After iron and zinc, copper is the most abundant dietary trace mineral. It is a component of many enzymes and is needed to produce red and white blood cells. Copper-dependent enzymes transport iron and load it into hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen through the blood.
Copper-dependent enzymes also provide a natural defense against free radicals that damage the body; manufacture collagen (required by skin and bone); inactivate histamine, which is responsible for allergic reactions; and degrade dopamine into a neurotransmitter so cells can “talk” to each other. Copper is also thought to be important for infant growth, brain development, the immune system and for strong bones.
The Primary Sources of Copper
Copper is often found in seafood, nuts, whole grains, seeds and legumes, as well as organ meats (offal).
Bioavailability of Copper
Copper absorption depends on copper intake; absorption rates are approximately 50% when intakes <1 mg/day (which is approximately the recommended intake for adult males). High iron intake may lower the absorption of copper.
Risks Related to Inadequate or Excess Intake of Copper
Copper deficiency in healthy humans is very rare. However, those at risk for copper deficiency are individuals with a rare genetic disorder, Menke’s disease, and children who are malnourished, those with prolonged diarrhea, or who are fed only cow’s milk. Because copper is needed to transport iron, clinical signs of copper deficiency include anemia. Other clinical signs are osteoporosis and other abnormalities of bone development, loss of pigmentation, neurological symptoms, and impaired growth. Excessive intakes of copper from foods are unlikely.
Incorporate copper into your next breakfast meal by trying the delicious recipe below…
Crunchy Nutty Granola*
1 tsp vanilla extract
500g oat flakes
100g flaked almonds
100g chopped cashew nuts
100g desiccated coconut
100g pumpkin seeds
100g sunflower seeds
200-300g mixed dried fruit, such as chopped pitted dates, figs, apricots, raisins, sultanas
Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/gas 3. Place the butter, honey and vanilla in a small pan, and put over a gentle heat to melt together. Next, mix the remaining ingredients, except the dried fruit, in a large bowl. Stir in the melted butter mixture and mix well. Spread out in a large roasting tray and bake for 25 minutes, or until the nuts and grains are a pale golden brown, stirring every 5 minutes so it browns evenly. Then remove the tray from the oven and leave to cool, stirring the mixture in the tray occasionally. (If you transfer it to a bowl while it’s still warm, it will go soggy.) When it has cooled down, add the dried fruit, stir, and put into an airtight container. Store at room temperature for up to a month.
*adapted from Rachel Allen Recipes