To ensure its proper functioning, our body requires many important minerals and vitamins. Among the unknown fundamental trace elements, present in all the tissues of our body, is copper. Since copper cannot be synthesized by the body, it must be obtained through food. The World Health Organization recommends that the average adult consume about 2 mg of copper per day, which is equivalent to 2000 mcg of copper (1 mg = 1000 mcg).
What could be the function of copper in our body?
Promotes brain health.
Copper is present throughout the brain, particularly in the basal ganglia, hippocampus, cerebellum, many synaptic membranes, and in the cell bodies of pyramidal, cortical, and cerebellar granular neurons.
Recent studies have also shown that copper plays a role in brain health, even when we are at rest. The brain consumes 20% of the oxygen absorbed by respiration. This oxidative metabolism requires the highest levels of copper, iron, and zinc from your body.
Increases energy rate.
Animal and laboratory studies have shown that an insufficient amount of copper can limit the production of ATP by the mitochondria. This leads to a feeling of fatigue.
It has recently been discovered how copper is transported to the mitochondria, giving researchers a better understanding of copper’s role in energy production. Copper is needed to build cytochrome c oxidase, known as COX, a large protein complex in the mitochondria that is the last step in the electron transport chain, which harvests energy for the production of ATP.
Both zinc and copper are essential for optimal immune function. A deficiency in these two trace elements increases your body’s vulnerability to bacterial infections. Early studies showed how a copper deficiency can lead to a decrease in neutrophils and macrophages. These immune cells coordinate to create an effective response against bacteria and other infections in the body.
Your body has an intelligent innate immune system, made up of cells and proteins designed to defend against foreign organisms.
Protect the heart.
Copper has many properties that affect the body, including the heart. Hundreds of copper-dependent proteins are present in the body, even if dietary requirements are low. A copper deficiency can lead to a decrease in metabolism and energy supply to the heart. It may also increase the risk of ischemic heart disease. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine showed how copper-rich foods can benefit an ailing heart. The study suggests that consuming more copper in the diet may help people with heart muscle disorders.
Improves the appearance of the skin.
A healthy adult would have a composition comprising 110 mg of copper, of which 15% is in the skin. Copper helps stimulate the proliferation of dermal fibroblasts, regulates collagen and serves as a cofactor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase in the skin. The properties of copper have made it an important mineral for healthy skin.
The main foods rich in copper.
Since your body cannot create copper, you must obtain it through the foods you eat. Check your diet to see if you are consuming enough copper.
Copper is abundant in many types of seafood, including oysters. A medium sized oyster will provide you with 670 mcg of copper.
There are different types of oysters that you can add to your meal. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, the highest natural concentration of copper is found in the oriental oyster. Consuming an 85g serving of cooked Oriental oysters can provide you with an impressive 4,851 mcg of copper! Just make sure your oysters have not been breaded or fried, as this can affect the nutritional content of the oysters and decrease copper absorption.
Seeds and nuts:
If you’re a vegetarian, you can get your copper from nuts and seeds. For every 28g serving, you can get 519mcg of copper from sunflower seeds. Just like 629 mcg from cashews. Enjoy a peanut butter sandwich and get up to 185 mcg of copper per two tablespoons of peanut butter.
Also consider packing almonds and hazelnuts as on-the-go snacks to further boost the copper content of your diet. Whole almonds can give you 1000 mcg of copper for every 100g serving. Additionally, a 100g packet of poppy seeds can also provide you with 1700 mcg of copper.
Besides seeds and nuts, beans are another great vegetarian source of copper. So there is a wide variety of different options to include in your meals.
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, not only contain fiber and protein, but can also provide 305 mcg of copper for every 100g when cooked. Lentils are often used for soups and stews.
Kale, chard and spinach:
There are also vegetables with a high copper content. Raw kale contains 1,409 mcg of copper per 100g serving. Raw kale is preferable to frozen kale which contains only 46 mcg of copper per 100g. Additionally, Swiss chard, when cooked, provides more than a third of your daily copper intake.
Copper: what happens in case of deficiency or overconsumption?
Copper plays an important role in human health. By contributing to the formation of new blood vessels, the production of red blood cells and the maintenance of healthy bones and nerves. However, too much or too little copper can lead to health problems. Copper deficiency can cause anemia, osteoporosis and impaired nerve function.
On the other hand, overconsumption of copper can lead to liver damage, gastrointestinal problems, and kidney disease. It is therefore important to maintain a healthy balance of copper in the diet. As foods high in mercury often found in fish should be avoided. Since they can increase the absorption of copper in the body. By taking these precautions, you can ensure your body is getting the right amount of copper for optimal health.