Many of us are more familiar with macrominerals (the major ones) than we are with trace minerals, so I thought just a brief review of the major mineral group and their effects would be a good place to start before I get to the nitty-gritty of trace minerals and why I’ve fallen in love with my favorite—zinc!
Okay, But First Tell Me: What Are Minerals?
Minerals are inorganic compounds found in healthy soil. Without them, plants cannot grow. Minerals make plant hormones, plant proteins, and activate the life process of plants. And that’s why you should read this great book titled Empty Harvest by Bernard Jensen and Mark Anderson.
As I stated above, there are macrominerals and trace minerals. Both groups are extremely important to our overall health, but we need more of the macrominerals than the trace. Unfortunately, because most of our food now grows on mineral-deficient soils, we may also be deficient, which can lead to a range of health problems.
The Major Minerals and How They Affect the Body
This article in the website SFGate.com breaks down the role of the major minerals in our bodies (emphasis mine):
“The major minerals, also sometimes referred to as macrominerals, include calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, chloride and sulfur…
“Calcium and phosphorus keep your bones and teeth healthy, while sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium all work together to make sure your nerves can transmit signals properly.” Chloride works with sodium and potassium to maintain proper fluid balance, but it’s also vital in the creation of stomach acid, officially named hydrochloric acid. Sulfur helps build protein molecules.
“Most of the major minerals…are also classified as electrolytes, or chemicals that conduct electricity when mixed with water. The electricity created when electrolytes move in and out of your cells helps keep your body hydrated, ensures your nerves and muscles are functioning properly, balances pH in the blood, keeps blood pressure normal and helps repair damaged tissues.”
So be sure and drink your daily portion of water!
Trace Minerals and How They Affect the Body
The same article I reference above also helps us easily understand the role of trace minerals in our bodies (emphasis mine):
“The trace minerals, otherwise known as microminerals, include iron, selenium, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, molybdenum and fluoride. All the trace minerals are grouped together because you need less than 100 milligrams of each every day. Although you need them in smaller amounts, that doesn’t mean they’re less important.
“Iron is a major component of your red blood cells and helps carry oxygen throughout your entire body. Copper, manganese, molybdenum and zinc are components of many enzymes, which are needed for every chemical reaction in your body. Zinc also plays important roles in wound healing, ability to taste and sperm production. Selenium acts as an antioxidant and works alongside iodine to keep your thyroid healthy. Chromium helps keep your blood sugar levels normal, while fluoride keeps bones and teeth strong.”
Personal note: I don’t recommend drinking tap water as it can often contain an overabundance of chemically produced fluoride. The website Truth About Fluoride is a good place to learn about how to get more natural fluoride in your diet and lists many of the foods that provide it. Once you start including them, you’ll hopefully get enough natural fluoride from the foods you eat.
The 7 Wonders of My Favorite Trace Mineral—Zinc
I’m finally at the point in this article where I can list the seven wonders of zinc that I mention in the title. As many of my readers know, I love to read and collect older books, articles, and magazines that deal with health and food. I’m happy to say that I found a very interesting article on zinc in a July 2020 issue of Better Nutrition that I picked up at my local health food store.
Disclaimer: I don’t recommend everything this magazine publishes or advertises. However, I think they did a good job on the zinc article so I thought to share its many wonders. A major reason I have great respect for this particular trace mineral is because I’ve used Zinc Chelate from Standard Process for some time. As part of my glaucoma protocol, it’s a powerful ally in terms of protecting my optic nerve from degeneration.
Though I cannot provide a link to the article as it is not available online, I will summarize the seven wonders of zinc discussed in the July 2020 issue of Better Nutrition (p. 17):
- Shorter colds: Zinc lozenges may reduce the duration of colds if taken within 24 hours of the first symptoms. Dissolve slowly in mouth every 2–3 hours.
- Faster wound healing: Zinc oxide ointments are helpful in healing cuts, burns, abrasions, and skin ulcers.
- Diabetes reduction: Zinc may help diabetics regulate their blood sugar. Some studies have shown that taking 20–30 mg of zinc daily for six months to a year also helped lower blood sugar in prediabetes.
- Longer lasting vision: In age-related studies of eye disease, zinc has been shown to slow the progression of eye disorders.
- Better brain function: Zinc deficiency in infants delays neurological development. In Alzheimer’s patients, zinc levels are typically low. And zinc has also been found to help people with depression.
- Healthier testosterone: Studies have shown that zinc is essential for men’s sexual health, including sperm production and fertility. In young men, zinc deficiency lowered testosterone levels. In older men, zinc increased testosterone levels.
- Healthier immune system: Zinc plays a critical role in many of the cellular processes in the immune system, so much so that it became one of the supplements that was regularly recommended during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A List of Foods Rich in Zinc
Following is a list and some information from WebMD on foods that are high in zinc:
- Oysters: “Oysters have by far the most zinc of any other food, with 74.1 milligrams in a 3-ounce serving of oysters that are cooked, breaded, and fried. That’s 673% of an average daily value.”
- Crab: “One serving of cooked Alaskan king crab (3 ounces) has 6.48 milligrams of zinc, which equates to 59% daily value. Eat plenty of shellfish to get a big dose of your daily zinc intake.”
- Beef: “Red meat, especially beef, packs a lot of zinc. A 3-ounce serving of a beef chuck roast gives you 8.44 milligrams of zinc”
- Pork: “Pork chops also offer a lot of iron and zinc to help you round out your diet. A serving of 4 ounces of pork chops contains 2 milligrams of zinc.”
- Lobster: “In addition to oysters and crab meat, lobster is yet another shellfish that includes plenty of zinc. One small lobster has 4.74 milligrams of zinc. Pair your lobster with beans or peas and enjoy this zinc-filled meal.”
- Chickpeas: “Legumes, including beans and nuts, contain significant amounts of zinc. Chickpeas are a great source of this nutrient. One serving of chickpeas (100 grams) contains 1.5 milligrams of zinc.”
- Cashews: “Nuts make a great snack throughout the day, and many are great sources of zinc for your daily balanced diet. Cashews, for example, contain 3 milligrams of zinc in just one package, or 56 grams. Cashews are a tasty way to increase your zinc intake throughout the day.”
Well, have I sold you? If not, you really must go back and read this blog post one more time, but hopefully if you’ve gotten this far you’ll make sure that both the major and trace minerals are a big, big part of your diet going forward. They truly do matter.[xyz-ihs snippet=”Begin-Authors-Note”]
Afterthoughts from the Traditional Cook
“Since zinc deficiency impairs your immune system—increasing the chances of infection—zinc deficiency is thought to cause over 450,000 deaths in children under 5 every year.
“Those at risk of zinc deficiency include:
- People with gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn’s disease
- Vegetarians and vegans
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Older infants who are exclusively breastfed
- People with sickle cell anemia
- People who are malnourished, including those with anorexia or bulimia
- People with chronic kidney disease
- Those who abuse alcohol
“Symptoms of mild zinc deficiency include diarrhea, decreased immunity, thinning hair, decreased appetite, mood disturbances, dry skin, and fertility issues and impaired wound healing. Zinc deficiency is difficult to detect using laboratory tests due to your body’s tight control over zinc levels. Thus, you may still be deficient even if tests indicate normal levels. Doctors consider other risk factors—such as poor dietary intake and genetics—alongside blood results when determining whether you need supplements.”
—Quoted from the article “Zinc: Everything You Need to Know,” at Healthline.com.
Now, if you have symptoms of a zinc deficiency, go back to that food list and see how you can increase your zinc intake.
Maria Atwood, CNHP[xyz-ihs snippet=”End-Authors-Note”]
Disclaimer from Maria Atwood, CNHP: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor or health practitioner prior to following any recommendations I make in my blog posts or on my website.
Images from iStock/mi-viri (main), FabrikaCr (oysters), Tetiana Mandziuk (nails).