Wellness Wednesday: Better Living Through Heavy Metal

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Wednesday, September 28, 2022
Iron ore

“Food” and “metal” are not two words normally put together, but the truth is there are essential metals out there that our bodies need to consume and process to stay healthy. These heavy alkali metals are minerals our bodies convert into fuel to manage blood pressure, strengthen bones, and do a host of other vital bodily functions.

While there are many necessary minerals (including calcium, chromium, copper, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, sodium, and sulfur),  this week we’re focusing on four of the biggest minerals: iron, potassium, zinc, and magnesium.

Iron

Most iron in the body can be found inside red blood cells and muscle cells. Iron is an essential part of our health: it helps our red blood cells carry oxygen throughout our body. Low levels of red blood cells can be rebuilt with iron, which is also often used to prevent or treat anemia. Iron can have a positive impact on cognitive function as well.

Benefits of iron include:

  • Helps regulate body temperature
  • Maintains muscle tone and elasticity
  • Boosts immune system 
  • Helps treat fatigue 
  • Can be used to treat restless leg syndrome 
  • Boosts metabolism and improves concentration

Foods rich in iron include:

  • Shellfish 
  • Organ meats 
  • Spinach 
  • Quinoa 
  • Red meat 
  • Pumpkin seeds 
  • Turkey 
  • Broccoli 
  • Dried apricots 
  • Brown rice

Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential nutrient that helps several of your body's processes run smoothly. Sixty percent of the magnesium in your body goes to your bones, while the rest works on muscles, soft tissues, and blood. Some research suggests that magnesium may also play a role in helping prevent or treat chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer's.

Magnesium does the following:

  • Helps convert food into energy  
  • Aids in muscle contraction and relaxation 
  • Assists in regulating neurotransmitters that send messages throughout your brain and nervous system
  • Protein production
  • Disposes of lactate and moves blood sugar into your muscles
  • Protects against bone loss and osteoporosis

Foods that are good sources of magnesium include:

  • Legumes (black beans, edamame, lima beans) 
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, flaxseed, peanuts, pumpkin seeds)
  • Avocados 
  • Dark chocolate 
  • Tofu
  • Whole grains  
  • Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, halibut) 
  • Leafy greens (kale, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens)

Zinc

Zinc is an essential nutrient but is not manufactured by the body. Zinc impacts a variety of physical processes, including wound healing, body growth and development, protein synthesis, proper immune function, and enzymatic reactions. There's a reason why zinc supplements are often recommended as a go-to treatment when people catch colds or flus: this nutrient kicks your immune system up a notch.

Zinc can assist you by:

  • Improving immune function 
  • Accelerating wound healing, burn treatments, and managing ulcers 
  • Decreases inflammation 
  • Boosts mental performance 
  • Can treat acne

Foods that are high in zinc content include:

  • Red meat 
  • Shellfish 
  • Legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils) 
  • Nuts (pine nuts, cashews, almonds) 
  • Dairy (cheese and milk) 
  • Eggs 
  • Potatoes 
  • Dark chocolate

Potassium

You know how people tell you to eat a banana if you get a leg cramp? Potassium is why that life hack works. Potassium does double duty as both a mineral and an electrolyte. Your body is designed to take in and maintain potassium levels (your kidneys help do this by filtering out excess amounts of potassium through your urine) but doesn't produce any of its own naturally. Potassium helps balance out the sodium levels in your bloodstream while also alleviating your blood pressure by relaxing the walls of your blood vessels.

  • Beneficial effects of potassium include:
  • Can manage or reduce high blood pressure 
  • Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke
  • Improve bone density 
  • Preserves muscle mass
  • Reduces risk of developing kidney stones
  • Alleviates muscle cramps

Some foods that are rich with potassium include:

  • Bananas 
  • Fruit juice (orange, prune, tomato, apricot, grapefruit) 
  • Cucumbers 
  • Peas 
  • Zucchini 
  • Pumpkins 
  • Leafy greens 
  • Sweet potatoes 
  • Oranges 
  • Apricots 
  • Grapefruit 
  • Milk 
  • Yogurt 
  • Fish (tuna, halibut, cod, trout, rockfish) 
  • Legumes 
  • Molasses 
  • Nuts 
  • Poultry 
  • Bran cereal

 

Article by Austin Brietta

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