What we talk about a reverse osmosis system does we tend to think about what they remove from water: chlorine, salt, calcium, lead… the list goes on. We use an RO water filter to remove those elements because they’re harmful to our health, and they make our water taste bad and smell funny.
But did you know that some of the same elements that we remove are good for us, our pets, and even plants? That’s right! Indeed, too many minerals- especially the toxic kind- in your water is a bad thing, but a lack of good minerals in your water can be harmful, too.
That’s why in this article we’ll be breaking down the minerals, talking about the ones we need, what minerals we don’t, and how to return some of those minerals you lost during the reverse osmosis process back to your water.
What Are Minerals and Why Do We Need Them?
Scientifically, minerals are defined as naturally occurring inorganic solids. Sound a little confusing? It did to us, too, but it’s pretty simple. A mineral:
a) Is naturally occurring, so it’s not made by humans
b) Is inorganic, meaning it’s not a plant or animal
c) Is solid, so it’s not a gas or a liquid
It should also be noted that minerals have a definite chemical composition and an ordered internal structure. All that means is that it can be specifically identified as a mineral down to its core and that its structure as a mineral will remain the same without changing.
Rocks, for example, are made of plenty of minerals, but they are not minerals. They’re made of both minerals and organic compounds, and therefore do not have a definite chemical composition. There are also elements like gasses and water that make up rocks, so they don’t have much of an ordered atom structure.
The Importance of Minerals
There are a whole host of natural minerals humans, animals, and plants need. Minerals help our bones grow and harden, help our organs function properly, and important for growth and functions in plants.
Humans and animals look for these minerals through hunting, and plants grow roots and mine for them wherever they can be found. The problem with minerals, though, is that we don’t make minerals organically so we need to supplement into our diets from outside sources.
Sometimes those sources also carry minerals that are dangerous to our health. Whether it’s lead in the water or arsenic in and on our food, we’re often told to treat food and water before consuming.
Prolonged exposure to harmful minerals will be harmful to the health of ourselves, our pets, and our plants. Take a look at four of the most dangerous minerals we shouldn’t be consuming:
Lead (Pb) is found in nature, but because of its use in everything from pipes to paint to pesticides, lead can be found in nearly everything we eat and drink. Long-term exposure to lead will lead to kidney damage, brain and nerve damage, and even death.
Cadmium (Cd) is released as a byproduct of zinc, copper, and lead extraction. It goes into the environment and lands in the ground and in rivers, which is taken in by plants and animals while also landing into the streams we get water from. Prolonged exposure to cadmium can result in reproductive issues and even DNA damage leading to cancer development.
Arsenic (As) is a naturally occurring mineral that comes to us through dust, water run-off, volcanoes, microorganisms, and burning fossil fuels. In trace amounts, it’s necessary for some animals, but in high amounts, it can cause cancers of the blood and organs.
Chromium (Cr) is another tricky mineral because while very small amounts are necessary for humans, high levels can lead to respiratory problems and cancers. Contaminated well water with dangerous amounts of chromium is more common than you’d think, and heavy fish consumption can also expose some to chromium.
Thankfully, these minerals- while extremely harmful- can be filtered out through reverse osmosis. In the pursuit of clean drinking water, though, RO systems can sometimes be a little too good at scrubbing our water.
Build-up of minerals like calcium can indeed lead to scaling, but calcium’s also beneficial to our health. We don’t want funny tasting water, but sodium is necessary for our nerves to function correctly. When we don’t get the minerals we need our bodily functions are impacted, and the same can be said for our plants and pets.
Let’s take a look at 5 important minerals humans, animals, and plants all need to survive that your reverse osmosis system may be filtering out:
Calcium (Ca) helps blood clot, enzymes breakdown material going into the body, and regulate fluid passing in and out of cells. It also helps the heart pump, helps nerve transmission, and even hormone secretion. The same goes for plants: calcium helps plants build strong cell walls and healthy root systems.
Phosphorus (P) is important in helping build strong bones and teeth, as well as producing proteins and repairing cells in human and animal bodies. In plants, (P) aides energy transfer throughout the plant, helping plants grow and sustain new cells by triggering the conversion of sunlight into carbs that’ll be used by the plant.
Potassium (K) helps remove toxins from and deliver nutrients into cells. It also helps build proteins, break down carbs for use by the body, and helps maintain the balance of pH in the blood. In plants, (K) helps open the pores that allow plants to breathe, and they help make the sugars and starches needed for blooming flowers.
Sodium (Na) works with potassium in the body to help cellular exchange, as well as aiding the production of digestive juices. It stimulates muscle and nerve function, as well as balancing electrolytes and the fluids around cells.
Magnesium (Mg) is vital in over 300 biochemical reactions within the body but also helps keep your muscle and nerve functions working as they should. It helps plant biochemical reaction in the same way, as it plays a central role in photosynthesis.
Remineralization: Putting Vital Minerals Back Into Your Water
You can tell whether your water needs to be run through a reverse osmosis filter or if your water needs more minerals simply by checking the pH.
- pH levels less than 6 means there’s a chance you have toxic metals in your water, so filtration through an RO system is recommended
- pH levels higher than 8.5 mean there are lots of minerals in it (maybe too much), so you may want to consider reverse osmosis
If your pH levels are around 7 to 8 you’ve got neutral water which is great. Still, if it’s closer to pH 7 you may have lost some important minerals in the process. That’s why we recommend adding a remineralization filter to any water softener.
The US Aqua Alkaline 5 Stage Remineralization Filter, for example, gives your water calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, copper, and selenium lost in the filtration process. At the same time, it exchanges dissolved heavy metals for beneficial minerals. Your water may be okay without extra minerals, but water with important minerals tastes good and is healthy for yourself, your pets, and your plants.
So while too much of any mineral can be harmful, not getting enough of the minerals we do need can be just as bad. When your water’s too soft, make sure your reverse osmosis system pushes your water through a remineralization filter before it’s ready to drink.