Can you live without minerals? Like vitamins, minerals are required to sustain life. They are needed for the body’s basic life functions at every level starting at the cellular and continuing through to the tissues, organs, and the whole body. The roles each mineral plays and the amounts required to effectively perform their function varies.
For example, some minerals like selenium and copper work as cofactors. In their function as a cofactor, minerals permit enzymes and other proteins to function. Additionally, minerals are key contributors to a variety of body compounds. Examples of such body compounds are red blood cells, of which iron is an important component. Other functions in which minerals such as phosphorus and calcium play a critical role is the development and growth of the body. Water balance also requires minerals. Without calcium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium, there is no water balance causing a life-threatening state. How are minerals categorized, and how readily available are they?
The amount of minerals required per day is the method used to categorize minerals. Minerals that require more than 100 milligrams per day, or 1/50th of a teaspoon is categorized as a major mineral. Examples of major minerals include calcium and phosphorus. Those that require less, like zinc and iron are classified as a trace element. But just because a food is rich in a much needed mineral, doesn’t make it useful. Our bodies may not be able to absorb and use them. And, just because a certain mineral content is listed for a particular food on a table, does not mean it is a good source for that mineral. It actually is only a starting point. For example, there is a high concentration of calcium found in spinach. Unfortunately, spinach also contains a high concentration of the calcium-binder, oxalic acid, resulting in the absorption of only about five percent of the calcium consumed.
Generally speaking, as the refinement of a plant food increases, the mineral content decreases, an example of which is refined flour. When a grain product is refined, the only mineral added during the enrichment process is iron. Other minerals, such as copper, selenium, and zinc are lost and not replaced. To answer the question we started with, “Can you live without minerals?”
The answer is clearly NO.
What is your favorite whole grain recipe?
(C) 2016 Karen Van Den Heuvel Fischer