Copper is an essential micro mineral needed by the body that benefits bone, nerve, and skeletal health. Copper is needed for the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells and plays an important role in maintaining a healthy metabolism. Copper is the third most prevalent mineral in the body, yet it cannot be made by the body itself and therefore must be obtained through certain foods. Copper also helps in sustaining energy levels, preventing premature aging, balancing hormones, and much more. Here’s a bit more information on some of the great benefits of copper.
Bone and Tissue
One of the main uses of copper by our bodies is to manufacture collagen. Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the body. It is primarily used to hold different parts of the body together. It also gives the skin its strength and elasticity. When copper is deficient in the body it can lead to difficulties with tissue integrity in bones and blood vessels.
Copper is one part of an enzyme called superoxide dismutase or SOD. This enzyme is one of the major antioxidants in the body. Prolonged copper deficiency can lead to fewer SOD enzymes, which can in turn be linked to an increased risk of Lou Gehrig’s disease. This is most commonly seen in people that have undergone gastric bypass surgery.
There are two key uses of copper in the production of energy. The first is to assist in incorporating iron into the red blood cells. The second is to assist the body in the conversion of carbohydrates to energy by the cells. Without copper both processes are slowed, causing a reduction in the body’s capacity to create energy.
There have been studies that link copper deficient diets to increased levels of cholesterol in the blood. This increase in blood cholesterol levels is linked to an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase. When copper intake is reduced this enzyme is overproduced in some people and can raise blood cholesterol levels. By ingesting enough copper, it appears that this enzyme production is reduced.
Some other dangers of copper deficiency are fatigue, lowered immune functions, reduced ability to heal wounds, cardiac arrhythmia, and arthritis.
The body does not need much copper to reduce the risk of many of these disorders. For a person over 19 years old about 0.9mg of copper should be ingested on a daily basis. For pregnant women, 1.0 mg and lactating women about 1.3mg. These amounts will avoid a deficiency. To achieve these amounts, it is good to look to certain foods containing higher amounts of copper. Higher amounts of copper can be found in some of the most common foods, many of which happen to be plant based.
Foods High in Copper
- Sesame Seeds: 1.47 mg of copper in 1/4 cup
- Cashews: .88 mg of copper in 1/4 cup
- Soybeans: .70 mg of copper in 1 cup
- Shiitake Mushrooms: .65 mg in 1/2 cup
- Sunflower seeds: .63 mg in 1/4 cup
- Garbanzo Beans: .58 mg in 1 cup
- Asparagus: .3 mg in 1 cup
Copper impacts many processes from keeping our muscles and ligaments in place, to the reduced risk of some diseases. When there is a long term deficiency, there are many health related risk factors that are increased. By ingesting certain foods, you can drastically reduce your risk of copper deficiency. If you do find that you cannot get enough copper in your diet, you may need to supplement it to reach your adequate intake. Even many multivitamins will include copper in the amounts that you need to achieve your daily intake.