A component of several enzymes, such as superoxide dismutase, which helps protect against free radical damage, copper is vital in forming connective tissue, which supports and separates organs and is found in tendons, bone, and cartilage. Copper is important for the growth of healthy bones and helps the body to absorb iron from food. A lack of copper can lead to iron-deficiency anemia because the mineral helps to make stored iron available for red blood cell production. Copper is also involved in the formation of melanin, the pigment that colors skin and hair.
Sprouted nuts and immune-building mushrooms such as maitake, shitake, and reishi are good vegetable sources of the mineral. Deficiency is rare, usually occurring in premature babies – infants who are malnourished or who suffer from chronic diarrhea, or those with malabsorption problems. Copper deficiencies cause premature graying of hair, as well as joint and muscle pain.