When you hear of copper-rich foods or copper, what comes to mind? Most people will think about the metal commonly used in electrical equipment for wiring. While they are not wrong, copper is also an essential element that your body needs for optimum functioning.
Commonly abbreviated as Cu, the element is vital in the absorption of iron, synthesis of red blood cells, and the maintenance of the nervous system, among other body processes. Since the body does not produce its copper, one has to get it from their diet.
But what should you eat to get the mineral? Read on to learn some of the best copper-rich foods to have in your kitchen.
Health Benefits of Copper
1. Supports the Immune System
Copper helps the body protect itself against infection and diseases by stimulating the production of white blood cells and antibodies.
If your body is deficient in copper, you may suffer neutropenia, a low count of white blood cells. This makes your body more susceptible to infections and illnesses more often.
What’s more? The mineral helps heal wounds and repair tissue damage hence ensuring your body is at its best
2. Enhances the Production of Collagen
While copper is a trace element, it plays a vital role in producing collagen.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and works on rejuvenating connective tissues, such as tendons, muscles, ligaments, and the skin.
This means your skin will be smoother and flawless while your bones strengthen.
Copper also contains antioxidant properties, which keep free radicals from harming your body and causing oxidative stress. This stress contributes to faster aging and makes the body vulnerable to diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and cancer.
With an abundance of collagen, you can protect your body while your skin gains that youthful look.
3. Improves bone Health
Experts have found that low copper levels in the body may lead to decreased bone strength and born disabilities.
This is because copper is a co-factor for lysyl oxidase, an enzyme required for the formation of strong bones.
In one study involving postmenopausal women, Taking a calcium supplement containing trace minerals like copper was likely to slow down born loss.
Another study on menopausal women on a daily copper supplement for two years found that they had slow, low mineral density, often associated with osteoporosis.
4. Production of red blood cells
Like iron, which is needed to produce red blood cells, copper also helps form red blood cells. These cells help carry oxygen into the cells throughout the body, thus providing cellular energy. It also promotes iron metabolism by increasing its absorption from the food you consume. This helps maintain normal iron levels in the blood, thus preventing iron deficiency anemia.
5. Regulation of heart rate and blood pressure
Copper dysregulation has been linked to blood vessel conditions, including high blood pressure. High blood pressure refers to when the pressure on your arterials is high than normal
The Copper-Rich Foods You Need
Being a trace element, you only need small amounts of copper for survival, unlike other minerals such as calcium. The best thing is that you can find this nutrient in various foods, including most plants, nuts, and seeds. Here are a few sources of copper.
Spirulina is a blue-green alga that blossoms in fresh and salty water.
The plant is a potent plant-based protein rich in phycocyanin, a protein pigment that functions like chlorophyll in photosynthesis. This pigment is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound, as it has been shown to block free radicals and prevent the production of inflammatory molecules in the body.
It’s also among the good sources of copper, with a tablespoon providing up to 21 percent of the daily recommended intake.
Spirulina is also a good source of vitamins B1 and B2 and iron.
To consume it, mix the powder in water and drink. If you don’t like the taste, you can add it to vegetable stock, green juices, smoothies, or even soups to help mask the taste.
2. Shiitake Mushrooms
Native to East Asia, Shiitake mushrooms are a category of edible mushrooms that you can easily find here in the United States.
The mushrooms are usually grown on logs and tree stumps hence developing a distinctive brown-grey stem and cap.
With one cup pieces of cooked shiitake mushrooms providing 65 percent of your daily copper requirement, they are another rich source to incorporate into the diet.
They also contain a good amount of selenium, manganese, folate, and vitamins B1, B6, and B5.
While you can use the shiitake mushrooms in various dishes, they are most suited for the savory ones due to their strong umami flavor.
While the consumption of raw shiitake mushrooms is on the rise, it’s good to note that eating them raw or undercooked can cause toxic flagellate dermatitis. This is a highly specific skin reaction characterized by itching that affects the whole body, including the face.
Besides, cooking these mushrooms aids more copper than when eaten raw.
3. Leafy Greens
Leafy green vegetables are a host of hundreds of nutrients and minerals.
Greens such as kale, spinach, and swiss chard contain a generous amount of copper, vitamin K, calcium, folate, and magnesium.
Raw kale can give your body up to 10 percent of your daily requirement, while spinach provides 2 percent.
On the other hand, a cup of raw Swiss chard can give you up to 3 percent of the daily requirement.
Although these vegetables may not seem like providing a lot, keep in mind that adults should take about 2-3 cups of vegetables daily. That multiplies the copper in these veggies by 3, which is okay for a single source.
To get the most from these greens, consider using fresh or cooked instead of frozen options. Depending on preference, you can enjoy them in different meals, including salads, stews, or side dishes.
4. Nuts and Seeds
Some commonly available options include cashews, almonds, peanuts, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds.
For almonds, an ounce without salt can give you up to 16 percent of your daily needs, while Poppy seeds can offer up to 21 percent of your daily requirement. They are also very high in manganese, an important mineral that helps the body form bones, connective tissues, sex hormones, and blood clotting factors. It also promotes normal brain and nerve function as well as calcium absorption, helping you maintain healthy and strong bones.
Hazelnuts are also high in copper, with an ounce providing 25 percent of daily needs, while an ounce of roasted sesame and peanuts provide 35 percent per ounce and 44 percent per half a cup, respectively.
Besides copper, seeds are a good source of healthy fats, fiber, protein, and antioxidants. Regular consumption can improve your health in different ways, including fighting inflammation, preventing constipation, improving gut health, lowering cholesterol, and improving mental health.
Beans are one of the most common varieties you can add to your meals.
Besides being an excellent source of dietary fiber and protein, they provide the body with a good amount of copper. For example, a cup of cooked adzuki beans contains about 34 percent of your daily copper requirements, while a cup of cooked kidney beans can provide up to 19 percent of your daily needs.
Chickpea is another legume commonly used for hummus recipes. It can boost your copper intake with a cup providing about 29 percent daily copper requirement.
Lentils are another common legume that can provide up to 25 percent copper requirement per cooked cup. Sprouted lentils are also a good source, with a cup providing 14 percent of the daily requirements.
You can enjoy legumes in different ways, including soups, stews, sauces, salads, and more.
Are you surprised to find avocados on this list? Well, avocado is a super fruit. Besides being a high source of fiber and unsaturated fats, the fruit also has a generous amount of copper. Taking one avocado or a cup of pureed avocado will give you around 20% of the daily value.
Avocados are also a good source of vitamins C, K, E, folate, manganese, potassium, and magnesium. They also provide lutein and beta-carotene.
For this reason, regular consumption can boost weight loss, fight inflammation, improve cardiovascular health, regulate blood pressure, and provide anti-cancer benefits.
You probably know quinoa as a great source of protein for vegans or a substitute for rice, but did you know it can help boost your daily copper requirements?
A cup of cooked quinoa can provide about 18 percent of your daily needs.
Quinoa is also a good source of iron, manganese, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. And so, you will experience all the benefits associated with these nutrients.
You can easily enjoy quinoa as a substitute and a healthy alternative to white rice, blend cooked quinoa with your smoothies, sprinkle it on salads, add it to soups, or make homemade energy bars.
1. Does the body produce copper?
No. While copper is only required in very small amounts, it is an essential mineral for the body. You have to get it from your diet.
2. Where can I get copper from?
Copper is found in various foods, including nuts, whole grains, leafy greens, seeds, and some fruits like avocado. This article has enlisted some of the best sources.
3. What minerals inhibit the absorption of copper?
While the body also requires zinc, the mineral can interfere with the absorption of copper. This is because the two minerals compete for transportation and bioavailability in the body. When used in excess amounts, zinc will lead to copper deficiency, exposing the body to copper-deficiency illnesses and diseases.
4. Is there a recommended daily allowance for copper?
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for copper differs in people depending on age and gender. Adults require 900 micrograms daily, while children need less than 1000 micrograms. Pregnancy and lactation are special cases and need 1300 micrograms of nutrients.
5. How long does it take for the body to absorb copper?
Copper absorption depends on the amount you take. The more copper you take, the slower your body takes it in. However, you can expect the body to absorb up to 40% of the consumed copper within 24-48 hours. With that in mind, correcting deficiencies may take 4-12 weeks.
6. Is there a thing like too much copper?
Yes. If you go above the dietary requirements for copper, your body will have too much of it. This may cause abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and liver damage in severe cases (over time).
Some people also exhibit copper toxicity due to Wilson’s disease (a genetic disorder). This condition causes copper to accumulate in vital organs like the brain, corneas of the eyes, and the liver.
The condition can be dysfunctional in the nervous system, cause liver disease, and even death if not corrected.
The good news is that if detected early, it can be treated.
7. Does copper have any interactions with drugs?
Copper has no recorded serious interactions with other drugs when taken in the recommended amounts.
However, one may experience moderate interactions when taken alongside penicillamine.
Other mild interactions may include rose hips, trientine, and ascorbic acid.
Nonetheless, before you take the copper (in the form of supplements), it is important that you speak to your doctor.
8. What are the effects of having no copper in the body?
While the body doesn’t produce its copper, it is very rare to be fully deficient in the mineral as it is present in various foods.
Nonetheless, a deficiency will manifest in anemia, bone fractures, osteoporosis, low white blood cell, irregular heartbeat, thyroid problems, and loss of skin pigmentation.
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Copper is a trace mineral but a very essential nutrient in the body.
It is vital for many important processes, including boosting immunity, improving bone health, supporting energy production, and iron absorption.
Getting it should be easy as you can find it in various foods, as discussed in this article. Whether you prefer taking nuts, seeds, or whole grains, you can be sure to get copper to keep your body’s function at optimum.
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