Minerals, the overlooked supplement

There is an incredible amount of literature written about vitamins these days. We are bombarded with anecdotal stories of vitamins and how we'll all be better people, happier and more successful if we use vitamins. Yes, vitamins do play an important role in our health and should not be overlooked, yet did you know that the amount of vitamins the body needs for healthy function in a day's time will fit on the head of a pin -- and no one says much about minerals. Why? We could all go several days without certain vitamins and not suffer any serious imbalances, but let our potassium or magnesium levels become low, or sodium, and it could be life-threatening within a few hours or even a few minutes.

When my students and I get into a debate about minerals, I jokingly -- but only half jokingly -- remind them that if you cremate the body, you do not have a box of vitamins, you have a box of minerals. The essence of cellular structure and function in every living plant and animal is derived totally from minerals and mineral-based compounds. Without minerals present in the correct amounts, vitamins are useless to the body. Nothing can make the body feel more lifeless, flat and fatigued than mineral imbalance.

The average American eating the standard American diet is usually mineral-deficient. Just how mineral-deficient a person is will vary depending on genetics, diet, stress, age, sex, general health, medication use, etc.

One of the best ways to supplement the diet with minerals naturally is the use of fresh vegetable juices. A good vegetable juicer starts at around $80. They're easy to use and clean, and the power-packed energy punch you get from fresh vegetable juice is great! Did you know that a glass of fresh carrot juice contains 2 1/2 times the amount of usable calcium than milk, and contains about as much potassium as a banana. A few sprigs of parsley juiced with carrots will give you as much potassium as three bananas, more usable iron than a 4oz steak, and several trace minerals that are completely missing in today's diet. An ounce of beet juice, although actually low in iron as compared with red meat, will give your body more usable iron than that serving of red meat. The lowly red beet contains several co-factors that help the body utilize the iron in the beet very efficiently.

For those of you concerned about calcium supplementation, be sure you are taking a usable form of calcium balanced with magnesium. The relationship between these two minerals brings balance in the body. If you took the time to measure calcium intake in your diet, most everyone would find their diet is sufficient in calcium -- yet that calcium remains ''biounavailable'' to the body without magnesium present.

All calcium is not created equal! Oyster shell and calcium carbonate (lime stone rock) are good sources of calcium; it doesn't guarantee that the body will be able to break it down into a usable form or assimilate it. Minerals in general are very hard for the body to digest and assimilate; that's why I prefer the more natural forms. We evolved eating plants and plant-based foods including herbs -- things the body can chemically understand and break down.

Herbs are naturally high in minerals and they are a natural adjunct to good health. Here are some herbals I like to use for mineral supplementation:

Dandelion, Comfrey, Horsetail -- high in calcium

Red Clover and Nettle -- high in magnesium

Yellow dock & Nettles -- high in Iron

Nettles, Dandelion, Malva -- high in potassium

Dandelion, sea vegetables -- high in natural sodium

sea vegetables -- high in various trace minerals

If you do choose to use a mineral supplement, it's best to use a balanced mineral supplement. Look for the words chelated, krebs cycle or aspartate. These mineral supplements will be much easier for the body to digest and assimilate. It's preferable to take minerals in the evening as they are used for regeneration and restoration.

Till next time, Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online February 22, 2000

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