Welcome to this week’s look at essential nutrients that our bodies need to be healthy. We tend to regard food as something that looks pretty on a plate, smells and tastes good. Often the cost factor comes in because when you have several mouths to feed that is important. We don’t walk around a market looking for a bunch of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and a bag of zinc but we do need to ensure that we have a wide enough variety of fresh produce in our diet.
When I look at the food diaries for my clients for two weeks of meals, it is often evident that they have settled into a routine.. Fish on Friday, shepherd’s pie on Tuesday, chicken casserole on Thursday. There might be the occasional variation but usually it is the same shopping list week after week.
You might find it useful to check this post out which is the basic shopping list for health and also to make a calendar up for your local area to remind you to buy seasonal produce as that has not only travelled a lot less than most fresh food but supports your local economy.
Now to this week’s mineral….Zinc
We are currently in the middle of the series on the lungs and many respiratory diseases are due to compromised immune systems.
Zinc has been called ‘the healing mineral’. There is evidence to suggest that wounds heal faster when the body has sufficient zinc in reserve and a patient who has a healthy diet including foods containing zinc may find that recovery from operations is speeded up. In some cases additional supplementation is recommended, particularly in a person who has not got a healthy diet.
Zinc is also plays a major role in respiratory infections, burns and skin conditions and certainly has shown that if used in the form of lozenges at the start of a cold, it can alleviate some of the symptoms.
Like Vitamin C, Zinc is a component of more than 300 enzymes needed to repair wounds, maintain fertility in adults and growth in children. It helps synthesise protein, helps cells reproduce, protects vision, boosts immunity and acts as an antioxidant, protecting us from free radical damage.
Main areas of health that require Zinc
The primary areas of health that the mineral is most effectively used are for acne, the common cold, infertility, night blindness and wound healing. It is also used therapeutically in certain cases of anaemia, anorexia nervosa, birth defect prevention, coeliac disease, cold sores, Crohn’s disease, Diabetes, mouth and gum disorders, liver disease, and peptic ulcers. This list is only a partial representation of the areas of health that Zinc is involved in and including it in your daily diet is very important.
One of the areas that I have used zinc as part of a diet programme is for men in their mid 40’s onwards. Prostate problems such as enlargement or even cancer are quite common in that age group and zinc is one of the minerals that may help prevent future problems. In this case a handful of pumpkinseeds twice a day provides a healthy dose of zinc as well as other nutrients.
QUESTION – HOW WOULD WE KNOW IF WE WERE DEFICIENT?
A major deficiency is unlikely in the western world. In under developed countries children who are deficient suffer from stunted growth, weight loss, gastrointestinal problems and pneumonia.
In our environment there is some evidence that if there is a poor diet prior to and during pregnancy that zinc will be deficient that could lead to birth defects and illness in the mother. Drinking alcohol to excess can result in liver damage, particularly liver cirrhosis and there appears to be a link to zinc deficiency.
An interesting line of research is in the management of Down’s syndrome. Children born with this syndrome are commonly deficient in Zinc and are treated with a supplement and diet and this helps boost their immunity and thyroid function, which is suppressed due to the condition.
The most common age group for deficiency is the elderly whose digestive systems, along with many other operational activities has slowed down and is complicated by a decrease in appetite and the resultant lack of food and nourishment. If kidney disease is also present the effects the deficiency could be worsened.
QUESTION – ARE THERE ANY DANGERS BY INCLUDING ZINC IN YOUR DIET?
Including zinc in your everyday diet is unlikely to cause problems. If you are deficient a supplement containing 15mg per day is sufficient unless your doctor advises higher doses for certain illnesses.
There is evidence to suggest that once you start taking in excess of 300mg per day in supplements you could impair immune system function rather than boosting it.
Some people find that zinc lozenges that are taken at the start of a cold leave a metallic taste in them mouth and some experience gastrointestinal problems but it is usually due to taking more than the recommended dosage, in excess of 150mg. This is one of those cases where less may be more.
The best food sources for zinc are: seafood particularly oysters, pumpkinseeds, sesame seeds, wheatgerm, egg yolks, black-eyed peas and tofu.
Thank you for dropping by as always and look forward to your feedback. Please feel free to share.
©justfoodforhealth Sally Cronin 2007