It may come as a surprise, but metal is an important part of your health and is found in foods we eat. Some metals are excellent for improving your health and well-being, and others can be detrimental. This month, we are taking a look at the relationship of metals to our bodies to shed some light on something that goes unnoticed in our day-to-day lives.

Wait, there’s metal in my food??

Of course, not everything you eat has metal in it. Since metals are mostly naturally occurring substances, it is actually not surprising to find they exist in our food because they come from nature and are found in the environment. The plant-metal relationship is quite an interesting one. Some plants are excellent at extracting metals from soil, while other plants enjoy the extra ingredients to help them absorb more nutrients. However, this can be harmful to human health if the metals that plants or animals consume/absorb end up on our plate.

For instance, copper is naturally found in shellfish, liver, and a handful of vegetables. If you eat potatoes, peas, beans, green veggies, whole grains or sunflower seeds, then you are definitely consuming copper. (And for dessert, it is found in chocolate!) Don’t worry though, this type of copper has a very important role to your bodily health. Copper helps with the production of red blood cells, regulates heart rate and blood pressure and the absorption of iron just to name a few. It can even aid in the prevention of prosatitis, or inflammation of the prostate and helps activate your immune system.

You may have heard of wearing copper bracelets before. This is because magnetic therapy has long been promoted to treat arthritic pain, but it’s still debated. Some study participants experienced skin irritation from the bracelets…so don’t rush to the drug store just yet.

But copper isn’t the only metal your body uses…

  • Iron plays a role in transporting oxygen in the blood and helps muscles produce energy. Include iron-rich foods like red meats, green leafy vegetables, and fortified cereal in your diet.
  • Selenium works with Vitamin E as an antioxidant and can regulate thyroid hormones. Try adding Brazil nuts, liver, seafood, and whole grains like wheat, barley or rice to consume selenium.
  • Zinc is vital for maintaining a healthy immune system, aids in skin renewal and promotes a healthy complexion. Look for it in seafood, especially oysters, lentils, dairy products and whole grains.

Am I eating enough metal?

It’s best to confer with your physician to find out the recommended amounts of essential metals in your diet. Sometimes deficiencies can go unnoticed until you experience the side effects. One common problem is iron deficiency or anemia, which is due to either increased need for iron by the body or a decreased absorption amount of iron taken in. It’s always a good idea to have routine blood work done to make sure you are getting the right amounts.

What types of metal end up in my food?

For the most part, you shouldn’t be too worried about harmful metals ending up in your food because of quality control in the food industry. However, water contamination is more common and is easier to prevent any harmful effects. Trace amounts of metals are common in water and are usually not damaging to your health, but high levels of essential metals or toxic metals may be hazardous. Many refrigerator and sink water filters or purification systems can remove toxic metals such as aluminum, arsenic, barium, cadmium, lead and mercury before you use it to drink or cook with.

If you are exposed over time, and these metals have had a time to accumulate in your body, they will show side effects. This is a major concern when it comes to eating fish because mercury dissolves in fresh water and seawater. The slow process of accumulation can take months or years before it shows up as symptoms. Of course, it doesn’t mean you should cut out all seafood from your diet. You can still choose seafood that is lower in mercury like anchovies, catfish, flounder, herring and croaker. (Feeling hungry?)

As is most things in life, moderation is key to balancing your health and well-being. Metal’s helpful affects usually go unnoticed and we take them for granted. We hope that this gives you some peace of mind and appreciation for another way metal influences our lives – as well as a precaution to metals that can negatively impact your health. Don’t forget to include metal in your life by recycling it at TT&E!

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