Zinc, a relatively underplayed mineral that we need for a strong immune system and SO many other health factors, here’s where to get it naturally!
Considering its underrated reputation, it is surprising to learn that zinc is in fact the second most common transition metal to appear within the body, second only to iron, and is present in every single cell. Lack of iron is a widely-known troublemaker for our health so it is definitely worth looking at the role of zinc to our health. It is a big player when it comes to metabolism and creating cells needed throughout our systems, aiding with cell division, promoting the functionality of enzymes, and also gets involved in brain function. It is already sounding very much like something we should know more about!
The lowdown on why zinc is our friend…
Despite being a metal itself, zinc has the ability to prevent heavy metal build up in the brain. It is also thought to help keep the brain alert and functioning efficiently which in turn can prevent the early onset of illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.
More than 300 different enzymes rely on the presence of zinc for their functionality. Theses enzymes are responsible for our digestion, nerve function and help with our metabolism.
Men should play close attention to the role of zinc in their diet as the prostate cells are far more needy when it comes to zinc than most other types. And not just a small amount, around ten times more! A healthy zinc level will help to balance the testosterone levels.
Zinc is stored in various parts of the body but one of the places it is most concentrated is the eyes. Alongside a healthy level of vitamin A the health of the retina can be improved and maintained and help to prevent degenerative conditions.
Immune cells require zinc for them to function and develop effectively.
Zinc is a common treatment for certain types of skin injuries such as burns, or skin conditions such as acne, for example. The reason it helps to repair a wound is that it aids production of collagen and immune function, inhibits the growth of bacteria, and assists our inflammatory response mechanisms; all of which are needed for our skin to heal and repair itself.
As well as these important factors zinc is also responsible in playing a serious role in many processes with the body; gene expression, skin health, protein synthesis, DNA synthesis, and general growth and development. It can also reduce the length of the common cold, reduce chronic inflammation and risk of infection.
Low level zinc issues…
It is a rare occurrence for someone to suffer from severe zinc deficiency, but mild deficiency is very common. This may cause stunted growth, skin and eye lesions, reduction in smell and taste, and reduced immune function, all of which can have multiple contributing factors and so it is difficult to know what is the primary cause. An interesting result from studies shows that older people with good levels of zinc intake respond better to vaccination for influenza – something to be considered during our current situation perhaps?
Overdoing it on the zinc…
This is also an unlikely occurrence when it comes to getting your zinc via your diet, however it is possible if taking supplements. The reactions of too much zinc in the body can be nausea, lack of appetite, stomach ache, or, over long periods of time, more serious symptoms such as a tight chest, difficulty to breathe, reduced time for wound healing, dizziness, and weakening of bone density.
How to get more zinc naturally…
As an essential nutrient, we know that we need zinc, but unfortunately our body can neither produce it nor store it. Therefore, we need to ingest it regularly to receive its goodness; the good news is that we can find it in food. The following guideline shows good sources of zinc that we can consistently incorporate into our diet to keep our levels healthy, and how much of it we need.
How much should we take…
The recommended daily allowance, although this may be exceeded (up to approx. 25mg) without side-effects is between 7-9mg for adult females, and 9-11mg for adult males.
Where to find it…
- Shellfish: Oysters, crab, mussels, lobster and clams
- Meat: Beef, pork, lamb and bison
- Poultry: Turkey and chicken
- Fish: Flounder, sardines, salmon and sole
- Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, etc.
- Nuts and seeds: Pumpkin seeds, cashews, hemp seeds, etc.
- Dairy products: Milk, yogurt and cheese
- Whole grains: Oats, quinoa, brown rice, etc.
- Certain vegetables: Mushrooms, kale, peas, asparagus and beet greens
All of the above contain good levels of zinc, always check the labels for guidelines. Oysters contain by far the most concentrated amount of zinc so don’t go overboard, and if you can’t get fresh ones the canned varieties do a decent job at keeping up the goodness levels. There are plenty of options for vegetarians, pescatarians and vegans to find their sources, so there’s really no reason to opt for supplements unless of course you have other dietary or health issues standing in your way.
Check with your doctor, nutritionist or health practitioner before making any major changes to your diet. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should take a slightly higher dose of zinc, again, check with your doctor to find out more.
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- Child & Adolescent Nutrition
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- Clinical Nutrition
- Advanced Nutrition
- Nutrition for Age 50 Plus
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- Sport & Exercise Nutrition
- Vegetarian & Vegan Nutrition
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