Copper is a key mineral for health, which means there are very important reasons you need copper in your diet. As important as it is, copper is a mineral that is often forgotten about. Yet, there are many reasons you need copper because so many body systems rely on copper to function. Interestingly, the body doesn’t require too much copper, but the little it does require is critical. Since only small amounts are needed, 900 micrograms for adults, supplementing with copper can easily lead to toxicity. Therefore, obtaining copper through your diet is very important, and relatively easy since it is found in a variety of produce, including sesame seeds, cashews, mushrooms, and squash. If your house has copper pipes, you can even find this much needed nutrient in your drinking water. As soon as you see how critical copper is for health, you will be reaching for a handful of sesame seeds to make sure you get your daily copper.
One of the main reasons you need copper in your diet is because it is required to manufacture collagen. Collagen is the most abundant tissue in the body, as it can be found in bones, joints, skin, and even blood vessels. Copper deficiency can result in these tissues breaking down. Premature babies who do not have fully developed gastrointestinal tracts can develop bone problems as a result of copper deficiency. To maintain healthy collagen, it is essential that you get all of the required copper, which means avoiding heavily processed foods that are devoid of copper and sticking to whole foods.
Often when you think of energy, you think of calories, which makes perfect sense because calories supply energy. However, copper is actually extremely important for energy production. It helps your body incorporate iron into red blood cells. In fact, copper is so important for iron absorption that a copper deficiency can mimic an iron deficiency, and both will result in anemia. Aside from being necessary for iron absorption, copper is also needed for the conversion of carbohydrates into energy, and it is used for the synthesis of ATP, the main energy chemical in the body. Clearly, without copper there are many reasons you will begin to feel sluggish.
3. Hair and Eye Pigment
Copper is one of the most important minerals for hair and eye pigment, and it is even needed for the melanin that gives color to skin. Since it is so vital for hair, eye, and skin pigment, you can think of copper as a youth nutrient. Believe it or not, an adequate copper intake can actually help prevent hair from turning gray. It also maintains the color of your eyes. As someone who loves their eye and hair color, I am very intrigued by copper’s ability to maintain pigment.
Because copper stimulates the brain, many high copper foods are often called “brain foods”. One of the reasons copper is so important for the brain is it helps neural pathways develop, which is essential for learning and creative thinking. In fact, copper is so important for brain function that people who have enough copper have been shown to have more creative thinking! I do have one word of caution regarding copper and brain health. Too much copper can actually build up and lead to Alzheimer’s, which is one reason why you should avoid supplements with copper.
Copper is a very powerful antioxidant. The antioxidant activity of copper can help prevent signs of premature aging such as wrinkles, age spots, and macular degeneration. It can even decrease the susceptibility to cancer and help prevent kidney malfunction. One unique function of copper is the way it works with the enzyme superoxide dismutase to keep cell membranes protected from free radicals.
6. Nervous System
I already mentioned that copper is essential for brain health, but it is also important for other parts of the nervous system. Myelin is the protective coating on nerves, and without it you can experience quite a lot of pain. Thankfully, you can ensure the health of your nerves by making sure you have adequate copper intake, especially since copper is needed for the formation of myelin. Another function copper has within the nervous system is the synthesis of neurotransmitters, which send messages between the nerves. Specifically, copper helps convert dopamine into norepinephrine, which is responsible for alertness and concentration.
Because copper is essential for collagen production, it is a nutrient that is very helpful for people with arthritis. Collagen is a major component of joints, and without it joint deterioration can occur. For people with arthritis, copper is very helpful in easing pain due to its anti-inflammatory actions. Copper’s usefulness in treating arthritic pain is one of the reasons you see copper bracelets and copper clothing. The body can absorb copper through the skin, and there have been reports of these items helping people with joint stiffness and pain.
In the past, I never considered copper to be an essential mineral. However, I have since learned that copper is a vital nutrient for people to feel their best. Getting the copper you need to feel your best is not difficult if you eat plenty of whole foods. So, fill up on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds for you daily copper requirements. Did you know copper was so essential for health?