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Monday, June 21, 2010

Mighty Minerals - The Majors Part 2

Today we are learning about the other 3 "major" minerals - phosphorus,. potassium and sodium. Let's begin!

Phosphorus is the second largest mineral in your body (after calcium) and is required by every cell in your body. You'll find it in bones (85% of phosphorus is found here) and teeth, as well as acting as a pH buffer in your blood. Phosphorus is also a part of phospholipids which transport cholesterol through the circulatory system; and many of the vitamins which act as coenzymes also contain some phosphorus in the form of phosphate. It is part of adenosine triphosphate (the "P" in ATP) which is important for metabolism. The best sources are dairy products, meat, legumes and fish. The daily recommended values is 700 mg per day.

Potassium is one of the metallic minerals which plays a role in muscle contraction - which is why low potassium levels lead to cramping during exercise. It also plays a role in nerve impulses and the conversion of food into energy (glucose into glycogen). Potassium helps to regulate blood pressure and is therefore linked to the prevention of hypertension; the sodium / potassium balance is critical (they are balanced by chloride). Luckily, potassium is easy to find - bananas, watermelon, strawberries, apricots, legumes and milk are all good sources. The daily recommended intake is 3500 mg per day.

Sodium is the most abundant cation in our bodies where it helps to maintain the osmotic pressure between our blood and our cells. It is often referred to as an electrolyte because of its role in balancing the anion/cation makeup (calcium, potassium and chloride also fit in this category). Sodium is primarily extracellular, whereas potassium is intracellular. It is this balancing act, the transfer of sodium and potassium in and out of cells that accounts for the majority of the energy expenditure of your whole body. People generally excrete 90% of their ingested sodium; your kidneys pull excess sodium out of your body and you lose some by sweating. Even the most athletic amongst us probably do not need to increase our sodium intake (marathon runners are an exception, as is anyone who has lost ~3 quarts of fluid), as the US diet is rather high in this particular mineral. (Note: not everyone is affected in the same way by sodium, so while it is generally recommended that everyone reduce their daily intake, there is no one correct amount for everyone.) There is a daily intake we should try to meet, but unlike the other minerals, this is a "less than", not an "at least" value of 2400 mg per day.

Well, we've covered all of the major minerals, and next we will move on to the trace minerals. Although they may not be needed in the same quantities, they are none the less important to your body's overall health and its functions!

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