Copper: How is this Metal So Beneficial for Our Health?

It”s no secret that metallic elements like iron and zinc are essential to human health. But did you know that our metabolisms also require a certain level of copper to maintain good health? The amount of copper found in the human body (50-120 milligrams) is tiny, but it plays a critical role in a variety of biochemical processes.

Copper forms part of at least 13 different enzymes, and its presence is needed for each if they are to function properly. These enzymes promote energy production, prevent anemia and bone disease, battle cell damage and assist in fetal and infant development.

Even though iron usually gets the nutritional spotlight, copper is necessary for the production of red blood cells. It also keeps your nervous and immune systems happy and your bones healthy.  It also helps form collagen, a key part of bones and connective tissue. Copper may also act as an antioxidant, getting rid of free radicals that can damages cells and DNA. Copper helps the body absorb iron, and your body needs copper to make energy. If you don’t get enough copper in your diet, it could lead to conditions such as osteoporosis and anemia. If you get too much, it’s poisonous.

Our body doesn’ t need much copper, and although many people may not get enough copper in their diet, it’ s rare to be truly deficient in copper. Signs of possible copper deficiency include anemia, low body temperature, bone fractures and osteoporosis, low white blood cell count, irregular heartbeat, loss of pigment from the skin, and thyroid problems.

People who take high amounts of zinc, iron, or vitamin C may need more copper, but you should ask your health care provider before taking copper supplements. Too much copper can be dangerous.

Health Benefits of Copper in Diet

  • Promotes proper utilization of iron in the body.
  • Maintains bone health.
  • Reduces tissue damage caused by free radicals, helps maintain the health of the tissues.
  • Stimulates the production of the pigment called melanin.
  • Helps maintain normal functioning of the thyroid.
  • Protects the myelin sheath that surrounds the nerves.
  • Lack of copper in diet can lead to iron deficiency anemia, skin sores, frequent infections.
  • Copper deficiency can result in bone and joint problems, hair loss, discoloration of skin, fatigue.
  • Insufficient copper levels can cause frequent ruptures in blood vessels, high LDL and low HDL cholesterol, arrhythmia, breathing difficulty.

In human beings, hemoglobin is made up of iron and oxygen. Many animals have hemocyanin instead of hemoglobin. In hemocyanin, iron is replaced by copper; for example, in crustaceans (that is why their blood is blue). Thus copper is an important element in human and animal bodies.

Foods Rich in Copper:

Most fruits contain a small amount of copper, but kiwi fruit has a significant amount. (Avocado, Blackberries,  Dates,  Guava,  Kiwi Fruit,  Lychee,  Mango, Passion fruit,  Pomegranate)

Most vegetables have some copper, but Lima Beans have a significant amount.  (Amaranth leaves,  Artichoke, French Beans, Kale, Lima Beans Parsnip, Peas,  Potatoes,  Pumpkin,  Spirulina,  Squash – Winter,  Sweet Potato, Swiss Chard,  Taro)

Most nuts contain a trace amount of copper. (Brazil Nuts,  Buckwheat, Cashews, Chestnuts,  Filberts/Hazelnuts, Oats,  Sunflower Seeds,  Walnuts, Wheat – Durum,  Wheat – Hard Red)

Legume Sources of copper: (Adzuki Beans, Black Beans, Black Eye Peas , Fava Beans , Edamame , Garbanzo Beans , Kidney Beans, Lima Beans , Navy Beans, Pigeon Beans , Pinto Beans , Soy Beans, Winged Beans)

Recommendations

The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends the following dietary intake for copper:

Infants

  • 0 – 6 months: 200 micrograms per day (mcg/day)
  • 7 – 12 months: 220 mcg/day

Children

  • 1 – 3 years: 340 mcg/day
  • 4 – 8 years: 440 mcg/day
  • 9 – 13 years: 700 mcg/day

Adolescents and Adults

  • Males and females age 14 – 18 years: 890 mcg/day
  • Males and females age 19 and older: 900 mcg/day

The best way to get the daily requirement of essential vitamins is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods from the food guide plate.

Specific recommendations depend on age, gender, and other factors (such as pregnancy). Women who are pregnant or producing breast milk (lactating) need higher amounts. Ask your health care provider which amount is best for you.

As with many things, the minerals in our diet must be regulated to be effective. In large amounts, copper can be toxic, but nutritionists argue that too little of this essential element can be just as unhealthy as too much. An optimal balance is necessary for optimal health! Scientists around the globe are actively researching copper’s important place in the body and its many benefits, so that we can continue to lead long, healthy lives.

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