good muscle 'tone' or fitness, ensuring smooth and efficient muscle contraction and relaxation. It also benefits the nervous system, calming and feeding the nerves and maintains rapid nerve impulse transmissions. Acetyl choline ( the molecule responsible for the transmission of nerve impulses ) cannot be made without the aid of calcium. Calcium is food the heart muscle especially and also calms the pulse and maintains proper blood pressure. Many people with high blood pressure have been found to have low blood calcium levels. It also helps control the blood clotting mechanism. This vital mineral also improves fertility and helps maintain a healthy pregnancy, a lack of it during pregnancy is associated with severe labour pains, muscle cramps, backache, high blood pressure, teeth problems, osteoporosis and pre-eclampsia.

Calcium levels in the body are influenced by many factors, high protein and phosphate (present in all fizzy soft drinks) intake inhibit it's absorption and sugar, tea, alcohol, chocolate, smoking and processed foods encourage it's excretion from the body. High protein intake is likely to be due to consumption of meat and dairy produce whilst red meat and soft drinks are very high in phosphates so are to be avoided in order to maintain good levels of calcium. Vegetarians have lower incidences of osteoporosis and high blood pressure and generally require less dietary calcium due to their reduced protein intake. Sodium (salt) and saturated fat also inhibit calcium absorption. Lack of physical exercise also leads to a depletion of calcium whereas an increase in activity leads to an increase in calcium. This is particularly relevant to children who need lots of calcium during their growing years, running, jumping and playing should always be encouraged as it actually helps in the growth and maintenance of bones and tissues. Calcium can also be stored in the bones which will help prevent osteoporosis in later years. On the whole calcium supplements are produced from non-food sources such as ground oyster shells and mineral rocks. These can contribute to plaque formation in the arteries and also the formation of bone spurs. Many also contain traces of heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and mercury so should be avoided.

The RDA for calcium is between 800 – 1200 mg, with up to 2000mg needed during pregnancy, lactation, menstuation and before and during the menopause.

SOURCES OF CALCIUM

Calcium is destroyed when heated to 150 F so pasteurized foods and canned foods have much less calcium in them than their natural, unadulterated equivalents.

SEAWEEDS are exceptionally high in calcium, especially when uncooked, and contain many other minerals.Include hijike, kelp, wakame, nori, dulse, arame, kombu, agar etc. in the diet. They can be used as a condiment sprinkled over foods or as a flavouring in stews and cooked foods and have a wide variety of tastes ranging from the delicately subtle to the strong and beefy.

GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES - kale, watercress, cabbage, dandelion leaves, green tops of vegetables and so on all contain good amounts of calcium, especially when eaten raw or lightly steamed.

SEEDS AND NUTS - particularly sesame seeds and foods containing them such as tahini and halva, also almonds, walnuts, cashews, coconuts, sunflower seeds, carob seeds.

LEGUMES AND PULSES - soya beans (including tofu and tempeh) contain enough calcium to rival milk and dairy products. Because it is a plant protein it does not trigger calcium excretion like animal protein does.

FRESH VEGETABLES - especially raw carrots and carrot juice drinks, broccoli, celery, parsnips, brussels sprouts, asparagus all contain calcium.

WHOLE, UNREFINED GRAINS - rice, oats, millet, rye, barley etc are all good sources of calcium.

FRUIT - dried figs are a very good source as are prunes, dates and blueberries.

HERBS FOR CALCIUM - comfrey, red raspberry leaf, nettle, boneset, parsley, horsetail, marshmallow, alfalfa.

IRON

Iron is essential for the manufacture of red blood cells as it is a component of haemoglobin and is responsible for the transport of oxygen to the cells and carbon dioxide from the cells. About 2/3 of iron is contained in haemoglobin within the red blood cells whilst the rest is in the liver, spleen, bonemarrow and muscles. It is also needed by the immune system as many bacteria require iron for their metabolism. If the immune system is low then iron can help as part of a broader treatment. The problem with iron is that it is quite poorly absorbed via the intestines and there are several common antagonists to it's absorption such as tannins (coffee and tea), fizzy drinks, alcohol, eggs, milk, cheese and even excess calcium and phosphorus. However it's absorption is increased with the prescence of vitamin C and if the hydrochloric acid of the stomach is functioning well. Symptoms of iron deficiency include anaemia, pale complexion, spoon like nails, fatigue, listlessness, palpitations, dizziness, feeling cold constantly and poor resistance to infections. Recommended daily amounts vary but it is accepted that women require more than men due in part to their monthly loss of blood. Men need from 10 mg a day whilst women need at least double this and more during and after menstruation, with up to 130 mg daily needed during pregnancy and lactation.

SOURCES OF IRON

Varying amounts of iron are found in many fruit, vegetables and grains. The main categories of which are:

DARK LEAFY VEGETABLES such as parsley, dandelion leaves, warecress, cabbage, spinach, kale, chicory, swiss chard, lettuce, alfalfa, kelp and other seaweeds, beetroot and their leafy tops, turnip tops, celery stalks and leaves. All of these foods also contain many other minerals, parsley is also very rich in vitamin C, A whilst seaweeds are loaded with iron, calcium, iodine, sodium etc. All act as prime blood cleansers and builders.

VEGETABLES like pumpkin, globe artichokes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and PULSES like lentils, kidney beans and soya beans (including tofu).

CEREALS such as whole grain wheat and millet.

DRIED AND FRESH FRUIT - dates, apricots, figs, cherries, blackberries and raspberries are all rich in iron.

BLACKSRAP MOLASSES is a very rich source of iron and other minerals. WALNUTS, PUMPKIN SEEDS and COCOA are also good sources.

HERB SOURCES OF IRON parsley, yellow dock, nettle, raspberry leaves all contain good amonts of iron and a daily drink of all or some of these would contribute greatly to iron intake. Parsley seems especially good as it is rich in vitamin C which helps the absorption of iron.

For comparison:

Parsley 28 mg per lb red raspberry 10.1 mg per lb
Soya beans 38 mg per lb lentils 30 mg per lb
Watercress 9.1 mg per lb  

 

MAGNESIUM

This mineral is closely allied to calcium in it's role within the body. It is as such 'food' for the muscles, bones and nerves. Muscle tissue contains more magnesium than calcium where it assists and regulates muscle contraction and acts as an antispasmodic agent. It protects the heart muscle, regulates the blood pressure, helps to reduce cholesterol levels and greatly reduces the chance of heart attacks and coronary diseases. Magnesium is also found in the bones and teeth helping to build and maintain strength in these areas. The nervous system uses magnesium and motor nerves ( those that control movement ) in particular will function smoothly and efficiently if a good supply is available. A lack of magnesium causes heightened nerve and muscle activity and can manifest as nervous irritability, unhappiness, sleep interference, muscle cramps and spasms, aching bones and neuralgia. Increasing the amount of magnesium rich foods can alleviate and solve the underlying problem in many of these symptoms, having an overtall tranquillising effect on neuromuscular activity. It can even calm the hyperactive air passages associated with asthma and other breathing complaints. Magnesium levels are depleted by alcohol and chemical drugs. Deficiency is unlikely to arise from diet though certain bodily conditions such as diarrhoea,alcoholism, kidney disfunction and pregnancy can lead to an excessive loss of ions including magnesium. The RDA is 300-400 mg, 450 during pregnancy.

SOURCES OF MAGNESIUM

Magnesium is a component of chlorophyll so the best sources are of plant origin.

GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES such as spinach, watercress, dulse and green tops of carrots etc.

FRUITS including strawberries, coconut flesh, apples, nectarines, cherries, plums, figs, raisins, prunes, blueberries, blackcurrants, grapes, lemons, limes and so on.

NUTS especially oily nuts like cashews, almonds and also SEEDS.

WHOLE CEREALS like brown rice and wheat germ.

PEAS AND BEANS

OTHER VEG including raw onions, peppers, celery, radishes, alfalfa.

HERBS FOR MAGNESIUM CONTENT - cayenne pepper, parsley, mullein, wild lettuce, dandelion leaves, red clover, blue cohosh and sarsaparilla.

ZINC

Zinc is a component of at least 80 enzymes including digestive and liver enzymes, enzymes responsible for carbohydrate and protein metabolism, is a component of insulin (the hormone concerned with balancing blood sugar levels), and assists with the utilization of vitamin A. It has a vital part to play in normal growth and development. Good levels of zinc within the body will ensure healthy skin function and speedy wound healing as well as good resistance to infections and protection against auto-immune disorders. Recent research suggests that it can also prevent the formation of some cancers. In men, the highest levels of zinc are found within the prostate glands and semen as it is instrumental in sperm production. Men that are infertile or have low sperm counts and testosterone levels are usually deficient in zinc. Eating foods rich in zinc is beneficial to both men and women who also require it for certain hormone activities. Zinc levels can be depleted by alcohol, oral contraceptives, pregnancy and air pollution. The RDA is 15 – 20 mg with 25 mg for pregnant and breast feeding women. Supplemental overdose of 600 mg can lead to copper deficiency and anaemia.

SOURCES OF ZINC

OYSTERS AND HERRINGS are very high in zinc but for those who prefer to avoid these choose from the following categories...

PUMPKIN SEEDS are a very rich source as is WATERCRESS

LEGUMES all the beans and peas.

WHOLEGRAINS especially wheatgerm

HERBAL SOURCES include coltsfoot, bilberry, skullcap and buchu leaf.

For comparison:

Peas 3 – 5 mg per 100g Oatmeal 14 mg per 100g
Wheatbran 14 mg per 100g Oysters 160 mg per 100g
Herrings 70 – 120 mg per 100g  

IODINE

Iodine is needed in minute quantities yet it’s ease of deficiency makes it a mineral of some significance. Iodine is a component of thyroxine, a hormone produced by the thyroid gland which regulates total body metabolism and emotional reactions. It strengthens the nerves and adjusts the physique to better proportions when the body contains either too little or too much fat. Iodine is beneficial in kidney disorders and is also antiseptic and healing ( though artificial iodine should be avoided ). It’s absorption is depleted by intense vitamin therapy especially vitamin E. The RDA is 150 microgrammes, with an extra 50 – 75 microgrammes during puberty and pregnancy.

SOURCES OF IODINE

Foods grown near the sea are much higher in iodine than their inland cousins.

SEAWEEDS especially kelp and dulse but all are very high in iodine.

DARK GREENS particularly watercress, parsley, kale and cabbage.

MUSHROOMS

RAW SEA SALT

HERBAL FOR IODINE CONTENT irish moss, sarsaparilla, black walnut.

POTASSIUM

The word potassium derives from ‘potash’, the ash remaining after a plant has been burnt and it is the second most abundant mineral present in plants. Within the body it plays a crucial role in the osmotic flow of molecules and water in and out of the cells, ensuring that they are nourished, cleansed and their volume is maintained. When body potassium is low, blood pressure is elevated, water is retained and cell transport systems become inefficient. This leads to accumulations of waste and a lack of nutrients within individual cells eventually causing the premature death of the cells. It therefore has an important role in the control of blood pressure and oedema as well as the normal healthy functioning of all body tissues and body growth. It is also suggested that it promotes longevity. Potassium is needed in carbohydrate metabolism and in the correct processing of fats. Additionally, it is needed by the brain and cerebellum and enhances memory, mental work and maintains the delicate sensation of physical balance. Other functions include assisting with transmission of nerve impulses, regulation of the heartbeat and muscle contraction. Potassium is depleted by sodium in excess, excessive urination and sweating, strong diuretics, diarrhoea, vomiting, coffee, sugar, alcohol. The RDA is 2.5g.

SOURCES OF POTASSIUM

Many plants contain potassium especially in their raw state but here are some favoured for their high potassium content:

VEGETABLES potato peelings, carrots, celery, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, alfalfa, chicory.

SEAWEEDS dulse, kelp etc and also LEAFY GREENS like watercress and parsley.

BLACKSTRAP MOLLASSES

WHOLE GRAINS

RAW AND DRIED FRUIT especially bananas

HERBS FOR POTASSIUM dandelion leaves, red raspberry leaves, nettle, mint, parsley, blue cohosh, irish moss, wild yam couch grass.

An excellent way to obtain potassium is to make the following potassium broth, as part of a cleansing programme, as a mineral boost or during illness and convalescence. Put some onion, celery, carrots, seaweed and any green vegetable leaves in a pot with water and simmer on a low heat for two hours or so. Strain and drink the liquid over the day.

PHOSPHORUS

Phosphorus is an abundant mineral in the body and works alongside calcium to promote healthy teeth and bone structure. It is found within the nucleus of every cell where it assists with the conversion and storage of energy. It also helps to maintain the acid / alkaline balance of the body and is an important food for the brain and nervous system. Levels can be depleted by antacids, refined sugar, mental stress and a high fat diet. The RDA is 800mg.

SOURCES OF PHOSPHORUS

There are many good sources of phosphorus, some of the highest being:

SEAWEEDS AND GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES

VEGETABLES including alfalfa, broccoli, celeriac, parsnip, chicory.

LEGUMES

WHOLEGRAINS

FRUIT in particular blackcurrants, grapes, kiwi fruit, melon, passion fruit and bananas.

HERBAL SOURCES blue cohosh, nettles, raspberry leaf, caraway seeds, carob seeds, chickweed, marigold flowers, chicory and dandelion.

SODIUM

This mineral is important for digestive and eliminative functions being a major component of saliva, gastric juice, enzymes and other intestinal juices and also secretions from the nose and tears. Sodium helps to regulate the body's acid / alkali balance and is needed to hold calcium in solution within body fluids. Alongside potassium it maintains a normal fluid balance and also increases the permeability of cell walls therefore allowing cells to be cleansed and nourished. It plays an important role in muscular contractions and the transmission of nervous impulses. Sodium in excess will cause water retention, kidney disorders, heart disorders and high blood pressure. A deficiency can cause muscle cramps, stiff joints, digestive upsets, gout ( excess calcium in the tissues ) and low blood pressure. Excess sodium intake is easy due to its addition to virtually all canned, frozen, dried, processed and pre-packaged food and used as a daily condiment. The best way to obtain sodium is through natural foods or pure, unrefined sea salt. Sodium is depleted by excessive liquid consumption and dehydration. The RDA is 2000mg.

SOURCES OF SODIUM

SEAWEEDS AND DARK GREEN LEAFY VEG

VEGETABLES radishes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, carrots, okra, beetroot, asparagus, chard.

OLIVES, FIGS, GARLIC AND CASHEW NUTS

SEA SALT

SULPHUR

Sulphur is nicknamed the beauty mineral as it is so essential for healthy skin, hair and nails. It is a component of a number of amino acids so is needed for protein synthesis and also acts on the liver to promote the secretion of bile, maintain a balanced metabolism and influences the health of brain tissue. Sulphur invigorates the blood stream making it resistant to bacterial infections, detoxifies certain poisons and generally helps to eliminate skin and blood diseases – particularly those of a putrifying and supperative nature. Foods rich in sulphur are also known to possess anti-cancer properties.

SOURCES OF SULPHUR

All members of the CABBAGE FAMILY eg. cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and so on.

LEAFY GREEN VEG such as watercress, parsley.

All members of the ONION FAMILY including onions, garlic, leeks etc.

HERBS - nettles, plantain, mullein, sage, eyebright, coltsfoot, alfalfa.

COPPER

Copper is essential for the assimilation of iron and consequently helps prevent anaemia by keeping the red blood cells healthy and oxygenated. It also plays a role in the strengthening of connective tissue especially of the skin, the myelin tissue surrounding nerves and bones and is a component of many important enzymes. The RDA is 5mg.

SOURCES OF COPPER

SEAWEEDS AND DARK LEAFY GREENS

WHOLE GRAINS

FRUIT especially apricots which are high in both iron and copper.

MOLASSES

NUTS

SEAFOOD

HERBAL SOURCES chickweed, nettles, parsley, alfalfa.

MANGANESE

This mineral is part of the process of reproduction, lactation and growth and is needed for strong and healthy nerves, bones and immunity. It also has a suggested therapeutic role in preventing and controlling over sensitive allergic reactions.The RDA is 5 mg.

SOURCES OF MANGANESE

Manganese is found mainly in the LEAVES AND SEEDS of plants and also in WHOLE GRAINS and PULSES

FRUIT pineapple, blueberries, bilberry.

HERBAL SOURCES red raspberry, buchu, catnip, vine leave.

SELENIUM

This mineral is closely linked with with vitamin E function especially in its role as an antioxidant and hekps protect body cells against radiation damage. Selenium also assists in the prevention of many cancers and can strengthen the immune system by increasing antibody production. Supplementation should be avoided though as it is toxic in large amounts.

SOURCES OF SELENIUM

Selenium is found in WHOLE UNREFINED GRAINS

NUTS

HERBS - garlic, yerba santa, catnip, hibiscus flowers.

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