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Foods with zinc for better immunity

12 Apr 2013 6:03 PM -
Pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas)

I recently wrote about the importance of looking after your immune system  over the winter months.  I mentioned a number of nutrients essential to good immunity, one of which is zinc.  Zinc is well studied and I have previously written a blog about research on zinc and the common cold.

So, what are the food sources of zinc?

Good sources of well absorbed (i.e. bio-available) zinc include: 

  • Meat
  • Poultry (especially the dark meat)
  • Fish and seafood 
  • Liver
  • Nuts and seeds(especially pumpkin and sesame seeds)
  • Mushrooms (especially crimini)

Wholegrains (e.g. oats) also contain zinc but, due to other nutrients (phytates) within the grain, the zinc may not be as readily absorbed. Vegetables also contain zinc but in relatively small quantities.  For non-meat eaters, eating a variety of beans and legumes will be an important source of zinc.

Dark chocolate and cacao can also provide some useful zinc (so feel free to indulge in a good quality dark chocolate occasionally).

What else does zinc do?

Like all vitamins and minerals, zinc plays an important part in maintaining our health.  It is critical to numerous metabolic processes and is, in fact, an essential component of more than 100 enzymatic reactions in our bodies.  We find zinc throughout the body but its highest concentrations are in the eyes, liver, bones, prostate, semen and hair. 

In addition to helping maintain a healthy immune system, zinc is important for:

  • General growth and development including growth of new cells and reproduction
  • Eyesight
  • Our ability to endure physical and mental stress and exertion
  • Taste and smell
  • Maintenance of a healthy prostate

Generally speaking if you eat meat and have a varied diet you should be able to meet your needs for zinc without a supplement.  Sometimes, if your need for zinc exceeds your dietary intake, it is possible to run a bit low on zinc.  It is also possible that, in some instances, your zinc levels can be disrupted by other minerals or by poor digestion.  These are the sorts of things I consider during a naturopathic consultation.

If you are wondering if low zinc levels are causing your health to be less than ideal, feel free to call me for a chat.  I may be able to put your mind at ease or set a plan of attack for you.  

 

In good health,

Kaye Wright
Naturopath

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