Minerals are one of the essential nutrients our body needs, that we can not produce ourselves. We must obtain them via food! There are two different classifications of minerals. The first classification is macrominerals, such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, sodium, and chloride. The second classification is microminerals, such as iron, boron, chromium, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, silicon, vanadium, zinc, lithium, germanium, and rubidium. There are 103 known minerals in the world, and of those 103, 18 are considered essential for optimal health.
Minerals compose about 4% of our entire body. Though they are small, they are also mighty, and pretty tricky. All minerals are a game of cofactors. Meaning, all minerals need other contributors in the body to be working correctly in order for them to get their job done. Calcium is a big one for example. Almost everyone gets enough calcium, they are just missing the cofactors that allow the body to properly utilize it.
What does it take for our body to properly utilize the calcium we consume? It takes our systemic pH, hormonal function, hydration (water + electrolytes), other minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, and digestion to be working properly. For instance, our essential fatty acids have a very important job of transporting minerals, and increasing the calcium levels in our tissues. But, if our digestion is off and we do not have enough stomach acid (HCl), we won’t be able to utilize the calcium consumed in the first place, as calcium is only able to be absorbed in an acidic environment.
99% of our calcium is stored in our bones. Our bones are hard, calcified connective tissue, predominantly composed of mineral salts (for structure) and collagen fibers (for strength). Besides the obvious roles of our bones, they also produce our blood cells, and go through an important process called calcium homeostasis. Like our skin, our bones were constructed before we were born, and they are constantly reconstructing themselves. This process is commonly referred to as bone remodeling. Only when our bones go through calcium homeostasis, is calcium made available to other tissues. Our bones also have another important function, which is buffering the pH levels of our blood. When our blood pH rises, or becomes too alkaline, the bone removes calcium from the blood and deposits it back into the bone. When our blood pH falls, or becomes too acidic, the bone releases calcium into the blood. Our bones are another body part that quite literally keep us alive.
As mentioned before, other minerals are a factor in calcium being able to be utilized. This is not only true regarding calcium, it is true regarding all minerals. Our body needs to have proper mineral balance for all macrominerals and microminerals to be properly absorbed and utilized. While keeping all minerals balanced sounds like a tiring task, it is not if you make sure to eat a diverse diet of properly prepared, nutrient dense, whole foods!
BONUS: Common examples of where to find macrominerals:
Calcium: Kelp (also rich in magnesium and iodine)
Phosphorus: Almonds (also rich in calcium, magnesium, manganese, and zinc)
Magnesium: Brazil nuts (also rich in calcium, manganese, and selenium) Fun fact! If you have a sunburn, eat brazil nuts. The minerals in them help turn the burn into a tan!
Sulfur: Garlic (also rich in molybdenum).
Sodium: Salmon (also rich in phosphorus and potassium)
Did you notice that every food listed above containing calcium also contains magnesium? That is because they work hand in hand in the many roles they conduct, including contracting and relaxing your muscles. They need to be in balance at all times, which is why they naturally occur together in nature! Nature TRULY gives us what we need! If you have not noticed, I am such a nerd when it comes to that stuff. I find it so fascinating!