In the pursuit of counting our calories and training as hard as we can to reach our fitness goals, it is easy to forget about optimal health and nutrition. Focusing on those three numbers to hit your macros every day will definitely help you optimize how much muscle you can build or how much fat you can lose, but they definitely are not the whole picture.
Micronutrients are half the battle when it comes to feeling 100%, warding off illness, and preventing serious deficiencies. A multivitamin is all well and good but nothing can replace a colorful and varied spectrum of fruits and veggies to stay at the top of your game. Whether you are cutting, bulking, or trying to maintain your current physique, a serving of fruits and veggies at every meal should be a basic requirement for everybody right alongside lean protein and plenty of liquids at the very least.
One micronutrient that isn’t talked about much but has countless roles in keeping us healthy is copper. Yes, the same copper we use in our pipes and pennies. This mineral is only needed in trace amounts in our body to prevent many debilitating side effects.
Multivitamins usually contain a decent amount of copper to stave off a deficiency, but getting them from whole sources will always be the best bet to avoid false supplement labels (under/overdosing an ingredient) as well as increasing the bioavailability of copper itself and other micronutrients.
So why do we need copper in our diet?
Since we cannot synthesize copper in our bodies naturally, we have to get copper from our diet (which is why it is referred to as an essential trace mineral).
Unfortunately, like all vitamins and minerals, you most likely will not notice how they are benefitting you unless you have a deficiency to start out with. Meaning, eating the recommended amount of copper every day will not help you build muscle or give you energy, but it will prevent many symptoms and keep you in tip-top shape from a general health perspective.
If you happen to become deficient, a few side effects that will begin to plague you include: weak joints/bones, cramps, anemia, pale skin, headaches and brain fog, decreased white blood cell count which can lead to a weakened immune system, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), birth defects, thyroid disorders and more.
With a list like that, I could stop the article here and I’m sure it would be enough of an incentive to begin watching and upping the amount of copper-rich foods in your diet!
On top of those symptoms though, copper does have some remarkable uses in your body that you again won’t usually recognize unless you had a deficiency, but are still vast and very beneficial in the long run.
The most notable benefit would be coppers effects on the heart and circulatory system. Lowering blood pressure, overall cholesterol levels, the risk of heart attack/stroke/heart failure, and the risk of cardiovascular disease are all impacted positively by a diet rich in copper.
In addition to your heart, copper is important for proper neurological development. It is required for many brain functions including cerebral connections and growth in children as well as adults. It is even possible that adequate copper levels in the brain play a role in building new neural thought patterns, including memory and creating problem-solving.
As mentioned already, a deficiency in copper can lead to a weakened immune system. What this also means is that in the right amounts, copper along with iron will keep your white blood cell levels high (which are the blood cells needed to fight off disease and infection).
In addition to this, copper is actually an antioxidant, which can help rid your body of free radicals that are linked to premature aging, macular degeneration, an increased risk of cancer, and countless other health issues.
While there are several other vital benefits of copper that I could talk about, I also need to get to the foods you should be eating to increase your daily copper intake! Don’t be afraid to go out and do your own research though, as I barely scratched the surface of this essential element.
What foods are high in copper then?
A multivitamin is never a bad idea, as we can’t always get all our required nutrients on a daily basis. That doesn’t mean we can take one and skip out on eating micronutrient-rich whole foods though.
With that being said, most of the foods rich in copper that I will list also contain a plethora of other nutrients that are essential to good health, meaning you shouldn’t have to just choose one.
The current requirements for copper are about 1.5-2.5 mg a day, but this amount tends to be a bit higher in those who exercise intensely and sweat on an almost daily to daily basis. With that being said, some foods that you should consume to increase your daily copper intake include:
- Beef liver, which contains about 200% of your daily needs in one ounce (28 grams) of meat.
- Oysters, which contain about 100% of your daily needs in six oysters.
- Dark Chocolate (above 70% cocoa solids), which contains about 80% of your daily needs in a 100-gram bar.
- Kale (raw or steamed), which contains about 75% of your daily needs in 100 grams.
- Shiitake mushrooms, which contain about 45% of your daily needs in 100 grams.
- Seeds (mainly sesame and poppy), which contain about 50% of your daily needs in one ounce.
- Nuts (mainly cashews and brazil), which contain about 30% of your daily needs in one ounce.
- Chickpeas, which contain about 20% of your daily needs in 100 grams.
Take home message
Many more copper-rich foods exist and I recommend you go find them to expand your culinary options for this one nutrient as well as many others.
As I said previously, some days you won’t be able to get your required two or more grams of copper you need, in which case a multivitamin or standalone mineral supplement will suffice. When you can though, these foods will be rich additions to your diet if you don’t already consume some of them. If you don’t, then you could be missing out on many, many great benefits that copper will provide you as well as even more symptoms that could arise from a lack of the mineral in your diet.
So for dinner make sure to have an appetizer consisting of oysters topped with sesame seeds, followed by a kale salad with sliced liver, garbanzo beans, and mushrooms, followed by a bar of dark chocolate with a nutty crunch!