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Zinc is an essential mineral well known for its immune-related benefits. It is also vital for many enzyme reactions in the body and supports healthy cognition.
What is Zinc?
Zinc is an important mineral that is found in many foods. It is an essential mineral that becomes more important depending on certain factors. For example, people who do not eat enough zinc-containing foods or who sweat a lot may have higher zinc requirements or be at risk for lower levels since zinc can be lost through sweat. Insulin resistance can also suppress the body’s zinc levels.
Zinc is also important for healthy fetal growth and development during pregnancy, but also in infancy and childhood. Low levels can compromise immune system function. While high doses are not recommended, a higher intake for one or two weeks during the course of illness may be recommended by your healthcare provider and has not been shown to have serious side effects.
Zinc may be a useful nutrient for treating health problems like macular degeneration and HIV/AIDS.
Zinc must be consumed every day because the body has no way of storing this essential nutrient. The absorption of zinc can be decreased when too many phytates or antinutrients are consumed. These are typically found in grains, nuts, and seeds.
Health Benefits of Zinc
- Supports optimal immune function
- Supports healthy cellular metabolism
- Promotes healthy levels of testosterone
- Promotes normal enzyme reactions
- Supports healthy cognition and brain function
- Protects against acne
- Supports healthy neurotransmitter levels
- Is necessary for reproductive health
Food Sources of Zinc
Zinc is found in many foods, including:
- Pumpkin seeds
Zinc supplements should always be taken with food to prevent nausea but also to optimize absorption.
When someone does not get enough zinc from dietary sources, insulin sensitivity and testosterone levels can be suppressed.
Zinc is often widely considered to help prevent or treat common colds, cases of flu, and other infections. Research finds that zinc is primarily good at addressing throat and nasal symptoms, although it can’t necessarily prevent or cure any type of sickness.
Too much zinc can cause a deficiency in copper.
People who are at risk for having low or deficient zinc levels include:
- Those who have malabsorption diseases
- People with chronic alcoholism
- Vegetarians or vegans who eat high-phytate plant-based diets and do not consume animal products
- Infants who are preterm or low birth weight
- Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- People with chronic diarrhea
- People who have sickle cell anemia
- Those who are over age 65
Today’s Simple Step
While oysters provide a high amount of zinc, most people aren’t eating these regularly. But beef, chicken, and pork are good sources, too.
These Short Ribs with Coffee and Chile Sauce are a spicy way to get some zinc on your dinner plate. Pair them with your favorite vegetable side dish and maybe some soaked or sprouted grains, and you’ll enjoy a well-rounded meal.