More often than not, conversations about nutrition revolve around the importance of nutrients like vitamins and proteins. We can all easily find and share information about which vitamins we should be getting from our diets, or how much protein we should be eating every day. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these aren’t the only nutrients your body needs. In fact, nutrients like minerals can often be overlooked, but it’s important that we don’t leave them out of the equation.
There are millions of minerals in the world, which begs a few questions. What types of minerals are available? Which do your body need? How can you make sure you are getting enough of them from your diet? We’re here to help you answer all these questions, so let’s dive in.
What Are Minerals?
Let’s start with the basics. Minerals are a group of inorganic nutrients, which means that they are compounds that do not contain carbon and are essential for the human body. They are responsible for major functions like cell growth and body development. However, because they are inorganic, your body is not able to produce minerals on its own, which is why they are considered an essential nutrient to include in your diet.
So, what are some of the minerals that your body needs? There are many, but some of the most commonly known ones are calcium, zinc, magnesium, iodine, and iron. We’ll take a closer look at these a little later. First, there is one more thing you need to understand about minerals—they are categorized into two groups: macrominerals and trace minerals.
These terms may sound technical, but the difference between these two types of minerals is simple—it all comes down to how much of the mineral your body needs. Macrominerals are those that your body needs in large amounts while trace minerals are those that you need in smaller, or trace, amounts.
Minerals Your Body Needs
There are many different minerals that your body needs. Let’s take a look at a few of the most important ones.
This is one of the most commonly known macrominerals, and it’s found in many of the foods we eat. Calcium is a mineral that helps build strong teeth and bones. It also helps with muscle contraction, blood clotting, and the release of hormones.
Available from both food and supplements, potassium is a macromineral that is important for regulating your heart rhythm and blood pressure. It also helps keep your digestive system healthy, regulate the balance of fluids in your body, and facilitate muscle contractions and nerve signals.
Another important macromineral for both your muscles and your nerves is sodium. This mineral plays a role in your body’s ability to contract and relax muscles, send nerve signals, and maintain a healthy balance of water and other minerals. Although sodium is considered a macromineral, your body only needs about 500 mg a day, so you still want to be careful not to go overboard with the salty foods in order to maintain optimal health.
Many people add foods and supplements that are rich in zinc to their diet because it is known to support the body’s natural immune response, but that’s not the only thing this trace mineral does. Your body also uses zinc during the process of creating DNA and proteins. This means that it is needed for the human body to grow and develop, and it’s extra important for pregnant women as it supports fetal development.
Another one of the more commonly known minerals is iron. Your body uses this trace mineral, to make hemoglobin, which is a protein found in red blood cells that is responsible for transporting oxygen throughout your body. Iron is also used in the process of making a protein called myoglobin, which helps provide oxygen to your muscles. Additionally, some of your body’s tissues and hormones are formed with the help of iron.
This is a trace mineral that helps your body make thyroid hormones, which are responsible for many bodily functions including regulating your metabolism. Iodine also helps with both brain development and bone formation, which makes it an important trace mineral for both young children and women who are pregnant.
This macromineral is important for a number of different processes within the body. Not only does it help regulate the function of your muscles and nerves, but it also plays a role in maintaining healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Additionally, magnesium is also needed for your body to form bones and create proteins and DNA.
Your body needs this trace mineral in order to break down proteins, carbohydrates, and cholesterol. Manganese is also used in the process of cell division and works with vitamin K to prevent excessive bleeding by helping your blood clot.
Including Minerals In Your Diet
The minerals that your body needs can be found in a variety of food sources, including:
- Meat: In particular, red meat, poultry, fish, and seafood are all great sources of minerals.
- Dairy Products: Yogurt, milk, and cheese are known to contain a variety of minerals.
- Vegetables: Minerals can be found in dark leafy vegetables like collard greens, spinach,, and kale.
- Wholegrain Cereals: They are also perfect for aiding digestion and have some of the highest mineral levels. Go for buckwheat, brown rice, oatmeal, millet, and whole wheat pastries.
- Blue-Green Algae: The beauty of blue-green algae is that it is rich in an abundance of nutrients, including both macro and trace minerals. Additionally, it makes for a great choice for those looking to reduce or remove animal products from their diets. When choosing which blue-green algae to add to your diet, it’s best to opt for options that are as unprocessed as possible so that the mineral content is not compromised.
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