Copper? Really? Isn’t that a metal? Yes, it is, and while you might not find it listed on most food labels, the body does need small amounts of it. Copper is both necessary and toxic to living systems, therefore, proper balance is crucial.

You have probably seen others wearing those decorative copper bracelets that are commonly sold in health food stores, or perhaps some of your jewelry turns your skin green (this implies it has copper in it). Wearing copper has been done for centuries, as it has been said to reduce joint inflammation and ease pain [I]. It can, in fact, aid in joint pain associated with arthritis, and has many other beneficial properties as well! As an essential metal, copper is needed for adequate growth, cardiovascular integrity, lung elasticity, neuroendocrine function, and iron metabolism. Copper is very similar to iron because it is vital for ATP (energy) production. Copper also protects the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.

Copper Toxicity

While minerals like copper are essential, each mineral has “target organs” where it tends to build up if there is excess in the body. The places where copper accumulates are the liver first, then the brain, and furthermore, the reproductive organs. Dr. Paul Eck, founder of Analytical Research Laboratories, called copper the “emotional mineral” [II]. This is because copper and imbalances related to it have a profound impact on the central nervous system. The psychiatric implications of copper imbalance are tremendous. Toxicity symptoms can be dangerous and include dizziness, headache, convulsions, lethargy, stupor, and coma.

Copper is absorbed in the small intestine, but after absorption, instead of being excreted through the kidneys via urination, copper is carried to the liver where it is incorporated into bile and then eventually eliminated in the feces. This is why keeping your liver healthy is essential for detoxing your body of heavy metal build-up.

Avoid copper toxicity by refraining from copper supplementation. Stick to whole food sources and you will get just enough to boost your energy and strengthen your connective tissues!

Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)

Men 900 mcg/day
Women 900 mcg/day
Upper Level Dosage (UL) 10,000 mcg/day

Food Sources of Copper

Animal sources: liver and seafood

1 ounce beef liver— 4049 mcg
1 medium oyster— 670 mcg
3 ounces cooked clams— 585 mcg

Plant sources: legumes, nuts, seeds, and mushrooms

1 ounce sunflower seeds— 519 mcg
1 ounce hazelnuts— 496 mcg
1 ounce cashews— 629 mcg
1 cup cooked lentils— 497 mcg
1 cup sliced mushrooms— 344 mcg

Next time you make chicken, pasta or spaghetti squash for dinner, top it with this cheesy-tasting (but vegan!), copper-rich Cashew Pesto Sauce.



[I] Walker WR, Keats DM. “An investigation of the therapeutic value of the ‘copper bracelet’-dermal assimilation of copper in arthritic/rheumatoid conditions.” Agents Actions, 1976 Jul;6(4):454-9. Web. May. 2016. <>.

[II] Wilson, Lawrence. “Copper Toxicity Syndrome”. The Center for Development, 2015. Web. May. 2016. <>.