Zinc

Health Benefits of Zinc

Eating foods that are high in zinc can help prevent conditions such as impaired growth and development, delayed neurological and behavioral development in young children, increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, and pregnancy complications. Eating foods high in zinc may also help to slow age-related decline in immune function for the elderly. More studies are being conducted. Foods high in zinc include: beef, turkey, beans, lentils, and nuts.

What is Zinc?

Zinc is an essential trace element, necessary for sustaining all forms of life.

Function of Zinc:

Zinc must be obtained from the diet, because the body cannot make enough. Zinc is primarily stored in the muscles. High concentrations of the trace mineral are also found in red and white blood cells, bones, liver, kidneys, the retina of the eye, skin, and pancreas. In males, high amounts of zinc are also stored in the prostate gland.

Zinc is essential to the immune system. It helps to protect against infections such as colds. It also plays an important role in the regulation of appetite, stress level, taste, and smell. Zinc is needed for normal growth and development, and for reproduction in both males and females.

Zinc also has some antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are nutrients that provide some protection against various health conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, and cancer. Like other antioxidants, zinc blocks some of the damage that is caused by free radicals. Free radicals are by-products that occur when our bodies transform food into energy. Antioxidants also help to reduce damage to the body that is caused by toxic chemicals and pollutants such as cigarette smoke.

Deficiency of Zinc:

Individuals who are prone to having zinc deficiency include the elderly, people with anorexia, and individuals on restrictive weight loss diets. Zinc deficiency can also be caused by alcoholism. Irritable bowel disease, Celiac disease, and chronic diarrhea can also cause zinc deficiency because they interfere with the absorption of nutrients from food.

Symptoms of zinc deficiency include loss of appetite, weight loss, poor growth, impaired taste or smell, skin abnormalities (such as acne, atopic dermatitis and psoriasis), poor wound healing, hair loss, night blindness, lack of menstrual period, hypogonadism and delayed sexual maturation, white spots on the fingernails, and feelings of depression.

Note: A variety of medical conditions can lead to the symptoms mentioned above. Therefore, it is important to have a physician evaluate them so that appropriate medical care can be given.

Toxicity (Zinc Overdose):

Taking high doses of zinc may weaken immune function. It may also lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol and raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Side effects associated with taking zinc supplements include: upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, a metallic taste in the mouth, dizziness, headaches, drowsiness, increased sweating, loss of muscle coordination, alcohol intolerance, hallucinations, and anemia.

Caution: Eating natural foods that are high in zinc is the safest and healthiest way to get an adequate supply of the nutrient. Due to risk of toxicity, individuals should always consult with a knowledgeable healthcare provider before starting doses of supplements. Before giving supplements to children, it is recommended that you first consult with their pediatrician. Also, some supplements may interfere with medications. If you are taking medication, it is recommended that you consult with your physician before taking any supplements. All supplements should be kept in childproof bottles and out of children’s reach.

Zinc Food Chart (List of Foods High in Zinc):

Oysters, cooked, 6 medium (76.3 mg)
Beef, cooked, 3 ounces – (6.0 mg)
Crab, Dungeness, cooked, 3 ounces – (4.7 mg)
Turkey, dark meat, cooked, 3 ounces – (3.8 mg)
Chicken, dark meat, cooked, 3 ounces – (1.8 mg)
Yogurt, fruit 1 cup – (1.8 mg)
Milk 1 cup – (1.8 mg)
Beans, baked, 1/2 cup – (1.8 mg)
Cashews 1 ounce – (1.6 mg)
Chickpeas 1/2 cup – (1.3 mg)
Almonds 1 ounce – (1.0 mg)
Peanuts 1 ounce – (0.9 mg)
Cheese, cheddar, 1 ounce – (0.9 mg)

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