Foods to boost zinc

How much?

The recommended daily intake (RDI) for adults is:

women     8mg

men    14mg

Vegetarians need to take care:

Zinc absorption is lower from vegetarian diets, so intakes need to be 50 per cent higher for people not eating meat: that’s up to 12mg for women and 21mg for men.

Why we need it

Zinc has numerous functions within our bodies: it’s essential for growth and development and to maintain a healthy immune system.

How to get it

Meat is a good source of zinc, with darker meat being a richer source. Other sources include dairy products, eggs and some seafoods, nuts, seeds, whole grains and dark leafy vegetables. Each of these will provide around 1mg of zinc.

Each of these will provide around 1mg of zinc:

  • ½ oyster
  • 1½ tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • ¾ cup cooked brown rice
  • 2 slices grainy bread
  • 20g beef steak
  • 100g tofu

What are the health benefits of zinc?

Zinc is vital for a healthy immune system, correctly synthesizing DNA, promoting healthy growth during childhood, and healing wounds.

The following are some of the health benefits of zinc:

1) Zinc and regulating immune function

According to the European Journal of Immunology, the human body needs zinc to activate T lymphocytes (T cells).

T cells help the body in two ways:

  1. controlling and regulating immune responses
  2. attacking infected or cancerous cells

Zinc deficiency can severely impair immune system function.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “zinc-deficient persons experience increased susceptibility to a variety of pathogens.”

2) Zinc for treating diarrhea

According to the World Health Organization, diarrhea kills an astonishing 1.6 million children under 5 every year. Zinc pills may help reduce diarrhea.

A PLoS Medicine study, which “followed a nationwide public health campaign to increase zinc use for childhood diarrhea in Bangladesh,” confirmed that a 10-day course of zinc tablets is effective at treating diarrhea and also helps prevent future bouts of the condition.

3) Zinc effects on learning and memory

Research conducted at the University of Toronto and published in the journal Neuron suggested that zinc has a crucial role in regulating how neurons communicate with one another, affecting how memories are formed and how we learn.

4) Zinc to treat the common cold

Zinc lozenges were found to shorten the duration of common cold episodes by up to 40 percent in a study published in the Open Respiratory Medicine Journal.

In addition, a Cochrane review concluded that taking “zinc (lozenges or syrup) is beneficial in reducing the duration and severity of the common cold in healthy people, when taken within 24 hours of onset of symptoms.”

5) Zinc’s role in wound healing

Zinc plays a role in maintaining skin integrity and structure. Patients experiencing chronic wounds or ulcers often have deficient zinc metabolism and lower serum zinc levels. Zinc is often used in skin creams for treating diaper rash or other skin irritations.

A Swedish study that analysed zinc in wound healing concluded, “topical zinc may stimulate leg ulcer healing by enhancing re-epithelialization, decreasing inflammation and bacterial growth. When zinc is applied on wounds, it not only corrects a local zinc deficit but also acts pharmacologically.”

However, research has not consistently shown that use of zinc sulfate in patients with chronic wounds or ulcers is effective at improving healing rate.

6) Zinc and decreased risk of age-related chronic disease

A study from researchers at Oregon State University have found that improving zinc status through diet and supplementation may reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases. It has been known for decades that zinc has a significant role in immune function. Deficiency has been linked to increased inflammation in chronic disease and triggering new inflammatory processes.

8) Zinc for preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

Zinc prevents cellular damage in the retina, which helps in delaying the progression of AMD and vision loss, according to a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology.

9) Zinc and fertility

Several studies and trials have linked poor zinc status with low sperm quality. For example, one study in the Netherlands found that subjects had a higher sperm count after zinc sulfate and folic acid supplementation. In another study, researchers concluded that poor zinc intake may be a risk factor for low quality of sperm and male infertility.

10) Other possible zinc benefits

Zinc may also be effective for the treatment of:

  • acne – one study, published in JAMA, showed promising results of zinc sulfate for the treatment of acne
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • osteoporosis
  • preventing and treating pneumonia
Did you know? Eating high amounts of zinc from foods doesn’t appear to have any ill effects, but high intakes from supplements can cause stomach cramps, depress immune function and reduce absorption of copper and iron.
Author: Rose Carr.

2017-07-14 13:21:28

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