By now, almost everyone interested in optimal health knows that fruits and vegetables are crucial for preserving wellness. Often overlooked: The minerals in these foods are vital ingredients for helping the body reduce its acidity and avoid chronic disease.
Linus Pauling (1901 – 1994) the American biochemist and health educator who was the only person to win two unshared Nobel Prizes, observed, "You can trace every sickness, every disease and every ailment to a mineral deficiency."
Minerals are critical elements for cellular energy production, body structure and function. Your body needs more than 60 minerals to stay healthy. Sixteen of these are clearly proven to be critical for life. Minerals are necessary elements for the enzymatic formation of blood and bones, the propagation of the nervous system’s electrical impulses, muscle movement and the transportation of nutrients across cell membranes. This means that minerals enable your heart to beat, your brain to think, your digestion to absorb nutrients, your organs to function, your immune system to fight invaders, your limbs to move and your glands to secrete hormones. Your health is created or destroyed according to the availability of minerals.
In these processes, minerals also play a key role in keeping your body from becoming too acidic.
So many of the body’s functions produce acidic byproducts, that you can almost think of your body as an acid factory. You breathe in oxygen and you exhale carbon dioxide, in the form of carbonic acid. Your liver makes bile acid that’s stored in the gall bladder. Your kidneys excrete uric acid. Your muscles make lactic acid. The metabolism of amino acids produces keto acids. And every living cell in your body yields acids from the citric acid cycle, or Kreb’s cycle.
As acids accumulate, your body responds with alkalizing reactions. The body needs to keep its pH (a measure of acidity) in balance. Otherwise, acidity makes you more vulnerable to degenerative disease.
To offset the continual production of acids, the body employs physiological mechanisms that buffer the potentially deadly acid load. In this system, your blood functions as the primary acid-base compensatory mechanism.
In addition, other pH regulators contribute in a slower and more gradual way to lower the acidity of the body’s tissues. These regulators — the urinary system, skin, digestive tract, hormones and bones — rely on the availability of buffering minerals to help maintain the body’s proper pH.
Buffering Minerals, Slaying Acidity
To keep from becoming too acidic, the blood distributes alkalizing minerals and removes acidic accumulations that are moved into tissues and cells. In the cell, these acids displace the four most critical minerals in your body: Potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium.
When the body continues to be acidic, it begins to rely on calcium taken from the bones to stay more alkaline. And when mineral reserves are continually drained because you consume the typically acidic modem American diet, the bones are physiologically required to keep releasing calcium (the most alkaline mineral) into the bloodstream. Eventually, this buffering activity can lead to the bone weakening conditions osteopenia and osteoporosis as well as chronic arthritis.
In general terms, a chronic acidic-promoting internal environment forces your body to borrow minerals — including calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium — from vital organs and bones to neutralize acids.
We classify minerals as being either essential minerals (macro-minerals) or trace minerals (micro-minerals). The body needs the essential minerals calcium, magnesium, sodium and manganese in larger amounts. But only tiny quantities of the trace minerals — boron, chromium, iron, zinc, and many others — are necessary for optimum health.
Deficiency of trace minerals is a contributing factor to many illnesses. Research strongly suggests that many chronic diseases originate in mineral deficiency, including malnutrition, infections, obesity and many cases of both cancer and diabetes.
Sadly, most Americans only consume about eight minerals in their standard American diet (S.A.D.) because they eat so few mineral-rich fruits and vegetables. Matter of fact, many U.S. adults eat no vegetables or fruit on a given day. Too often our meals are filled with processed foods which have had their natural configuration of mineral complexes altered or entirely eliminated.
To ensure an adequate mineral supply in your diet, you should eat a preponderance of uncooked whole foods. Supplements can be useful too, but most are poorly absorbed unless they are chelated or colloidal.
A plethora of studies prove the long-term, preventive health benefits of consuming nutrients in the form of fruits and vegetables in contrast to relying entirely on supplements. The proof that you get preventive health benefits from whole foods is quite dramatic, especially in the prevention and reversal of cardiovascular disease, cancer, gall bladder disease, diabetes and even cancer.
A Harvard study reported in the June 2001 Annals of Internal Medicine looked prospectively at 84,251 women ages 34 to 59 for 14 years and 42,148 men ages 40 to 75 for eight years. The scientists found that each additional fruit or vegetable serving eaten per day reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by 4 percent. Green leafy vegetables and vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables contributed most to this beneficial health effect.1 This represents a 36 percent lowered heart attack rate if you eat the nine recommended veggie/fruit servings per day — better preventive results than taking a statin drug (like Lipitor®) for sure!
The same researchers also looked at stroke and found that “an increment of one serving per day of fruits or vegetables was associated with a 6 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke.”
An overview of the various proven health benefits of fruits and vegetables reported in the December 2000 Journal of the American Dietetics Association gave substantial evidence of the protective role of fruits and vegetables in lowering the risk of cancer, cataracts, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diverticulosis and possibly, hypertension.2 A search of the research on diet also shows that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables dramatically improves your chances of not getting gall bladder disease (in women); mental illness; Alzheimer’s dementia and cognitive decline in general.
The cumulative conclusion of these large studies is that there’s no denying the importance of the minerals in whole foods.
In my next report I’ll explore one of my favorite minerals, calcium.
To your continuous health and happiness,
Michael Cutler, M.D.
Author, Easy Health Digest
1 Joshipura KJ, Hu FB, Manson JE. The effect of fruit and vegetable intake on risk for coronary heart disease. Ann Intern Med. 2001 Jun 19;134(12):1106-14.
2 Van Duyn MA, Pivonka E. Overview of the health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption for the dietetics professional: selected literature. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000 Dec;100(12):1511-21.