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Copper is an essential trace mineral. Even though it is required in small amounts, it is still vital for health.
What is Copper?
Copper primarily serves as a catalyst for enzymes with oxidation-reduction activities in the body. It also plays a role in cognitive health, but too much may interfere with the brain’s normal ability to function. While research is ongoing, some evidence links high copper levels with Alzheimer’s disease, including the severity of the symptoms.
Copper is absorbed in the small intestine, so people who have disorders relating to the organ may not have optimal levels, even though the mineral is not required in large amounts. The body does not store large quantities of copper.
Health Benefits of Copper
- Acts as an enzyme catalyst for oxidation-reduction
- Is a cofactor for enzymes involved in energy production
- Supports iron metabolism
- Supports neurotransmitter synthesis
- Supports the development of new blood vessels
- Promotes nerve cell hormone balance
- Supports the regulation of gene expression
- Supports maintenance of the myelin sheath
- Promotes healthy immune system function
- Is a component of superoxide dismutase, a major antioxidant
- Decrease risk factors for ischemic heart disease
Food Sources of Copper
Most diets in the US contain adequate amounts of copper, so deficiency is less common unless there are specific underlying conditions.
Foods high in copper include
- Beef liver
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Sunflower seeds
- Dark chocolate
Standalone copper supplementation is not common, although copper is often found in multivitamins, multi-minerals, and trace mineral supplements, as well as those designed to support thyroid health.
When zinc is supplemented in high amounts or consumed at high levels in the diet copper needs may increase. This is because zinc leads to the increased production of a protein that can bind with copper and decrease levels in the body. It is always important to consume minerals in proper balance with each other.
People at risk for low copper levels include:
- Those who supplement with high amounts of zinc
- People who have had gastric bypass surgery
- People who take proton pump inhibitors
- People with Celiac disease
- People who have cystic fibrosis
- People who have genetic variants that lead to copper metabolism dysfunction
Some people may be at risk for higher levels of copper, including people who have copper plumbing in their homes or those who have Wilson’s disease, a rare genetic disorder that leads to excess copper accumulation.
(PPNF Note: When available, nutrition counseling is the best way to determine the supplements that are right for you. We understand that it is not always affordable or accessible. When taking supplements, follow recommended product guidelines unless a practitioner directs you otherwise.)
Today’s Simple Step
Yes, chocolate can be good for you, especially when it’s dark (75% or darker), organic, and does not contain refined sugars. Purchasing fair-trade chocolate also supports environmental stewardship and ensures that it was not produced using child labor.
This Cinnamon Hot Cacao Recipe is a great way to enjoy the warmth of chocolate alongside antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients.