There are many vital things we need as humans to survive. There’s actually several essential vitamins and minerals needed! I’m sure you’re familiar, generally, with many of them, but maybe you’re hoping to learn more about the benefits each has to offer.
So today, let’s talk about Zinc.
Maybe you’ve heard of this mineral when it comes to keeping your immune system healthy during the cold and flu season. You know, those zinc saturated lozenges and tablets that soothe the throat? While this is absolutely true, we need to take zinc during this time, it’s also important to keep up on zinc all the time. Beyond improving our immune systems, zinc aids in fighting inflammation, disease such as many cancers and heart disease. A deficiency in this mineral can cause many pitfalls for our bodies if we aren’t proactive.
So Zinc is a mineral, but what exactly does that mean?
It’s part of our tissues and organs, required by cells for normal cellular division. Beyond fighting against disease and facilitating the digestive processes, it helps with hormone production and regulation.
How do we know if we are deficient?
Zinc deficiencies are somewhat uncommon in North America, because most do intake the necessary levels required. True, severe deficiencies can result in diarrhea, eye and skin lesions, lack of appetite and hair loss. However, there is such thing as zinc inadequacy, which isn’t as severe. This could look like acne, balding hair spots, a chronic disease, worsening vision and hearing, lack of wanting to eat, halted growth (for children in the growing years), aching joints and wounds don’t heal as quickly as normal. Zinc deficiencies show up mainly in 20% of adults over the age of 60, so it’s important to keep this in mind as we age.
What can we do?
While taking vitamins and supplements is an option for getting enough zinc, it’s called a supplement for a reason. Our main source of intake should be through our foods. The reason it’s essential is because we must receive it through our diet. However, also take a look at your multivitamins. If taking a vitamin, make sure there is some zinc present, even if it’s in a small dosage. As long as you have some zinc intake and consider yourself a healthy eater, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about not having enough zinc.
Foods High in Zinc
- Pumpkins seeds and oil, in particular, are great for improving mental health and even prostate health. Consuming ½ a cup provides you with 22% DV (daily recommended value).
- Hemp seeds are great for zinc consumption AND they are nutrient-dense sources of a lot of protein! They have loads of omega-3’s and omega-6’s which are healthy fats needed by our hearts and overall cardiovascular systems.
Allow chickpeas be your go-to for complex carbs and protein, while containing an abundance of zinc. They provide 17% DV when consuming a one cup portion. This comes with over 12 grams of protein! The complex carbs are awesome, too, so don’t let the word carbs scare you. The fact that they are complex means they will take a while to digest, leaving you feeling fuller longer, curbing hunger. Further, they aid in the digestive processes. I say it’s a winner, winner chickpea dinner!
Poultry and Beef:
Many Americans consume adequate amounts of meat to meet their zinc requirements. Non- meat eaters are at an increased risk for zinc deficiencies. Eating meat may actually increase absorption. Vegans and vegetarians may need up to 50% more zinc than meat-goers. It’s been researched and proven that some legumes and whole grains block the absorption of zinc because of the phytic acid. However, there’s no need for vegans or vegetarians to feel they have to eat meat to get enough zinc. Good news- soaking beans overnight until you see sprouts form can help increase the zinc in the foods.
Cashews hold the greatest amount of zinc when looking at the whole nut category. These guys are great because they also provide copper (yes small amounts are needed by the body), which helps in keeping our brains functioning optimally.
Let’s not leave out the importance of drinking water. There are minerals found in water in small percentages, but is in a form that makes it easy to absorb by the body. Aim for 6-8 cups a day depending on your specific needs. Flavor with some lemon, too if you wish!
While we should be including as many of these foods as possible, it’s important to steer away from certain foods that are detrimental to our health and our body’s ability to absorb. Foods to avoid include: processed foods, alcohol, greasy foods, etc. These will most likely counteract the positive benefits of eating the zinc- filled foods mentioned above.
As you can see, many of these foods provide additional benefits when it comes to vitamins and minerals. Try incorporating some of these foods into your daily meals, even if it’s just one or two a day. Soon, you may notice your body actually craving foods rich in zinc. Our amazing bodies know exactly what they need and if we listen closely, we can provide all the TLC they’re begging for!