If you eat oysters, beef, Alaskan king crab, lobster, or pork chop, you may be embarking on the next big buzzword in health and wellness. Care to take a guess? I am talking about Zinc. It’s not just for colds anymore. The more Zinc gets researched, the more we are going to learn about its importance and its impact on the body.
Not long ago I wrote a post for Babble about zinc’s role in fighting off breast cancer. Then just this week, researchers identified zinc as one of the most important essential trace metals, a vital element in various bodily processes and in the prevention of disease.
It is important to get enough zinc regularly in your diet, because the body does not store it. And a zinc deficiency could potentially lead to health concerns, such as:
– Absorption of foods and nutrients
– Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (low zinc levels have been observed in patients)
– Blood pressure regulation
– Coronary artery disease
– Gastric ulcers
– Lack of growth (aka: failure to thrive)
– Hormone dysfunction
– Immunity (fighting off illnesses)
– Liver disease
– Pregnancy and prenatal care
– Loss of sense of taste and/or smell
– Lingering bruises and wounds
Foods with high protein content, specifically animal protein, are the biggest sources of dietary zinc. If you are a vegan, vegetarian or a vegetarian (like myself), it is important to take extra precautions to get that zinc into your diet. It has been said that vegetarians (like myself) may require 50% more of the RDA for zinc than non-vegetarians. When I started reading about the zinc studies, it dawned on me that some of the minor complaints I’ve had lately could possibly be related to a zinc deficiency, so I plan on getting that checked out before it goes any further.
So what are the best sources of zinc in your diet? Here’s a list of them:
You may be thinking right now that you should be fine since you regularly eat cereals that are fortified with zinc. It’s true that several foods are fortified, but there’s a slight hitch. Phylates in whole-grain breads and cereals can actually bind zinc and inhibit its absorption in the body, so those items really need to be fortified. It does not necessarily mean that you are getting a whole lot of extra zinc. It’s certainly better than no zinc, but a little something to keep in mind.
And of course, anyone who has ever had a cold knows that zinc is available as a dietary supplement in lozenges and the like. Be careful with that, because excessive use via supplements can actually lead to zinc toxicity. That’s why it is best to get as much zinc as possible from your diet and leave it at that.
Here’s the low down for you breastfeeding mamas. According to the National Institutes of Health, breast milk provides enough zinc for the first 4–6 months of life but infants aged 7–12 months should consume age-appropriate foods or formula containing zinc.
So keep an eye out for the new buzzword in health as you fill up your plate, because zinc may be more important than you think! If you are not sure whether you are getting enough zinc, head on over to the National Institutes of Health to read their recommended dietary requirements.