Monthly Archives: February 2011

Key Minerals for Healthy Bones

It seems that most of what you read about nutrition focuses on the big five nutrients – protein, fat, carbohydrate, water, and vitamins. There are all the debates about what are “good” and what are “bad”, make sure you drink your eight glasses of water, oh no my doctor just told me I’m Vitamin D deficient! Outside of calcium for our bones we do not hear a lot about the sixth classification of macronutrients – minerals. I’ve decided to devote the next couple of articles to them. We’ll start today with the minerals most important for bone health – calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Just a quick back primer on why minerals are important to us. First, they assist the body in energy production – minerals contain no calories or energy. They work with vitamins and enzymes to fuel all your metabolic processes. We do not make minerals so they must come from the earth and what we eat. Unfortunately, due to soil conditions in much of the country, many of the minerals have been depleted, so they are not as readily available in the food we eat.

Calcium

Calcium is one of the most talked about minerals and for good reason. It supports strong bone structure, teeth, and muscle tissue, aids in blood clotting function, supports cardiovascular and nerve functions, and helps in normal functioning of many enzymes. We often hear about it in conjunction with osteoporosis. Everyone needs more calcium to build their bones, so everyone is throwing down a whole bunch of calcium supplements. Well, there are a couple of problems.

First off – is the biggest problem with this strategy. While it is true that we need calcium to build our bones, it is one of 18 nutrients that are required. And let’s get a little better understanding of how our bones work. They are constantly breaking down and rebuilding. What happens in osteopenia and osteoporosis? The breakdown process occurs, but the bone does not rebuild. Why? One reason is the lack of the other nutrients required to build bone. Medications are designed to slow down the breakdown process and subsequent bone density scans will show more bone. Unfortunately for many people, it is weak bone and still may fracture. There are many other resources you can go to read more on this.

Second – most of the calcium in supplements is not very absorbable for our bodies. We need to be able to utilize the calcium we take in. One of the more absorbable forms of calcium is Calcium Lactate.

What else contributes to our calcium shortages? Would you believe soft drink (soda) consumption? The reason is that phosphorus is added to them. Phosphorus and calcium need to be in a specific relationship in our body. So, when we take in excessive phosphorus and don’t have sufficient calcium intakes, our body must take it from a storage location. You guessed it – the bones!

The best sources of calcium are of course from food. It is also a misconception that this has to come from milk. Leafy green vegetables are a great source of calcium. For calcium choose: bone meal, cheese (best are Cheddar, mozzarella, and Swiss), collard greens, flaxseed, liver, milk, molasses, mustard greens, sesame seeds, spinach, turnip greens, wheat germ and yogurt.

Phosphorus

We are bombarded with messages about the importance of calcium for our bones. Well, without phosphorus all the calcium in the world will not do you much good. In fact, it may cause harm if there is too much calcium and not sufficient phosphorus. Phosphorus is the second key mineral by content in our bones. It supports healthy bone formation, energy production, cell growth and repair (remember blood cells are made in our bones), collagen synthesis (that’s what helps make the bone), cardiovascular function, and nerve and muscle activity. It is a key part of calcium and sugar metabolism.

What happens when the calcium to phosphorus ratio is out of balance? Too much phosphorus and less calcium cause the body to pull calcium out of its storage spots and we get teeth and bone erosion ultimately leading to osteoporosis. On the reverse, too much calcium and not enough phosphorus causes excess calcium in the tissues. This leads to things like kidney stones, cataracts, and arthritis.

Food sources of phosphorus include almonds, brewer’s yeast, eggs, fish (halibut, salmon), glandular meats, lean beef, lentils, liver, milk, peanuts, poultry, pumpkin seeds, wheat bran, and yogurt.

Phosphorus is supporting many body systems including the circulatory, digestive, liver, metabolic, nervous, kidney, and most important the musculoskeletal.

Magnesium

Magnesium is certainly one of the most important minerals to the body. It is the third most important mineral for bone health. Magnesium supports normal acid/alkaline and blood pH balance. Are you in balance? A quick way to check is to get some pH paper and check your saliva and urine. Saliva pH should be around 7.4.

Magnesium aids in enzyme activation. Enzymes make everything happen in the body! It helps metabolize blood sugar and produce cortisone. Keeping your blood sugar levels under control is the key to health! Another important role of magnesium is to support healthy nerve and muscle function. It works with calcium to keep the nerves firing and the muscles moving! It is involved in nerve signal transmission, muscle contraction, and heart rhythm. Keeps the heart beating! And along with calcium and phosphorus it assists in forming bones and teeth. It is one of the 18 nutrients critical to bone health.

As you can see, this is definitely something we need to consume! Magnesium is found in artichokes, beans and seeds (black, green, navy, pinto, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), cashews, broccoli, organ meats, seafood (halibut, salmon, shrimp), spinach, Swiss chard, and tomatoes.

Manganese

Manganese may be one of those minerals that you’ve never even considered for how important it is for the human body. While calcium gets all the attention regarding bone health, manganese is also very important for bone formation. In fact, there are 18 different nutrients required for the body to build healthy bone.

Manganese is also important in the formation and activation of enzymes that metabolize oxygen, carbohydrates, amino acids, and cholesterol. And perhaps even more critical is that manganese is required to detoxify our body from any naturally produced ammonia. Ammonia is poison to the body, so it must be removed.

The blood, liver, immune, musculoskeletal, nervous, and reproductive systems all utilize manganese.

There are lots of food sources of manganese. It is prevalent in nuts and seeds (almonds, peanuts, pecans, walnuts), legumes (garbanzo beans, green peas, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans), grains (brown rice, wheat germ, oats, rye), vegetables (beets, broccoli, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes), cloves, liver, nutritional yeast, pineapple, and raspberries.

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. His office is in Thiensville. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at bernie@brwellness.com, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.

Potassium – Sodium’s Partner

What does potassium do?  It is critical for the ongoing health of every cell in our body.  That’s a pretty important job!  Along with its partner sodium, the two minerals balance the nutrient and waste exchange of each cell.  Potassium is involved in nerve and muscle functioning where it again teams with sodium.  It also maintains our body’s fluid balance, electrolyte balance, and pH balance.

Additional functions of potassium include aiding in sugar metabolism, activating enzymes, supporting healthy heart function, and calming the nervous system.

While we often hear of bananas as being a great source of potassium, they are also quite high in sugar.  Here are some additional healthy options to get in your potassium: almonds, artichokes, avocado, beet greens, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale, lentils, lima beans, oranges, papaya, pinto beans, prunes, raisins, spinach, sunflower seeds, Swiss chard, tomatoes, wheat germ, winter squash, and yams.  Plenty of healthy options!

Magnesium One of the Most Important Minerals

Magnesium is certainly one of the most important minerals to the body.  Here’s a short list of what it does:
1. Supports normal acid/alkaline and blood pH balance.  Are you in balance?  A quick way to check is to get some pH paper and check your saliva and urine.  Saliva pH should be around 7.4.
2. Aids in enzyme activation. Enzymes make everything happen in the body!
3. Helps metabolize blood sugar and produce cortisone.  Keeping your blood sugar levels under control is the key to health!
4. Supports healthy nerve and muscle function.  Works with calcium to keep the nerves firing and the muscles moving!  It is involved in nerve signal transmission, muscle contraction, and heart rhythm.  Keeps the heart beating!
5. Assists in forming bones and teeth.  One of the 18 nutrients I speak of that are critical to bone health.
6. Plays a role in nucleic acid, protein, carbohydrate, and fat synthesis.

As you can see, this is definitely something we need to consume!  Magnesium is found in artichokes, beans and seeds (black, green, navy, pinto, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), cashews, broccoli, organ meats, seafood (halibut, salmon, shrimp), spinach, Swiss chard, and tomatoes.

K is for Clotting But Also For Bone Health

Vitamin K – easy to remember – K is for “clotting”, well there is actually lots more to it!  Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamins (the others being A, D, and E).  While it is best known for clotting, it is also involved in bone mineralization, a critical part of making bone. It also promotes healthy liver function.

But, let’s go back to the bone part.  We are all familiar with how prevalent osteoporosis is in this country.  We are bombarded with the advertisements and the need for calcium supplements to magically cure this condition.  As I’ve mentioned previously it is not just calcium, but there are 18 nutrients required to build bone.  One of them is Vitamin K.  And guess what? Most people are not getting enough of this vitamin either.  It is readily available, but of course you have to like vegetables!  The top food sources are the Cruciferous family of vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.  It is also in the dark green leafy vegetables (think kale), eggs, and liver.  For optimal health you should be eating these foods daily.  Your blood, liver, metabolism, and bones depend on it!

Phosphorus – While Calcium Gets All the Notoriety This Mineral is Quite Important Too!

We are bombarded with messages about the importance of calcium for our bones.  Well, without phosphorus all the calcium in the world will not do you much good.  In fact, it may cause harm if there is too much calcium and not sufficient phosphorus.  Phosphorus is the second key mineral by content in our bones.  It supports healthy bone formation, energy production, cell growth and repair (remember blood cells are made in our bones), collagen synthesis (that’s what helps make the bone), cardiovascular function, and nerve and muscle activity.  It is a key part of calcium and sugar metabolism.

What happens when the calcium to phosphorus ratio is out of balance? Too much phosphorus and less calcium causes the body to pull calcium out of its storage spots and we get teeth and bone erosion ultimately leading to osteoporosis.  By the way – do you know how many people get too much phosphorus?  It comes from drinking carbonated beverages.  Phosphorus helps make them bubble! Another reason soft drinks are not good for us, besides the sugar or artificial sweeteners being used.  On the reverse, too much calcium and not enough phosphorus causes excess calcium in the tissues.  This leads to things like kidney stones, cataracts, and arthritis.

Phosphorus is supporting may body systems including the circulatory, digestive, liver, metabolic, nervous, kidney, and most important the musculoskeletal.

Food sources of phosphorus include almonds, brewer’s yeast, eggs, fish (halibut, salmon), glandular meats, lean beef, lentils, liver, milk, peanuts, poultry, pumpkin seeds, wheat bran, and yogurt.

Zinc – Did You Know Viruses Like It?

Zinc we are often told is good for the immune system.  True, but apparently viruses like it too!  What does that mean?  Taking that zinc lozenge may not always be the best idea if it is a virus you are fighting.

Yet, zinc is a very important mineral, especially for men.  Zinc is one of the key ingredients for the prostate gland.  Men will want to make sure they are getting sufficient zinc.  One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Zinc supports the formation of many enzymes and insulin.  The same insulin we need for blood sugar control.  It also assists with wound healing, reproductive organ growth and development, and metabolism of phosphorus, carbohydrates, and proteins.  Putting it simply – zinc helps many body processes work.

Zinc also has a special relationship with copper – one of antagonism.  That means if your zinc levels rise, your copper levels will decrease, or if your copper levels rise, your zinc levels will decrease.  This is very significant for women as too much copper can make them “copper crazy”.  Too much copper throws hormones out of balance and results in many of the “female symptoms”.  What gets copper levels high?  The big three are birth control pills, copper IUDs, and soy (another reason not to like soy).

Zinc is found in many foods including almonds, beets, carrots, cashews, Cheddar cheese, green peas, lamb, lean beef and pork, liver, milk, mushrooms, peanuts, poultry, pumpkin seeds, seafood (crabs, oysters, shrimp), sesame seeds, spinach, wheat germ, whole grains, and yogurt.  Lots of healthy food choices to get your zinc!

Manganese

Manganese may be one of those minerals that you’ve never even considered for how important it is for the human body.  While calcium gets all the attention regarding bone health, manganese is also very important for bone formation.  In fact, there are 18 different nutrients required for the body to build healthy bone.  For more on that see my earlier post regarding calcium (Calcium Blog ).

Manganese is also important in the formation and activation of enzymes that metabolize oxygen, carbohydrates, amino acids, and cholesterol.  And perhaps even more critical is that manganese is required to detoxify our body from any naturally produced ammonia.  Ammonia is poison to the body, so it must be removed.

The blood, liver, immune, musculoskeletal, nervous, and reproductive systems all utilize manganese.

There are lots of food sources of manganese.  It is prevalent in nuts and seeds (almonds, peanuts, pecans, walnuts), legumes (garbanzo beans, green peas, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans), grains (brown rice, wheat germ, oats, rye), vegetables (beets, broccoli, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes), cloves, liver, nutrtional yeast, pineapple, and raspberries.

Iron

We’re all familiar with how important iron is for the health of our blood.  Iron aids in hemoglobin production, which is critical in the transportation of oxygen around the body.  Oxygen fuels the body and hemoglobin helps get it around!  Iron also supports enzyme formation and function – enzymes too make things happen in the body.  The iron containing enzymes are required for energy production and to carry oxygen throughout the body.  Iron is also part of the enzyme system that produces DNA – the blueprint of the body – so it is critical in growth, reproduction, healing, and immune function.

Food source of iron include artichokes, beets, broccoli, legumes (garbanzo beans, green beans, kidney beans, lentils, navy beans, and pinto beans), mushrooms, organ meats, parsley, pumpkin seeds, seafood (clams, shrimp), sesame seeds, and wheat germ.

Iron is tricky as too little can cause anemia—but too much can lead to atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular problems. Unlike other minerals, excess iron is not excreted from the body. Instead, it’s stored in the tissues, accelerating iron overload indefinitely.  To read even more about iron:
http://www.annlouise.com/blog/2011/02/07/iron-is-a-double-edged-mineral/

Selenium

I’m going to focus the next few posts on more of the key minerals we need to consume.  Minerals are important because essentially they make things happen in the body along with enzymes.  Without minerals, things don’t happen!  It is that easy.

Selenium acts as an antioxidant with Vitamin E and aids in DNA and protein synthesis. It is these antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and prevent them from damaging tissues and cells.  It supports a healthy immune system response (keeps you healthy), prostaglandin production (these are hormone precursors), and healthy reproductive, pancreatic, and thyroid functions.  If you remember some of my previous comments about synthetic versus natural vitamins, you’ll find that real Vitamin E complex contains selenium.  Guess what doesn’t?  Yes, synthetic Vitamin E.  Perhaps that is why when “they” do the studies that conclude Vitamin E does not support heart health, if we look closer we learn they are using synthetic and not real Vitamin E.  Seems to make a difference.

Selenium is also important in the blood, cardiovascular, endocrine, enzymatic, immune, integumentary, nervous, and renal systems.  Essentially it is used throughout the body.

Where to get it?  One of the best sources is Brazil nuts.  I have 4-5 every morning in my protein shake.  Other sources include barley, broccoli, brown rice, lamb, lean meats, milk, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, organ meats, seafood (cod, crab, halibut, salmon, shrimp, snapper, tuna), tomatoes, turnips, walnuts, wheat germ, and whole grains.

Folic Acid

Today’s nutrient is Folic Acid, also known as Folate.  But, once again (as we’ve seen with other vitamins), while portrayed to the public as identical, they are not.  Humans are not able to make their own folate, so it is something we need to eat.  Natural sources of folate include leafy greens (collard greens, spinach), citrus fruits, legumes (black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, lentils, navy beans, pinto beans), liver, eggs, diary products, asparagus, and nutritional yeast.

Folate is critical to the metabolism of nucleic acids and amino acids.  Because of this, it supports overall growth and development and blood cell formation and supports normal growth of the fetus.  Folic acid was added to many foods to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects, in fact there was a mandate to add folic acid to all cereal grain to products in the US.

So, what was discovered?  Well, you guessed it.  From the good intentions of the food police we now have several studies suggesting that over consumption of folic acid to colon, lung, and prostate cancers.  If you are taking folic acid as a supplement you may want to revisit that and look for companies that use natural folate in their products.

Here’s a link to the article in Prevention Magazine explaining this: Prevention Magazine article