Meet Copper, the Micromineral with Big Impact


What do you know about copper? When you think of copper do you think of a shiny penny or perhaps the pretty green patina of the Statue of Liberty? Perhaps you think of electrical wiring or plumbing. Copper is so much more than an industrial metal or a medium for coins and art. Copper is an essential trace mineral that is imperative to life – pretty strong word; imperative.

Copper is not just essential for human life, but all life on our planet. Plant life requires copper to thrive. The animals that graze on those plants need the copper from the plants to survive. And, so on.

What exactly is copper? It’s a mineral. We throw that word around a lot, so to be more specific, minerals are inorganic substances found in the earth. Okay, so inorganic sounds like something we wouldn’t want in our bodies, but trust us, it is a key element to our survival. Copper is an essential mineral to be exact. Essential in this regard means that our bodies do not produce copper and we must ingest it in order to replenish the copper we lose during ordinary day-to-day bodily functions.

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What kinds of functions require copper?
• Our bodies need copper to assist iron in the release of energy.**
• Copper is critical to many enzymes, especially those associated with heart health.**
• Collagen formation requires copper.** Collagen helps support connective tissues like skin, cartilage, bone and tendons.**
• Melanin requires copper for its production, too.** Melanin is responsible for the color of our hair and the irises of our eyes and is also responsible for tanning skin that is exposed to sunlight.
• Red blood cell formation and hemoglobin formation are both assisted by copper.**

That’s just a glimpse into the myriad of ways our bodies use copper.

Amazing to think that something that seems so critical is required only in trace amounts. So, just how much copper should the average person consume? According to the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine, adults aged 19 and over need a mere 900 mcg per day. In case you are wondering, mcg means microgram. A microgram is a millionth of a gram. Yes, you read that correctly – a millionth of a gram. That is certainly a trace amount if we do say so ourselves.

Copper gets by with a little help from his friends

It’s important to note that copper does not act alone. In fact, our bodies need all the minerals to interact with enzymes, other minerals and vitamins in order to carry out our bodily functions properly. For instance we can say that iron is necessary for building blood, but we shouldn’t forget that without copper, iron wouldn’t be able to go it alone.**

Curious about where you get copper in your diet? Great! We love curiosity. Shellfish, especially oysters, are a good source of copper. Other good sources include nuts, beans, whole grains and organ meats like liver and kidneys. Pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds may also add copper into your diet. Plus, you can get trace amounts of copper by eating chocolate, dark leafy greens, dried fruits, black pepper, and yeast (to name a few). The bottom line, as usual, is that the best place to get your microminerals and other micronutrients is from a well-balanced diet.

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