Along with the vitamins A C and E mentioned in the video I posted last week on Facebook, zinc is a powerful anti-oxidant. Anti-oxidants are natural molecules, found mostly in plant foods such as fruit and vegetables that protect us from the damage harmful free radicals can have on us. Anti-oxidants protect us from age related diseases, heart disease, cancers, diabetes, alzeimhers. Research shows people with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems are at greater risk as the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 so eating more anti-oxidant rich foods is a wise move.
The mineral zinc is classed as a micro nutrient. Though we need it in minute quantities nevertheless zinc plays a major role in supporting the immune system. It increases our ability to fight infections, which is why zinc is commonly taken with Vitamin C to fight viruses and colds. In addition zinc is also well known for improving wound healing after surgery or injury. Zinc supports a healthy blood sugar balance so important if you have on going sugar cravings or if you have diabetes or if you are pre-diabetic.
There are many reasons why we could need higher levels of zinc or why are levels could be low. Our absorption of zinc reduces as we age. Smoking, alcohol consumption, high sugar intake and acute stress increases our requirement for zinc. Food processing depletes zinc levels. The higher the level of processing the more nutrients are stripped from food.
So if you are a smoker with frequent colds or flus or if you snack a lot on chocolate and sugary snacks and find yourself getting recurrent infections it could be down to low zinc levels.
Some of the signs that you are not getting enough zinc are:-
- White flecks on nails
- Impaired taste and smell
- Slow wound healing
- Frequent colds and flus
We cannot store zinc so we need to get it in our daily diet. Absorption rates are low – we only absorb about 30-40% of what we intake. We need about 4 to 6mg a day in our diet to maintain about 2 2.5mg in body tissue. Diet with adequate levels of quality protein should be meeting the requirements for zinc.
The best sources are animal sources as the protein aids absorption. Seafood particularly oysters are great source of zinc as is beef followed by lamb, turkey, chicken, liver, eggs. Vegetarian sources are all good sources but zinc is less absorbable. They include cheese, yoghurt, beans, cashew nuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds, tahini paste, wholegrains, oats, brown rice, wheat germ, avocado, peas, kidney beans and dark chocolate.
So for some meal ideas to boost your zinc intake naturally:-
- Live yoghurt with cashew nuts and sprinkle of pumpkin seeds
- poached eggs with lamb
- Liver pate with wholegrain brown bread
- Chicken, avocado and pesto wholemeal sandwich
- Diced turkey and avocado omelette
- Seafood salad mixed with mixed peas
- Spaghetti bolognaise with wholemeal pasta
- Homemade lamb or beef stew with kidney beans and peas
- Home-made oat based cookies with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and dark chocolate
In terms of supplementation we need 15mg to 30mg per day for general maintenance and more for therapeutic purposes or to correct a deficiency. My advice is that you are best taking zinc with a multivitamin. Taking high levels of zinc without professional advice can lead to long term deficiencies in other minerals including copper.
My advice is to focus on making small manageable changes to your diet to include more zinc rich foods. Start perhaps with reducing your intake of sugar and alcohol. Move towards a whole food diet and consider ways to better manage stress in your life. Every small step you take today is a step in the right direction.
Take care and stay safe