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The effect of other Foods on mineral Intake.

Minerals are inorganic substances required by the body in small amounts for a variety of different functions,such as  in the formation of bones and teeth; they are essential constituents of body fluids and tissues; they are components of enzyme systems and they are involved in normal nerve function. The body requires different amounts of each mineral and different individuals will  have different requirements, according to their age, sex, physiological state (e.g. pregnancy) and sometimes their state of health.

Some people take supplements as a sourceof minerals and vitamins, while this is ok, we need to be mindful of the fact that minerals are often absorbed more efficiently by the body if supplied in foods rather than as supplements. . Eating a varied diet will help ensure an adequate supply of most minerals for healthy people.  

We also need to be mindful to the understanding that certain groups of people may have higher requirements for specific minerals, e.g. women with particularly heavy periods may need extra iron, and extra calcium (and vitamin D) because they might at a high risk of osteoporosis. In such cases, supplements may be useful but should not replace a varied and healthy diet.

Another useful fact when it comes to minerals is : The bioavailability and absorption of minerals

The bioavailability of a mineral (i.e. how readily it can be absorbed and used by the body) may be influenced by a variety of factors. Bioavailability will depend upon the chemical form of the mineral, other substances present in the diet and (for nutrients such as iron) the individual person’s needs as determined by how much of the nutrient is already stored in the body. This is because the body has sensitive mechanisms for preventing storage of nutrients that can be damaging in excess (as is the case with iron).

For example, the bioavailability of iron from plant sources (non-haem iron) is relatively poor compared with iron from meat (haem iron) but absorption is increased when vitamin C is consumed during the same meal because the vitamin C converts it to a more bioavailable chemical form, here once again we are justifying the need for taking in a diet that is varied as absorption in the body is affected by the other food components that are present in the diet.

Some dietary constituents reduce bioavailability. Phytate, for example, found in products made from wholegrain cereals (especially unleavened breads such as chapattis) can bind and hence reduce the absorption of calcium, iron and zinc. Iodine absorption may be hindered by nitrates. Similarly, oxalate present in spinach and rhubarb binds any calcium present, making it unavailable for absorption. Also an excess of one mineral may hinder the absorption of another by competing for the same transport systems in the gut, e.g. excess iron reduces zinc absorption. This generally only becomes a problem when zinc intakes are already marginal.

you need to ensure that your food intake is made up of the right amounts of protein, carbohydrates,fat ,minerals and vitamins and that there is a balance between energy intake and expenditure.

Reuben Muzeya. Msc.

Accreditted Trainer for Nutrition Courses of the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) of the UK. 

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