Copper in Our Diet? What’s Up with That?

copper in our diet
Dr. Lindsey Mcilvena, MD

In her day job, treating patients living with chronic disease, nutrition and lifestyle are not after-thoughts, they’re central to helping her patients get well. She’s also our go-to expert on plant-based diets.

You may have noticed that in many of our SuperFoodsRx articles, we break down the vitamin and mineral content in different types of foods. You probably recognize all the familiar ones, and even have some idea of what they do in the body—vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, etc. But are you wondering why we mention the copper content in our food, and what the heck that mineral has to do with health? Let us clear up the mystery for you.

It turns out that copper is involved in many processes in the body. Copper works within cells to power our mitochondria—the “energy powerhouses” you learned about in your 6th grade Biology class. Copper helps your body absorb iron, which explains part of its role in keeping red blood cells healthy. Copper is needed in the formation of collagen, which keeps your tissues flexible yet sturdy, and keeps your skin looking radiant and young. This mineral also acts as an antioxidant, protecting your body from the damage caused by free radicals. Copper is a trace mineral, meaning that your body needs only small amounts of it to work efficiently.

Wondering where you can find copper in your diet? Look no further than some of your favorite fruits and veggies. Mushrooms, potatoes, sweet potatoes, persimmons, bananas, grapes, and avocados contain significant amounts of copper, as do soybeans, lentils, and navy beans. Peanuts, cashews, pecans, almonds, and macadamia nuts are also rich in copper.

You should have no problem getting enough copper with a varied diet that’s heavy in plants.

Sources: University of Maryland Medical Center, NIH


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