Benefits of copper and foods rich in copper

wWhether in jewelry, pots or the body, there is an element as omnipresent as it is crucial. We are talking, of course, of copper, that very important mineral that up to one in four Americans can’t get enough of. And given the vital role copper plays in your daily health, making sure you’re consuming enough mineral is a key part of maintaining a strong immune system, boosting energy levels, and keeping your cardiovascular system fit. Fortunately, copper is readily available in many food sources, meaning getting your recommended daily intake doesn’t have to be a challenge.

To learn more about the benefits of copper and copper-rich foods, we spoke with Anna Smith, RDN, consultant at Lose It !.

What are the main benefits of copper?

Copper is an essential nutrient for the body and plays a role in many bodily functions, one of which is the production of red blood cells (along with iron), maintaining nerve cells, and helping to keep the immune system strong.

“Copper is also a mineral that helps the brain develop properly,” says Smith. “It also helps with energy production and iron absorption and helps with the development and maintenance of healthy connective tissues and blood vessels.” This is why consuming enough copper through food can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease – low copper levels have actually been linked to increased blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The same goes for immunity – copper helps increase the number of white blood cells, which helps prevent infections. Finally, copper helps prevent osteoporosis by increasing bone mineral density, helps with collagen production, and fights inflammation by acting as an antioxidant in the body, further reducing the risk of chronic disease.

A note on copper deficiency

While a quarter of Americans don’t eat enough copper, Smith notes that true copper deficiency is actually quite rare in the United States. “That said, those with celiac disease, Menkes disease, or individuals taking zinc supplements may be at greater risk for low copper levels,” says Smith. This deficiency is associated with anemia, lightened skin rashes, elevated cholesterol or triglyceride levels, weakened bones, or even connective tissue disorders. “Additionally, some may experience fatigue and loss of balance,” adds Smith.

How Much Copper Should I Consume Each Day?

Given the benefits associated with copper and concerns about insufficient intake, taking your daily dose of the mineral ranks first for many. Like other minerals, the proper amount of copper needed varies from person to person, based on age, and based on certain life events, says Smith. “Recommended copper intake levels increase with age with the higher amounts needed during pregnancy and breastfeeding,” Smith notes. For example, babies up to one year of age need 200 mcg of copper per day, while dieters recommend that children ages one to eight consume between 340 and 440 mcg of copper per day. In early adolescence, copper intake increases from 700 to 890 mcg, and most adults will require around 900 mcg per day. Women will need even more copper throughout their pregnancy at around 1,000 mcg per day, and breastfeeding women require 1,300 mcg on a daily basis, Smith says.

Foods rich in copper

Fortunately, you probably won’t have to hunt too hard for your copper sources. In fact, many basic ingredients are excellent sources of this mineral.

  • Shellfish and crustaceans, such as oysters or lobsters
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Whole grains
  • Spirulina
  • Beans
  • Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, cashews, and sesame seeds
  • Potatoes
  • Animal organs, including kidneys and livers
  • Dark leafy vegetables like kale, chard, and spinach
  • Dark chocolate

“My favorite sources of copper include cashews, sunflower seeds, shiitake mushrooms, crabs, oysters and tofu,” says Smith. “If you’re specifically focused on increasing your copper intake, keeping a detailed food log can be helpful,” he adds.

This umami-rich doenjang-jjigae stew is a delicious way to boost your copper intake, thanks to shiitake mushrooms, seaweed and potatoes:

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