ZINC has a profound impact on our health and many people are deficient, especially those in developing countries and within elderly populations (Mercola 2009).
Zinc is an essential mineral in many body functions. In fact, it acts as a cofactor in over 300 enzymatic actions. It protects against oxidative stress and repairs DNA; it effects growth and development, protein synthesis, taste, smell and vision; and plays part in appetite, skin health, fertility, and the big one: immunity (Mercola 2009).
SOME NEED MORE THAN OTHERS Everyone needs zinc, but some people have increased needs including growing children and teenagers, pregnant women, men and women looking to reproduce, women on birth control, the overstressed, the ill, and vegetarians. Additionally, deficiencies can be caused or exasperated by sweating, overconsumption of alcohol, sugar, and cigarettes, copper excess, and infection.
KNOW YOUR ZINC SOURCES You may or may not know but oysters are your zinc power-house. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t have easy access to them....and others wouldn’t touch them if they did! If you’re not fortunate enough to have oysters readily available, or to have a taste for them, you can get zinc in red meats, legumes, nuts, and seafood. Specifically rich sources are beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, tahini, lentils, chickpeas, and crab (whfoods.com). What you should know is that zinc needs to be in balance with other minerals, but especially Copper. Most of your whole food sources contain the magic ratio (about 15:1). Like other vitamins and minerals, this means it’s best to eat your zinc rather than supplement with it. Keep in mind that with nuts and seeds, the phytates within them will inhibit zinc absorption. This isn’t a problem as long as you soak your nuts and seeds!
GOOD TO KNOW Similar to other vitamins and minerals, zinc must have the right environment to be absorbed. 20-40% will be absorbed in the GI tract provided that it isn’t inhibited by phytates, iron, or copper. Plant sources can be absorbed but animal sources are more readily available. Signs of deficiency include slowed growth, oversensitivity to chemicals, poor appetite, lack of taste and smell, brittle nails, low immunity, and stretch marks. A quick look at your nails can also reveal deficiencies. Check for white spots or lines as that is a tell tale sign. The daily preventative dose is around 15-20mg/day. Therapeutic doses are anywhere from 30-75mg/day. (Bauman 2014).
The Final Spread
Zinc is one of your go-to minerals for immunity, skin health, growth, fertility, and pregnancy. If you can’t get it through foods like seafood, red meat, and legumes, make sure you find a supplement that is in balance with other vitamins and minerals like copper, Vitamins A and E.
Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014). Foundations of nutrition. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College.
WHFoods.com. Zinc. Retrieved from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=115
(3rd ed.). Pitchford, P. (2002). Healing with whole foods. Asian traditions and modern nutrition (3rd ed.). Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.