Although required in very small amounts, trace elements such as iron, iodine, fluoride, copper, zinc, chromium, selenium, manganese and molybdenum
Although required in very small amounts, trace elements such as iron, iodine, fluoride, copper, zinc, chromium, selenium, manganese and molybdenum are vital for maintaining health. Also referred to as microminerals, these trace elements are part of enzymes, hormones and cells in the body. Insufficient intake of trace minerals can cause symptoms of nutritional deficiency. However, your needs for these trace elements are easily met by eating a variety of foods from the different food groups.
As a component of hemoglobin in blood, one of the most important functions of iron is to transport oxygen from the lungs to different parts of the body. In myoglobin, iron enables storage of oxygen in muscle cells. Iron is also part of many enzymes and is essential for growth, healing, immune function and synthesis of DNA. For adequate intakes of this essential nutrient, include foods such as beef, poultry, fish, soybean flour, spinach, beans and fortified cereals in your diet.
Iodine is critical for formation of thyroid hormones T3, or triiodothyronine, and T4, or thyroxine. Inadequate production of thyroid hormones can cause enlargement of the thyroid gland, also known as goiter, while its deficiency during pregnancy can cause irreversible brain damage in newborns. However, you can get sufficient amounts of iodine by consuming iodized salt, seafood, eggs and milk.
Well recognized for its role in forming bones and teeth, fluoride is present in the body as calcium fluoride. Fluoride hardens tooth enamel, reduces incidence of tooth decay and may prevent bone loss. While your main source of fluoride is fluoridated water, fluorine is also present in saltwater fish, tea and coffee.
Copper prevents damage to cells due to its antioxidant action, and as a component of many enzymes it helps in production of energy from carbohydrates, protein and fat. Copper is also essential for formation of bone, connective tissues and red blood cells. It is present in many foods including organ meats, shellfish, chocolate, beans and whole-grain cereals.
In addition to its role in formation of enzymes, zinc improves immune function, helps clot blood, maintains sense of taste and smell, keeps skin healthy and enables normal growth and development. You can obtain sufficient amounts of zinc by regularly eating eggs, seafood, red meats, fortified cereals and whole grains.
Chromium and Selenium
Chromium is an important trace mineral that is necessary for normal functioning of insulin, a hormone that maintains blood sugar levels. It is also essential for metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Some important sources of chromium include liver, processed meats, brewer’s yeast, whole grains, cheese and nuts. Selenium, along with vitamin E works as an antioxidant that prevents damage of cells, may prevent some cancers and is essential for the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. Meat, seafood, nuts and cereals are good sources of selenium.
Manganese and Molybdenum
Manganese not only helps in the formation of enzymes, but is also necessary for their activation. It works as an antioxidant, helps develop bones and heals wounds by increasing collagen production. Good sources of manganese include pineapple, nuts, whole grains and beans. Like manganese, molybdenum helps activate some enzymes and enables normal cell function. Dietary sources of molybdenum include milk, legumes, whole-grain breads and nuts.