Believe it or not, it’s already the time of year to start thinking about cold & flu season. Zinc is often associated with cold remedies. In this article we’ll explore zinc and its importance, and how it affects our bodies.
What is zinc?
A metal, zinc is also considered an “essential trace element” for human health. If you have any jewelry made of brass, you’re wearing a zinc and copper alloy. If you’ve ever painted a wall white, the white pigment likely came from zinc oxide. And if your body’s immune system is working properly, zinc plays a part.
Why is it beneficial?
Aside from the obvious benefit as an immunity booster, zinc is also involved in multiple functions of the body. Here are just a few.
Growth – From the beginning, zinc plays a critical role in fetus and childhood growth. It is essential to DNA and cell growth and development. Children with zinc deficiencies tend to be small in stature.
Antioxidant – Zinc (whether directly or as a key player) provides antioxidant benefits in the human body. The mechanism of exactly how zinc provides protection still isn’t clear, but zinc deficiency typically results in more oxidative stress in the body.
Anti-inflammatory – Since zinc is considered an antioxidant, it naturally helps keep inflammation in check. This affects low level inflammation in both our bodies and brains, leading to better cognitive function.
Smell and Taste – Zinc enhances taste and smell. In a 1981 experiment, induced zinc depletion in five adult males resulted in altered taste perception of a salty solution. Zinc is required to produce carbonic anhydrase, an enzyme essential to taste and smell.
Reproduction – Necessary for sperm production, ovulation, and fertilization, zinc is just about as important as it gets in regards to reproduction and reproductive health. Zinc deficiencies while pregnant can lead to miscarriages, toxemia, premature birth, malformation, and stunted fetal growth.
Skin Health – Zinc is especially important to skin. It is concentrated up to six times higher in the upper layers of skin, promoting cell turnover. So when you get a cut, zinc goes to work, tamping down inflammation and helping new cells regenerate to heal the wound. Zinc is also used to heal rashes, the oxide form of it is a common ingredient in diaper rash and hemorrhoid cream.
How can I get zinc in my diet?
On average, men should consume around 10mg of zinc per day, and women around 8mg. Diet is the best way to consume zinc (as nature intended). There are some good plant sources of zinc, but be aware that plant phytates bind with zinc, so it’s not as bioavailable. Good plant sources include:
- Tofu & tempeh
- Nuts & Seeds
A better way to get zinc in your diet is to eat zinc rich animal products, which include:
- Shellfish (especially raw oysters)
- Beef & lamb
- Organ meat
If you’re consuming these foods, you’re likely getting enough zinc in your diet. And if you take a multivitamin, you’re likely not zinc deficient. If you think you might have a zinc deficiency, talk to your doctor about it. With a little dietary intervention, you should be back on track in no time!
- Medical News Today: What are the health benefits of zinc?
- Poliquin Group: Top 10 Benefits of Zinc
- Organic Facts: Health Benefits of Zinc
- Dr. Axe: 7 Signs of Zinc Deficiency & the Best Foods to Cure it!
- TOSU: Zinc Helps Against Infection by Tapping Brakes in Immune Response
- Canyon Ranch: The Skin Benefits of Zinc
- Chris Kesser: Nutrition for Healthy Skin
- Vegan Health.org