What can foods high in this trace mineral do for you?
Help your body utilize iron.
Reduce tissue damage caused by free radicals.
Maintain the health of your bones and connective tissues.
Help your body produce the pigment called melanin.
Keep your thyroid gland functioning normally.
Preserve the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects your nerves.
What events can indicate a need for more?
Iron deficiency anemia.
Blood vessels that rupture easily.
Bone and joint problems.
Elevated LDL cholesterol and reduced HDL cholesterol levels.
Loss of hair or skin color.
Fatigue and weakness.
Difficulty breathing and irregular heart beat.
Excellent food sources of this vitamin include calf's liver, crimini mushrooms, turnip greens and black-strap molasses.
First recognized in the 1870's as a normal constituent of blood, copper is a trace mineral that plays an important role in our metabolism, largely because it allows many critical enzymes to function properly.
Although it's the third most abundant trace mineral in the body (behind iron and zinc), the total amount in the body is only 75-100 milligrams, less than the amount of copper in a penny.
This trace mineral is present in every tissue of the body, but is stored primarily in the liver, so concentrations are highest in that organ, with lesser amounts found in the brain, heart, kidney, and muscles.
How it Functions
This mineral is an essential component of many enzymes.
Each of the copper-containing enzymes discussed below has a distinct function, indicating that this vitamin plays a role in a wide range of physiological processes including iron utilization, elimination of free radicals, development of bone and connective tissue, and the production of the skin and hair pigment called melanin.
Approximately 90% of the copper in the blood is incorporated into a compound called ceruloplasmin, which is a transport protein responsible for carrying copper to tissues that need the mineral.
In addition to its role as a transport protein, ceruloplasmin also acts as an enzyme, catalyzing the oxidation of minerals, most notably
The oxidation of iron by ceruloplasmin is necessary for iron to be bound to its transport protein (called transferrin) so that it can be carried to tissues where it is needed.
Because this nutrient is necessary for the utilization of iron, iron deficiency anemias may be a symptom of copper deficiency.
Elimination of Free Radicals
Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is a copper-dependent enzyme that catalyzes the removal of superoxide radicals from the body.
Superoxide radicals are generated during normal metabolism, as well as when white blood cells attack invading bacteria and viruses (a process called phagocytosis).
If not eliminated quickly, superoxide radicals cause damage to cell membranes.
When copper is not present in sufficient quantities, the activity of superoxide dismutase is diminished, and the damage to cell membranes caused by superoxide radicals is increased.
When functioning in this enzyme, this trace mineral works together with the mineral zinc, and it is actually the ratio to zinc, rather than the absolute amount of either alone, that helps the enzyme function properly.
Development of Bone & Connective Tissue
Copper is also a component of lysyl oxidase, an enzyme that participates in the synthesis of collagen and elastin, two important structural proteins found in bone and connective tissue.
Tyrosinase, a copper-containing enzyme, converts tyrosine to melanin, which is the pigment that gives hair and skin its color.
As a part of the enzymes cytochrome c oxidase, dopamine hydroxylase, and Factor IV, this supplement plays a role in energy production, the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine and blood clotting, respectively.
This trace mineral is also important for the production of the thyroid hormone called thyroxine and is necessary for the synthesis of phospholipids found in myelin sheaths that cover and protect nerves.
In 2000, the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences established the following Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs)for this nutrient:
0-12 months: not possible to establish a TUL, sources of copper must be from food and formula only.
1-3 years: 1000 micrograms.
4-8 years: 1000 micrograms.
9-13 years: 5000 micrograms.
14-18 years: 8000 micrograms.
19 years +: 10,000 micrograms.
Pregnant women 14-18 years: 8000 micrograms.
Pregnant women 19 years +: 10,000 micrograms.
Lactating women 14-18 years: 8000 micrograms.
Lactating women 19 years +: 10,000 micrograms.
This nutrient may play a role in the prevention and/or treatment of the following health conditions:
Foods that Provide this Nutrient?
Excellent sources include calf's liver (see recipe below;), Crimini mushrooms, turnip greens and molasses.
Very good sources include chard, spinach, sesame seeds, mustard greens, kale, summer squash, asparagus, eggplant, and cashews.
Good sources include peppermint, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, ginger, green beans, potato, and tempeh.
Healthy Sautéed Calf's Liver and Onions
Even if you think you don’t like liver, you should try this method.
It just may change your mind!
Liver cooked this way has great flavor and you only need one skillet to cook both the liver and onions.
Prep and Cook Time: 15 minutes
For the onions:
1 med. red onion
3 Tbs. low-sodium chicken broth
For the Calf's Liver:
3 Tbs. low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 lb. Calf's Liver, sliced thin (1/4-inch)
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, chopped or pressed
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Thinly slice the onion and let sit for 5 minutes to bring out their health-promoting properties.
Turn stove to medium.
Heat 3 Tbs. low-sodium chicken broth in a stainless steel skillet.
When the broth begins to steam, add onions, cover and sauté for 4 minutes.
When the onions have lost most of their water content and have become dry, push them to the side of the skillet, leaving space in the center.
Heat the second 3 Tbs. broth in the center of the skillet, leaving the heat on medium.
When the broth begins to steam, add the sliced calf's liver and sauté uncovered for 3 minutes.
The pieces will be browned on one side, and the liver will release liquid.
Turn the Liver pieces over and brown the other side for 3 minutes.
When the liquid has evaporated, the liver is done.
Remove the pan from the heat and drizzle the liver and onions with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately.
Makes 2 Servings
Healthy Cooking Tip:
Be sure not to overcook the calf's liver or it will get dry; it should still be a little pink in the middle for the best flavor and moistness.Tweet
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