Zinc is a mineral superstar which provides many amazing health benefits! Zinc is the catalyst for over 300 different enzyme systems, or chemical reactions in the body, it is essential for various components of healthy cellular growth, cell proliferation and cell apoptosis (death). It also plays a key role in the release of human growth factor, cell mediated immunity, wound healing, skin integrity, it is critical for nerve development, it is a major component of the retina and iris, the prostate, sperm and seminal fluid, and is vital in regulating men’s testosterone levels. It is even heavily responsible for our ability to taste!
Where do we find zinc?
Zinc is found in every organ, tissue and cell in our body. Women need 8mg/day and men require 11mg/day. Plant based sources of zinc include seeds (especially pumpkin seeds!), nuts, legumes, tofu, wholegrains, oatmeal and brown rice. Animal sources include oysters, prawns, pork, milk and eggs.
How we prepare, cook and store foods can impact the bioavailability and quantity of the nutrient we take in (i.e. how much we actually absorb and how much has an effect). For zinc, methods of fermentation, leavening (of bread), the soaking of nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains, sprouting and the technique of making sourdough will breakdown the phytates that inhibit zincs bioavailability. Other inhibitors of zinc absorption include polyphenols such as tea and coffee, excess fibre and folate, excess nutrients such as magnesium, iron and calcium, and pharmaceutical medications including antacids, H2 receptor blockers and Proton pump inhibitors.
benefits of zinc
Zinc plays a major role in our neurological pathways, and deficiencies are indicated in Alzheimer’s, some cancers, ageing, diabetes, depression, those with high alcohol intake and Wilson’s disease (a rare inherited disease that causes copper to accumulate in your organs, particularly the liver). Other more common symptoms of zinc deficiency include smell dysfunction, loss of appetite, impaired Vit A metabolism, confusion, alopecia, depressed immune function and poor wound healing.
The human body is incredible in that it knows zinc is vitally important, so it is very clever in its ability to adapt; i.e. if your levels are low, or your body requires more zinc (such as in adolescence) it will absorb more.
For many, taking a zinc supplement has many benefits, however it is important not to over do your intake as a daily dose of 50mg or more, in the long term can create problems with other minerals, particularly copper and magnesium.