Functions of Minerals
Minerals are micronutrients that have vital functions in the body. Although they’re needed in very small amounts and don’t provide calories or energy the way carbohydrates, fats, and proteins do, they help the body function efficiently. Some work with enzymes, hormones, and other body proteins to support growth; others have structural roles. Unlike carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that are broken down or changed in some way after enter the body, minerals stay intact.
Unlike most vitamins, minerals can be stored by the body for long periods of time; they can also withstand light, heat, or other variables that usually degrade vitamins. Mineral absorption can, however, be affected by several food components including fiber, phyttes, oxalates, or polyphenols. How acidic a person’s intestinal environment is, his age, and his need and intake of the particular minerals also affect mineral absorption.
Minerals are categorized by how much is needed in the diet and found in the body – not by how important they are. So even though you can need a very small amount of a particular mineral, it can still be an extremely important dietary component in the body and diet.
Major minerals are needed by and stored in the body in the largest amounts. You need at least 100 milligrams of the following minerals each day: sodium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, chloride and magnesium.
Trace minerals are needed and stored in smaller amounts than the major minerals. You need less than 00 milligrams of the following trace minerals each day: iron, manganese, zinc, fluoride, selenium, chromium, iodine, molybdenum and copper.
Ultratrace minerals are found in the body in extremely small amounts. These include boron, arsenic, nickel, vanadium and silicon.
Although daily intake recommendations for ultratrace minerals have not yet been established, and their specific functions are not fully understood, consuming a varied plant-based diet will likely provide your with adequate amounts.
Phytates are acids found in plant foods as their main storage form of phosphorus; they cannot be digested by the human body.
Oxalates (also known as oxalic acids) are found in some green, leafy vegetables (such as spinach); they attach to calcium to create compounds that cannot be absorbed by the human body.
Polyphenols are chemicals found naturally in plant foods; they act as antioxidants to protect body cells against damage caused by free radicals (unstable substances found in the body and in the environment) that can contribute to the development of disease.