Like most people I know, I used to lump minerals and vitamins together as one thing in my mind.
I never realized how important minerals are to so many different biological processes in the human body until recently. And, as I have discovered, these is major difference between the two. In fact, without the proper trace minerals present in the body, vitamins become obsolete.
Minerals are the building blocks of life, and in today’s society—agriculturally dominated by monocropping and the widespread use of pesticides and fertilizers—many of us have severe mineral deficiencies which are adversely affecting our health, and we might not even realise it.
Most of us know that food is composed of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, and many of us are also aware of the presence of other nutrients such as Vitamin C in our food. Minerals, which we probably all remember from the periodic table of elements we studied in chemistry class, are an additional vital component to our food.
Why Our Bodies Need Minerals.
There are 118 elements known to humankind and our bodies need many of these elements—most of them in only trace amounts—to properly function. Every second, inside us, there are billions of tiny chemical reactions taking place. For example, cells breath just like we do and there are a lot of chemical reactions that take place to make this happen. Without the mineral phosphorus for example, the process of cellular respiration would be impossible.
Without the proper amounts of trace minerals the body also cannot maintain healthy bones or effectively regulate transmissions between nerve cells. Without minerals our bodies simply cannot operate efficiently. But where are we supposed to get these minerals from?
In past centuries we would have received them from our food, however, because of our planet’s current soil conditions, most people are only getting three minerals from their diet. Yes, that’s correct. Most people are only getting three minerals in the proper amounts from their diet of the many which are required to maintain a balanced body.
Why Minerals Aren’t In Our Food.
How is this possible? There are two major reasons for this and they both relate to the agricultural industry. The tendency in the agricultural industry is to grow one crop at a time on a specific area of land, typically referred to as a monocrop.
Farming monocrops is easier and cheaper for farmers because different species of crops need to be planted and harvested at different times. Different species of plants also have unique water requirements and require different levels of exposure to sunlight. Because of this, managing many crops at once on the same tract of land would require a lot more work. There is also an art and a science to planting crops in the correct groups, which can facilitate symbiotic relationships. We have largely lost this art to the practices of modern agriculture.
The major issue with monocropping is that it completely goes against nature. In nature we see a vast array of plants and animals living in the same space. There are complex and symbiotic relationships between all of these species which contribute to soil fertility. Without going into too much detail, each plant, animal, insect and microorganism plays a part in the system. A simple example of this is that plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and emit oxygen for us to breath. These types of symbiotic relationships exist everywhere in nature.
When there is only one crop, such as corn, on a piece of land and pesticides are also being sprayed, which kill insects and microorganisms, the symbiotic relationships which create healthy topsoil are destroyed. To “fix” the issues created by monocropping, humans invented fertilizers.
Most of us know that fertilizers are used on farms to boost productivity of crops and enhance soil. These fertilizers tend to contain primarily three minerals, which are N (Nitrogen), P (Phosphorus), and K (Potassium), commonly referred to as NPK.
This is because these three minerals alone will make crops look healthy and colorful. The problem is that these three minerals by themselves do not create healthy and natural topsoil and, as a result, most crops end up only containing NPK at the proper levels. This leads to crop yields which look attractive, but are mostly void of real nutritional value. Some farms do use other minerals in addition to NPK but typically still fail to create truly healthy topsoil. The conditions for healthy topsoil and crops require a biodiverse environment as well as an abundance of minerals in the soil.
How We can get the Minerals That we Need.
Even if we are eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables, chances are the crops were grown in soil pumped up with fertilizers containing NPK and are nearly void of most of the minerals that our body needs. Many of us have had the experience of eating a meal and still feeling hungry soon afterward. This is our body trying to communicate with us. Our body is saying, “Hey, thanks for that, but where is the rest of the stuff I need? Where are all of the minerals?!”
Accepting this can be overwhelming. We might think, “It’s hard enough to eat fruits and vegetables and now I find out that even if I do, I’m still not going to be healthy?” These were the exact thoughts I had when I originally came across this information , but don’t worry because there is a simple solution to the problem.
There are a wide array of mineral supplements available on the market today. Mineral supplements are different than vitamins and this is an important point. Look for supplements which contain a high amount of minerals derived from a natural source. Soon after beginning to take mineral supplements many of us may notice a drastic decrease in food cravings. I know I did.
Minerals also facilitate in the absorption of vitamins and actually, without minerals, we are basically wasting our time because vitamins need the minerals to be absorbed properly. One of the best mineral supplements I have found is called TRC minerals. This brand contains 75 trace minerals derived from fossilized plant matter. The bottle will last one month, which equates to a cost of about 50 cents a day. By supplementing our diets with minerals we are taking a major step towards increasing our vitality and overall health.
Certified Organic Doesn’t Mean What we Think it Does.
But what about organic vegetables and herbs? Don’t these contain enough of the minerals that we need? The answer is maybe, but probably not. “Certified organic” does not mean what a lot of people think that it does. In fact, there is a long list of chemicals which can be legally used on farms today which are “certified organic.” These chemicals damage topsoil and contribute to crops being depleted of vital minerals. The strongest correlation contributing to healthy or unhealthy crop yields is the size of the farming operation itself.
Larger commercial farms tend to use more pesticides, rotate their crops less and practice monocropping almost exclusively. Smaller local farms, which might not even be “certified organic” because the certification process itself is costly, tend to practice more sustainable farming. The best of these small farms (although they are rare) use biodynamic regenerative farming techniques which help to facilitate and recreate the symbiotic relationships in nature, resulting in higher quality crops containing enough of the minerals our bodies need.
On top of taking mineral supplements, since most of us do not have access to biodynamic crops, is to always try to buy from small, local farmers whose crops are usually higher in quality compared to commercial operations. Of course, if this is not possible, it’s important to remember that there are other health benefits of fruits and vegetables, such as fiber. So knowing that our produce might be low in mineral content does not mean we should drop fruits and vegetables from our diet altogether.
Seeking out farmers markets and actually talking with the men and women who grow my food has helped me develop a closer relationship with what I’m eating. This heightened awareness about where our food comes from is something any of us interested in a healthy lifestyle should try to cultivate. When buying locally we have the opportunity to actually communicate with our farmers. We can tell them that we don’t want pesticides in our foods, and that we want foods rich in minerals and grown using sustainable practices.
Author: John Miller
Image: @ecofolks on Instagram
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren