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The macrominerals are the seven main minerals that your body needs to function properly. They support your body with a wide range of functions including maintaining fluid balance, promoting metabolism and regulating blood pressure. In this article I will be covering each of the seven in more detail.
Calcium was discovered by Sir Humphry Davy in 1808. Approximately 1.5% of an average adult’s bodyweight is made up of this nutrient. The main role of calcium in the body is to promote strong bones and teeth. It also helps control blood pressure, muscle contractions and nerve transmission.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium increases with age. Children aged 0-6 months require just 210mg per day whilst adults aged 51 years and older require a much higher 1200mg per day. Dairy products are often the best source of this macromineral with cheese (721mg per 100g), milk (114mg per 100ml) and yoghurt (200mg per 100g) containing very high levels.
Overdosing on calcium by consuming 3000mg per day or more can lead to dehydration, diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain and vomiting. Failing to consume the RDA can be just as bad and may cause high blood pressure, muscle cramps and osteoporosis (reduced bone density).
Chloride was discovered as a compound by Carl Whilhelm Scheele in 1774. It was later isolated by Sir Humphry Davy in 1807. Around 0.15% of an average adult’s bodyweight is chloride. This macromineral has a number of roles in the body which include assisting with the production of glandular hormones, maintaining blood pressure, maintaining fluid balance, removing waste materials from the body and supporting metabolism.
The RDA for chloride increases with age. Children aged 0-6 years require around 180mg per day whilst adults require 750mg per day. The best food sources of this nutrient include butter (1300mg per 100g), olives (300mg per 100g) and whole grain bread (860mg per 100g).
Whilst there is no recommended upper limit (UL) for chloride some people have experienced breathing difficulties, fluid retention and high blood pressure if they eat extremely large amounts. Not consuming enough of this nutrient can also have adverse effects on your body leading to muscles spasms and weakness.
Magnesium was initially discovered by Henry Wicker in 1618 in the form of ‘Epsom Salts’. It was later isolated in 1808 by Sir Humphry Davy. Approximately 0.05% of an average adult’s bodyweight is magnesium. It is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the human body which include promoting metabolism, helping the muscles and nerves relax and supporting healthy bone growth.
The RDA for magnesium increases with age. Children aged 0-6 months need just 30mg per day of this macromineral whilst adults aged 31 years and older require considerably more (men need 420mg per day, women need 320mg per day and pregnant women need 360mg per day). The richest food sources of this nutrient are quite varied with almonds (279mg per 100g), brazil nuts (229mg per 100g) and spinach (87mg per 100g) all containing high levels.
Consuming 1000mg or more of magnesium per day can lead to a number of negative symptoms including diarrhea, fatigue and stomach cramps. Failing to get enough of this nutrient can also have negative effects and cause muscle cramps, nausea, numbness and vomiting.
Phosphorus was discovered by accident in 1669 during an experiment where the German alchemist Henning Brand tried to convert metals into gold. It represents around 1% of an average adult’s bodyweight. The main role of phosphorus is to work in conjunction with calcium and promote the development of strong bones and teeth. It also activates the B-complex vitamins and assists in the production of the genetic information carriers – deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA).
The RDA for this macromineral varies with age. Children aged 0-6 months need to consume just 100mg per day of this nutrient. This requirement increases to 1250mg per day for children aged 9-18 years old but then drops to 700mg per day for adults aged 19 years and older. High protein foods are the best way to get your daily phosphorus with beef fillet steak (265mg per 100g), cheddar cheese (520mg per 100g) and chicken (190mg per 100g) all very rich sources.
Excess phosphorus in the body is very rare and often only develops as the result of kidney disease which then leads to calcification of the soft tissues (a condition where calcium is deposited on the soft tissues which causes them to harden). Not having enough phosphorus in the body is also very rare and usually only develops as a side effect of certain diseases. When a deficiency does develop it can lead to anemia (a low red blood cell count), osteomalacia (softening of the bones) and weakness.
Early humans were aware of potassium compounds but it was not isolated until 1807 when Sir Humphry Davy managed to extract this nutrient from vegetable alkali. Approximately 0.35% of an average person’s bodyweight is potassium. It has multiple roles in the body which include maintaining fluid balance, promoting muscle growth, regulating blood pressure and supporting healthy metabolism.
The RDA for potassium increases with age. Children aged 0-6 months need to consume 400mg per day whilst adults aged 19 years and over need to consume a much larger 4.7g per day. Plant based foods are very rich in this macromineral with bananas (350mg per 100g), dried apricots (1880mg per 100g) and spinach (490mg per 100g) being particularly good sources.
Your body controls blood levels of this nutrient very tightly so overdoses are rare and normally only occur as the result of disease or infection. The symptoms of potassium overdose include diarrhea, nausea and ulcers. Deficiencies are also uncommon and normally only develop as the result of digestive problems. The symptoms of being deficient in this nutrient include confusion, dry skin and muscle cramps.
Awareness of sodium compounds dates back to ancient times but it was not isolated until 1807 when Sir Humphy Davy made the breakthrough. Around 0.15% of an average adult’s bodyweight is sodium. It has a number of roles in the body which include keeping minerals soluble in the blood, maintaining joint flexibility, promoting healthy metabolism and supporting the body’s vital organs.
The RDA for this macromineral is 1600mg for both men and women although individual suffering from high blood pressure are advised to keep their intake below 1500mg per day. The richest food source of sodium is table salt which contains 38850mg of this nutrient. However, cheddar cheese (610mg per 100g), olives (1800mg per 100g) and prawns (1590mg per 100g) are also good food sources.
Eating too much sodium is a very common problem and can lead to fluid retention, high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney disease. Contrastingly, not eating enough sodium is rare and is usually caused by other conditions removing this nutrient from the body. When deficiencies do occur it can cause confusion, headaches and nausea.
Awareness of sulphur dates back to Biblical times but it was not recognised as an element until 1777. At this time French chemist Antoine Lavoisier proved to the scientific community that it should be classed as one. Approximately 0.25% of an average person’s bodyweight is sulphur. The main function of this macromineral is to treat joint and skin conditions. It also helps keep the hair, nails and skin healthy and supports proper metabolism.
There is no official RDA for sulphur although most sources suggest you should try to consume between 800mg and 1000mg per day. Protein rich foods contain high levels of this nutrient with brazil nuts (290mg per 100g), chicken (300mg per 100g) and eggs (180mg per 100g) all being very good sources.
Consuming too much or too little sulphur rarely has adverse effects. In fact there are no reported overdose symptoms and deficiencies only affect people who consume a very low protein diet. When people do become deficient in sulphur it can lead to arthritis, circulatory problems, inflammation and skin problems.