Minerals are the unsung heroes of the micronutrient world. Sure, everyone knows that Vitamin C is beneficial, but asking about molybdenum will draw a blank. Each one is involved in hundreds of biochemical functions in your body. Small (or trace) amounts may only be required, but too much or too little can often cause imbalance, which may have a subtle impact on your health or end up being a major contributor to disease states.
Minerals are involved in every biochemical process in the body. Building bones and teeth, balancing blood sugar, regulating blood pressure and metabolizing toxins are just a few. They also significantly impact muscle contraction and nerve function (think calcium and magnesium but manganese and potassium are important too!). Minerals like copper and iron help to balance mood and synthesize neurotransmitters which impact cognition as well.
Minerals are considered essential not just because we require them to function, but because we don’t make them ourselves – we need to ingest them in our diet. Minerals are found in rocks, soil and water. They are absorbed through the soil by plants or by animals who eat plants grown in mineral-rich soils.
All plants require seventeen elements to grow, and some require an additional four. Plants can get carbon, hydrogen and oxygen from the air and water – the others have to be derived from the soil and amendments. Farming methods have a significant impact on what nutrients will be released from the soil and available for plants to use and absorb. The components of soil have a huge impact on the nutritional content of your food. In other words, a carrot isn’t always a carrot. Based on where and how it was grown, it’s vitamin and mineral make up can vary greatly.
If that’s not enough, the water being hard or soft not only impacts how well plants can hydrate, but it also affects how much nutrition they can absorb from the soil. Hard water (water with more salts in it) requires more energy and nutrition to break down. By binding nutrients and inhibiting natural, biological processes in the soil, hard water undermines the health of the plant, resulting in less resilient crops that have a harder time conserving water.
While traditional agriculture relied on composting, modern agriculture has focused on yield rather than quality, and has employed methods to make more food with access to abundant calories, all the while depleting the soil of its nutritional content. Organic and regenerative farming focus on soil health, thereby creating a finished product that is higher not only in minerals, but vitamins and protein as well. Crop rotation, composting (which provides an array of minerals, rather than just a few found in fertilizers), and resting the land all create a much healthier environment for plants to grow and be resilient.
The best bet to find nutrient-dense foods is at your local farms. Accessible through farmers markets or CSA’s, most organic farmers are committed to improving their soil to create a better product and make their farm more resilient to drought. If your food has been recently harvested and not lost days in transportation, the nutrient content will be higher as well. Organic produce from your local grocery store is also a better choice.
Nicola Dehlinger, ND, graduated from SCNM. Dr. Nicola sees clients from around the world in her naturopathic medical practice, Pura Vida Natural Healthcare, in Durango, CO. She is an expert in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. She is able to minimize supplements and medications as her patients become empowered to heal themselves. In addition to seeing clients, Dr. Nicola leads group and private retreats. She teaches a variety of online and in-person classes. In her free time, you can find Dr. Nicola in the mountains or the kitchen, enjoying time with her husband, son, and dogs. Website: www.puravidahealthcare.com