Copper's Nutritional Function

Kathryn Vera
Beans, grains and nuts

While all nutrients are important, the role of copper is especially crucial. Individuals who are interested in increasing their copper intake should first understand its role in the body. Recognizing the effects of copper deficiency, recommended daily intakes, and copper-rich foods is also a must for adults who are interested in supplementing their consumption of this vital nutrient.

Role of Copper

According to the Linus Pauling Institute, copper plays a number of important functions in the body including aiding in the regulation of energy production, iron metabolism, and the growth and development of connective tissues.

Copper also appears to function as an antioxidant, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center, making it crucial when it comes to ridding the body of free radicals that can cause damage to cells and DNA.

Effects of Copper Deficiency

Deficiencies in copper intake can lead to impairments in immune system function along with bone demineralization and increases in the risk of cardiovascular and various neurodegenerative diseases.

Recommended Daily Intake

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, adults and children should consume copper in the following amounts:

  • Infants from birth - 6 months: 200 mcg/daily
  • Infants 7 - 12 months: 220 mcg/daily
  • Children 1 - 3 years: 340 mcg/daily
  • Children 4 - 8 years: 440 mcg/daily
  • Children 9 - 13 years: 700 mcg/daily
  • Children 14 - 18 years: 890 mcg/daily
  • Adults 19 years and up: 900 mcg/ daily

Individuals who take a copper supplement should also consume a zinc supplement in the amount of 8 to 15 milligrams of zinc for each milligram of copper, as a copper-zinc imbalance can cause other serious health problems.

Foods Rich in Copper

In Nutrition Therapy and Pathophysiology (page 614), Marcia Nelms, Kathryn Sucher, and Sara Long identify the following copper-rich foods:

Food Mcg/Serving % Recommended Dietary Allowance
Legumes 360 40%
Potatoes 250 28%

Nuts/Seeds

260 29%
Beef 170 19%
Pasta 190 21%
Cereal 180 20%
Rice 160 18%
White Bread 130 14%
Ground Beef 120 13%
Chocolate Desserts 140 16%
Fruit Juices 110 12%
Poultry 110 12%
Fish 120 13%
Dark Green/Yellow Vegetables 110 12%

Supplements

When it comes to choosing a copper supplement, the sky is the limit. Adults who are new to vitamin and mineral supplements may want to consider consultation with a registered dietitian or other nutrition expert before choosing from the various products on the market:

Copper Counts

Copper is a crucial mineral that is essential when it comes to building and maintaining good health. While it is certainly possible to meet daily copper recommendations through whole foods alone, some individuals may prefer the use of dietary supplements. Be sure to talk to your doctor before adding supplementary copper to your diet. Depending on your individual health history, a specialized prescription may be recommended.

Copper's Nutritional Function