Minerals in Foods Help Build Healthy CellsMar 31, 2022 ● By Keri Barron, Ph.D.
Photo credit bit4 for Adobe Stock
Minerals are vital to the health of cells, working as cofactors for reactions happening constantly in the body. Consuming adequate levels of minerals ensures healthy metabolism through proper functioning of thousands of cellular processes.
Magnesium is one of the most essential cofactors and is utilized in over 300 metabolic reactions including protein synthesis, cellular signaling, blood pressure regulation and muscle contraction. Magnesium is also important in blood glucose regulation and is required for DNA and RNA synthesis and energy production.
Minerals for bone health
Calcium and phosphorus are vital to bone health. Calcium is also involved in transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contraction, blood clotting and wound healing, and cellular signaling. Phosphorus plays an important role in energy metabolism and intracellular signaling and is an integral component of membrane phospholipids, and DNA and RNA.
Minerals for fluid balance
Potassium, sodium and chloride work together to maintain fluid balance within the body. High consumption of sodium may induce water retention and will eventually cause changes in arteries. High intake of potassium can counteract these effects at the cellular and tissue level. These minerals also transmit cellular signals through sodium-potassium pumps which control the physiological excitability of cells. This mechanism coordinates many cellular processes, drives the transmission of nerve impulses and aids in muscle contraction. Chloride is also important in the transmission of nerve impulses.
Minerals for antioxidant defense
Zinc, copper and manganese are components of superoxide dismutase enzymes, which neutralize free radicals. Zinc is also required by more than 300 enzymes and binds to over 2,500 proteins—approximately 10 percent of all human proteins. Functions of zinc include regulation of bone homeostasis and blood pressure, DNA repair and support of multiple facets of reproduction.
While required in very small amounts, trace minerals serve important functions. Iron is required for hemoglobin and myoglobin (the oxygen carriers) and for functions in cellular respiration, synthesis of neurotransmitters and nutritional immunity. Iodine supports the thyroid gland and chronically low intake can lead to the development of goiters. Selenium enhances the immune response and contributes to oxidative balance and the regulation of thyroid hormones. Finally, chromium may play a role in regulating carbohydrate and lipid metabolism.
Minerals are essential cofactors for many reactions and have diverse functions throughout cells in the body. Ensuring intake of all minerals at the recommended levels can help keep the body healthy.