To go along with the guide on vitamins, here’s the guide on minerals, what they do, how much you need, what happens if you don’t get enough, and where you can find them!
Calcium – Is extensively used by the body. It’s one of those do-all substances… its needed for muscle contractions, nervous system function, bone and teeth formation, and blood pressure control. Also a high calcium diet actually reduces the incidence of kidney stones, rather than help cause them.
Dose – Most people should try to get around 1,200 mgs of calcium per day. Athletes may need as high as 2,600 mgs.
Deficiency – Your body has plenty of calcium in these huge reserves called “bones”, and doesn’t need massive doses each day. However, long term calcium deficiency will result in muscle weakness, spasms, tingling sensations, brittle bones, heart irregularities, and eventually death.
Toxicity – The LD50 (point at which 50% of the subjects die) is around 450,000 mgs. One cup of spinach has around 450 mgs. So unless you’re trying to eat an entire corral reef for breakfast, you’re probably not gonna die from this.
Elevated blood levels of calcium can reduce the effectiveness of other minerals, and can also impair kidney function. The “Tolerable Upper Intake Levels” (UL) is set at 2,500 mgs… however, this was not written with athletes in mind, who are going to be using up and sweating out a lot more calcium than everyone else. The suggested intake of an athlete who routinely trains in hot environments seems difficult to find in research, but is probably set around where the UL is for non-athletes.
Good: Beet greens, mustard greens, turnip greens
Better: Cheese, spinach, collard greens
Best: Yogurt, sardines, sesame seeds
Iron – When heated and combined with carbon, becomes steel. Great for engineering and architecture. Also allows the body to form hemoglobin, which transports oxygen around the body, and myoglobin, which makes oxygen available for use by the muscles. Also involved in cell regulation and with immune system function. Further, iron allows the production of energy from food. In other words, iron is really damn important.
Dose – 10 mgs per day for men, 15 mgs for women, and around 25 mgs if you’re pregnant. As a general rule, iron found from animal sources absorbs better than those found in plant sources. Endurance athletes may require upwards of 30% more iron. So a female vegetarian distance runner needs to seriously watch out for this deficiency.
Deficiency – apathy, irritability, fatigue, reduced athletic performance, inability to concentrate, depression, and has been linked to restless leg syndrome.
Toxicity – more than 30 mgs a day for an extended time can be toxic in non-athletes. The official upper tolerable limit as set by the US Institute of Medicine is around 40 mgs a day for most people. Iron is not quickly excreted from the body. It stores easily, so an overdose is easy to come by. Long-term toxicity results primarily in liver damage. Ironically many of the toxicity symptoms are similar to that of a deficiency: fatigue, irritability, and reduced athletic performance, along with a grayish tone of skin colour.
Good: Kidney beans, navy beans, swiss chard
Better: Olives, garbanzo beans, sesame seeds
Best: Spinach, lentils, soybeans
Phosphorus – The primary component in multi-purpose phosphorus hand grenades. It’s also involved in nearly every cellular function in living organisms. ATP – adinosine tri-phosphate, uses phosphorus. Without it, you would instantly die. It is also a key component in cell formation, assists calcium in strengthening bones, and assists the B vitamins in releasing energy from food.
Dose – Around 800 mgs per day for the average person. Around 1,600 for athletes.
Deficiency – You’d really have to go out of your way to get a deficiency here. Diets that contain convenience foods are definitely getting more than enough phosphorus already, as it is commonly used additive. But if you did have a deficiency, you’d have weak bones and teeth, weakness, fatigue, and irregular heart beats.
Toxicity – Can be delivered all at once, usually thrown at a distance of 20 meters to take out infantry. This frequently results in death. Too much phosphorus in your diet and not enough calcium can seriously effect bone strength, or when enough calcium is present, lead to calcified deposits under the skin.
It appears around 4,000 mgs is considered the “upper tolerable limit”… so presumably anything above that is toxic.
Best: Salmon (though you are very unlikely to not get enough of this)
Iodine – This mineral is primarily responsible for the production of thyroid hormones, specifically, T4 and T3 (for all practical purposes, it’s only T3 that matters). T3 is responsible for the body’s metabolic rate, and largely responsible for the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
Dose – Around 150 micrograms for regular folks, and about 290 micrograms for nursing mothers. The upper limit level is around 1,100 micrograms per day.
Deficiency – May cause hypothyroidism, characterized by low body temperatures, fatigue, weight gain, weakness, depression, and goiter (enlarged thyroid gland). Try typing “goiter” into google and click “images”. It’s rather unpleasant.
Toxicity – Burning sensation in the throat and mouth, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and goiter are possible. This happens at doses over 1,100 micrograms per day.
Good: Tuna, eggs, cow’s milk
Better: Salmon, sardines, shrimp
Best: Yogurt, scallops, seaweed
Magnesium – is responsible for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Magnesium allows muscles to relax, helps end muscle contractions and maintains a steady heart rate. It assists in building strong bones, regulates the immune system, blood pressure, energy metabolism and protein synthesis.
Dose – Around 350 mgs for those who are not training. Athletes may need upwards of 1,000 mgs per day.
Deficiency – Irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, spasms, fatigue, possible seizures and mental disorders.
Toxicity – It’s actually rather hard to pin point an exact level where Magnesium becomes toxic. Symptoms tend to come on gradually after around 1,000 mgs, and the most common symptom is diarrhea, followed by nausea, loss of appetite, and similar to a deficiency, muscle weakness, spasms, and irregular heart beat. It appears that overdoses can only happen from supplements and not from food.
Good: Beet greens, sunflower seeds, cashews
Better: Black beans, soybeans, sesame seeds
Best: Swiss chard, spinach, pumpkin seeds
Zinc – Vital in nearly 100 metabolic functions, it is important for wound healing, anti-oxidant activity (greatly benefits long distance endurance athletes), immune system function and brain function. It’s also needed to maintain a good sense of smell and taste.
Dose – The average person needs around 15 mgs a day. Athletes may benefit from up to 150 mgs per day.
Zinc does interfere with copper and iron absoption, so you may need to keep those in check, or consume them at different times apart from the zinc.
Deficiency – Impaired sense of taste or smell, impaired immune system function, loss of appetite, and slowed mental performance.
Toxicity – Try to stay below 150 mgs per day.
Good: Shrimp, turkey, cashews
Better: Cashews, garbanzo beans, lentils
Best: Pumpkin seeds, lamb, beef
Selenium – A potent antioxidant that can protect against free radical heart damage, and regulates thyroid hormone output. Good for endurance athletes. Also apparently good for those suffering from AIDS. Though AIDS is considered an unstoppable disease, a diet high in Selenium helps those infected live much longer. Selenium has also shown in some studies to play a role in assisting with mild to moderate depression.
Dose – 60 mgs a day for normal folks. Athletes can benefit from up to 400 mgs.
Deficiency – There does not appear to be any immediate symptoms from a selenium deficiency. The most common result from a long term deficiency is heart deterioration and possibly joint problems.
Toxicity – The upper limit intake suggested is 400 micrograms. Research shows that doses of 800 micrograms can be taken without any problems, but there are no additional benefits from this dose, and it still may be dangerous for some. Selenium supplementation is not recommended unless you have a special reason. Symptoms are hair loss, fatigue, irritability, irregular finger nail growth, garlic-breath, and minor nerve damage.
Good: Beef, scallops, lamb
Better: Chicken, turkey, salmon
Best: Sardines, shrimp, tuna
Copper – This pulls you over and writes you speeding tickets.
The wikipedia article states:
Copper is found in a variety of enzymes, including the copper centers of cytochrome c oxidase and the enzyme superoxide dismutase (containing copper and zinc). In addition to its enzymatic roles, copper is used for biological electron transport. The blue copper proteins that participate in electron transport include azurin and plastocyanin. The name “blue copper” comes from their intense blue color arising from a ligand-to-metal charge transfer (LMCT) absorption band around 600 nm.
Wow. That’s… helpful. ( ._.)
I’m sorry, we just want to know what copper does… didn’t think it was as complicated as building the international space station.
But anyway, it’s involved in iron metabolism, meaning a copper deficiency will result in iron deficiency symptoms. It’s also involved in reactions that create antioxidants, skin pigmentation, and the formation of connective tissue and the protective sheaths that surround nerves.
Dose – Around 3 mgs a day for non athletes, and upwards of 6 mgs a day for athletes who sweat a lot during training.
Deficiency – Volumes of research suggest that copper deficiencies are very rare. Results are iron deficiency symptoms, brain disturbances, elevated LDL cholesterol and reduced HDL cholesterol levels, poor immune function, loss of pigment in the hair and skin, weakness, fatigue, poor thyroid function, and irregular heart beat.
Toxicity -Cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and liver damage. There are case studies where copper overdose resulted in schizophrenia. This is perhaps the most interesting overdose fact I’ve seen yet… so cooking foods in copper pots and pans while drinking water from copper pipes could make the underpants gnomes come and visit. More than 10 mgs a day can cause this to happen. The LD50 is 30 mgs. At this point, the underpants gnomes get angry and kill you. Also, milk appears to be the antidote. Besides for blocking copper absorption… underpants gnomes hate milk!
Good: Lima beans, walnuts, lentils
Better: Garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds, shiitake mushrooms
Best: Soybeans, cashews, sesame seeds
Manganese – Involved in bone and connective tissue formation, and creates anti-oxidants. Does tons of other stuff too. Some of these are actually hard to describe as their functions are so varied. Manganese also releases energy from carbs, fats, and proteins, maintains hormonal balance, immune system function, blood sugar regulation, and maintains the health of the immune system.
Dose – 5 mgs per day for regular folks. For athletes, this may assist healing, so taking doses as high as 20 mgs per day is advisable.
Deficiency – Is very rare. May result in impaired growth, eye and hearing problems, ataxia, high cholesterol levels, hypertension, infertility, weakness, heart disorders, memory loss, muscle contraction, tremors, seizures, and reproductive disorders.
Toxicity – There doesn’t appear to be many sources suggesting that toxicity would come out of food or supplements. Toxicity looks similar to Parkinson’s disease, but most toxicity warnings are about breathing manganese dust in industrial zones. 20 mgs from the diet is considered “high”, and there are no recorded cases of toxicity coming from diet alone. I can’t find evidence that supplementing with higher doses, reaching towards 50 mgs, would cause symptoms.
Good: Soybeans, rye, pumpkin seeds
Better: Pineapple, spinach, garbanzo beans
Best: Brown rice, oats, ground cloves
Potassium – Is an essential electrolyte. Electrolytes conduct electricity, and help control the water and acid balance in the body. Conducting electricity allows the signals from the brain to travel through the body and control various parts of the body. As such, Potassium, along with sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium, helps in allowing muscle contractions, regulating the heart beat, and regulating fluid balance in and outside the cells.
Dose – Minimum requirement is 2,000 mgs. If you’re not getting this, you’re gonna have some problems. Athletes may need upwards of 2,500 to 4,000 a day. Excessive water intake – drinking a gallon (3.75 liters) or so a day – diminishes the potassium levels in the body.
Deficiency – Starts off with muscle weakness, irritability, fatigue, and heart disturbances, which gradually progresses to unresponsive muscles, muscles that suddenly contract on their own, and increased heart disturbances, followed by muscle destruction, difficulty breathing, and death. Correcting a deficiency at any time is easily accomplished by consuming foods high in potassium.
Insufficient potassium intake is widespread among Americans and Europeans.
Toxicity – Nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea. These come on gradually with doses over 6,000 mgs in some individuals. Doses of 18,000 or higher may cause paralysis or heart attack.
Good: Avocado, lentils, pinto beans
Better: Spinach, soybeans, potatoes
Best: Lima beans, swiss chard, beet greens
Choline – This is an essential substance most often associated with the B vitamins. It is responsible for nerve function, allows the body’s cells to “open and close” the gates leading in and out of the cell so nutrients can come in and waste can get out, reduces inflammation, and keeps the blood clear of homocysteine, a toxic byproduct of protein metabolism.
Choline is especially important to endurance athletes. Post exercise, these athletes show a sharp reduction in blood choline levels. Athletes who supplement with choline have shown significantly improved performance.
Dose – You need about 550 mgs of this a day. Athletes may take upwards of 1,200 or 2,000 mgs a day without any problems.
Deficiency – Memory problems, insomnia, liver disease, and cardiovascular disease.
Toxicity – Nausea, increased sweating, and bad body odor due to choline coming in faster than the body can process it. It’s released through the sweat, which will then smell. Faintness or dizziness happens with doses of around 4,000 mgs a day. More severe problems may happen with doses of 5,000 mgs a day or higher.
Good: Collard greens, beef, salmon
Better: Tuna, turkey, chicken
Best: Scallops, eggs, shrimp
Once again, just a few different foods cover all the minerals listed here.
I’ve tried to keep the food sources to a minimal, listing only 3 in each group, but that doesn’t mean other foods don’t have a nutrient if it’s not listed. Spinach only contains modest amounts of zinc, so I didn’t list it as a source – but spinach does still have zinc!
You could theoretically live on a diet of tuna, spinach, and punkin seeds, almost forever. They contain the entire spectrum of nutrition, including omega-3s, and omega-6s. And again, this kind of diet is exceptionally cost effective!
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