Minerals of life – selenium and silica
This is an important dietary mineral, which is usually required in small amounts. Selenium exists as selenoproteins in the body. These are small clusters of proteins to which selenium has been incorporated. Selenoproteins play important roles in the health of the human being.
Sources of selenium
Plant foods are an important source of selenium. The selenium content of these plants is dependent on the selenium content of the soil in which the plant is grown. Apart from plants, there are seafoods, animal, poultry, vegetable and dairy sources of selenium. Important and specific sources of selenium include seafoods such as tuna, sardines, cod, salmon, shrimps, lobster and crab. Beef is also a good source of selenium, as well as turkey, chicken and egg. Other sources are Brazil nut (highest source of selenium), flaxseed, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, garlic and brown rice.
Health benefits of selenium
Selenium is a co-factor in the enzymatic reactions of a group of enzymes known as glutathione peroxidases. These enzymes belong to the enzyme antioxidant defence system. They neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative stress. Selenium itself belongs to the mineral antioxidant defence system. In this regard, it can be referred to as an antioxidant. Apart from its role as a co-factor, selenium acts to prolong the antioxidant function of Vitamin C. It recycles spent Vitamin C to the active form.
Selenium also plays a role in normal thyroid function. It is also a co-factor in the enzymatic reaction that converts the less active thyroid hormone, T4 to the more active one, T3. In combination with iodine, selenium helps the thyroid gland to perform its functions optimally. Also, there are anti-dandruff shampoos that contain selenium compounds that are active against the scalp fungus, malassezia.
Diseases that may be associated with selenium deficiency are cardiovascular diseases, hypothyroidism, depression, male infertility and cancer.
The use of selenium in these diseases may improve and alleviate symptoms.
Otherwise known as silicon dioxide, this is one of the most important minerals found in the body. It is found in almost all the tissues of the body where it is involved in one chemical reaction or the other.
Health benefits of silica include the following:
1. Silica is part of the matrix in the bone upon which calcium is deposited. In this regard, it helps to maintain the density, strength and health of the bone. It therefore helps to prevent osteoporosis. Not only that, silica, is a vital element in the development of cartilage and also supports the flexibility and elasticity of tendons and the articular surfaces of the cartilage in the joints.
2. Silica strengthens the connective tissues beneath the inner lining of blood vessels, conferring elasticity to the blood vessels. In this role, silica prevents against the development of atherosclerosis. Furthermore, it can be said to prevent such cardiovascular diseases as coronary heart disease.
3. By its action in strengthening and rejuvenating the connective tissue, collagen, located directly under the skin, silica inhibits the aging process. Silica, as an anti aging agent, helps to retain moisture under the skin and maintain youthful skin tone devoid of wrinkles. It also helps to promote healthy hair, skin and nails.
4. Silica is an immune booster. It improves the ability of the body to fight against disease-causing micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungus and viruses.
5. Silica helps in the production of new cells and plays a significant role in cell metabolism. It is particularly useful in ‘resurfacing’ the cells in the inner lining of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). In doing so, silica, aids in the digestion and absorption of nutrients in the GIT.
6. Silica helps in the detoxification process by binding such heavy metals as aluminum, in particular and lead and causing them to be excreted through the urine. In this role silica is able to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s Dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
7. Burns and wounds by other causes heal faster with silica. Silica, as I stated earlier, stimulates rapid cell growth and cell metabolism both of which aid in wound healing.
Common sources of silica
Silica is present in a wide variety of products and foods.
Common amongst these are, whole wheat flower products, wheat and oat bran, oatmeal, bananas, mango, apples, spinach, cabbage, beets, celery, cucumbers, dandelion, tomatoes and eggplant. Other sources are almonds, peanuts, flaxseed and brown rice.
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