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Diet diary: Grandma’s copper wisdom

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When your grandmother kept a copper jug on her bedside, she sure had good reasons to. Ayurveda recommends the use of copper for storing drinking water. Copper is an essential trace mineral and is not produced in the body. It is critical for several important metabolic functions in the body, including energy production activating enzymes which give strength to build collagen, cartilage, tendons, blood vessels and lung tissues. It is also essential for insulating nerve cells (mylination) and works as an antioxidant.

Low copper consumption increases our risk of coronary heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, gout, anemia, nervous disorders, pigmentation defects, brittle bones and lung disease. Being an antioxidant, it is also a useful anti-ageing mineral. Food sources of copper include organ meats, shell fish, nuts particularly almonds and peanuts, seeds, legumes, chocolates and dry fruits. Copper, like most trace minerals, is double-edged and too much or too little can cause harm. Optimal health requires just the right amount of copper. Although simple dietary copper deficiency is not a significant public health concern, most people are unable to consume adequate levels and fall below current recommended levels.


Copper, in fact, is an important beauty mineral as it helps in synthesis of collagen, melanin and aids in replenishing the outer layer of our skin. Copper’s anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties protect the skin and help keep it looking younger. It also helps maintain adequate iron levels in the blood as well as regulate blood flow. Further, copper also contains properties that can stimulate contraction and relaxation of stomach muscles and aids in the proper movement of digested food.

What is novel about copper is that its water-purifying properties works as a sort of disinfectant and reduces risk of infections by destroying harmful pathogens. In india and eastern countries, storing water in copper vessels has been an ancient health practice. According to a recent research paper published in Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition 2012, water stored in copper vessels showed that the level of copper that had leached in the water completely killed the bacteria or lost its ability to grow. Copper clearly has a potential to provide microbially safe drinking water to the rural masses, specially in developing countries, and its use must be explored.

Although copper is relatively not toxic when compared to other trace elements, women using copper-based contraceptive are prone to toxicity. Toxicity has also been traced to drinking water from corroded copper pipes. Being a good conductor of heat, copper has been traditionally used for cooking, however, only after tinning. Tarnish and acid can cause food poisoning. Historically, copper imparted a bright green colour to cooked green vegetables.

Cooking vegetables in coated copper pans was once encouraged. This practice often led to decreased liver and brain function. Swedish military recognised copper toxicity and banned copper cooking utensils in 1753. Water stored in copper vessel contributes a small fraction of the daily recommondated amount by WHO.

All in all, copper is a mineral that is a part of protective antioxidant enzymes in the system and keeps cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin and blood sugar normal and supports weight loss. Granny’s wisdom proves right, once again.