I became interested in learning more about minerals when I noticed that in discussions of eating for beauty, the focus is often overwhelmingly on vitamins. Of course, there’s no question that vitamins are essential for beauty–and overall health! Vitamin C supports healthy immunity (read: clear skin) while vitamin E is vital for supple skin—and the list goes on. But we would all do well to give equal attention to minerals.
Especially since many of us are lacking in key minerals—and even a slight imbalance can leave one feeling less than stellar. Roughly 80% of us are deficient in magnesium while osteoporosis plagues millions of people lacking in calcium. On a more superficial level, lack of minerals can exacerbate beauty woes, including acne, brittle nails, and weak hair. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to maximize your mineral consumption (to a healthy extent–it’s possible to get too many of certain minerals when we start supplementing them).
Need more minerals? Embrace the plant kingdom.
How to Get Enough Minerals
Drink mineral water. Ideally, it’s best to avoid bottle water. Not only is bottled water only minimally regulated, the bottling process (i.e. all of that plastic) takes its toll on the environment—even if we’re recycling those bottles. Instead, opt for a water filter that mineralizes water. (I use Zen Water Systems 5-Stage Mineral Filter.)
Eat organic. Although some nutrition experts acknowledge that there’s a small difference between the nutritional value of organic and conventional produce, conventional farming methods can leave soil depleted of minerals, which, of course, affects the mineral content of crops produced in that soil.
Enjoy an alkaline lifestyle (more or less). Because the body relies on a blood pH of about 7.365 to 7.45 (slightly alkaline), we are best served by an alkalinizing diet, which saves the body from using alkaline mineral stores (like calcium from bones) to rebalance itself. What does an alkaline diet look like? Well, if you’re vegan, you’re at least half-way there! An alkaline balanced diet is free of animal products, processed foods, and highly acidic foods (alcohol, coffee, most vinegars). It emphasizes whole foods, fresh produce, and makes room for some healthy cooked grains and raw/sprouted nuts. Not only will you avoid overtaxing your system with too many acidic foods, you will also find that your digestion is improved and you have more energy. The point is not to eat perfectly but rather make most of your choices in this general direction.
Take a multi-mineral. Yes, they exist—just like multi-vitamins. I’ve been taking Now Foods Full Spectrum Mineral Caps Capsules, which are vegan and gluten-free. I especially like this formula because it’s iron-free. Don’t get me wrong—iron is essential! But iron and zinc can inhibit each other’s absorption. Generally, I take my multi-vitamin (which has iron) in the morning and my multi-mineral later in the day.
But stay on top of your mineral intake via supplements (so you don’t get too much!). If you’re supplementing your minerals, make sure you’re not getting too much of any mineral. Also, for women, be mindful that your life stage may determine the amount of iron your require. (More if pregnant, less if breastfeeding.)
Indulge in mineral-rich body products. The cool thing about using natural products is that they’re likely to naturally contain minerals. Olive oil, for example, contains small amounts iron, calcium, and potassium–and olive oil is a great moisturizer. You can also target certain minerals in your beauty regimen (like using sulfur products to treat acne). Furthermore, you can create a body scrub with mineral salt à la Jennifer Kurdyla.
Key Minerals to Be Aware Of
Iron: We need iron for strong nails, healthy hair, and avoiding fatigue. You can get iron from leafy greens with a squeeze of lemon juice (vitamin C helps with absorbency).
RDA: 8-15 mg; 27mg during pregnancy.
Calcium: Good for bones, skin, and hair, and eczema-free skin. Eat almonds, beans, and sesame products (like tahini).
RDA: 1,000 – 1,300mg.
Potassium: Essential for heart health, blood pressure, and reducing stomach cramps. Enjoy sweet potatoes, banana, prunes, artichokes, and tomatoes.
RDA: 4.7 g.
Magnesium: Vital for healthy digestion and sleep. Minimize alcohol and coffee consumption, and stock up on brown rice, Swiss chard, and almonds.
RDA: 300mg (can also be applied topically).
Zinc: Zinc is good for combatting acne, infection, and hair loss. It also boosts circulation and supports healthy energy levels. Enjoy tofu, tempeh, legumes, and pumpkin seeds.
Selenium: Vital for T3 production—T3 is the thyroid hormone that influences energy and metabolism.
RDA: 55 mcg.
What are your favorite mineral-rich foods?
Related: Top 10 Most Underrated Superfoods
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Photo: Mary Hood Luttrell