By now, we don’t need to tell you how important it is to have a balanced diet – you need to make sure you get plenty of those all important vitamins and minerals to maintain a healthy body. All of those nutrients have their own unique functions and a deficiency in any can lead to their own set of problems.
You know that Vitamin C is important for your immune system, you learned all about scurvy at school, vitamin D comes from the sun and carrots are a great source of vitamin A. But what about zinc? You often see vitamin C and Zinc sold in tablet form to boost your immune system, but why else is zinc important and what are natural nutritional sources of it?
Zinc plays an important role in your liver’s metabolic activities and a deficiency in zinc can affect numerous liver functions, including its ability to regenerate. Zinc is also crucial for the uptake of vitamin A, so all the carrots in the world won’t help if you’re not getting enough zinc into your system.
Zinc helps fight off bacteria and viruses, hence why a deficiency in it can lead to a compromised immune system. Since zinc is such a crucial part of your well being, studies have shown links between zinc and your mental health, with a deficiency often resulting in depression and anxiety.
It’s also needed to create proteins and DNA, which is why chronic zinc deficiencies, particularly in children, can be very serious and lead to stunted growth. Because zinc is needed for cell generation, if you don’t have enough of it, it can lead to hair loss, rashes and problems with wound healing.
All these issues can sound quite scary and zinc levels are not something doctors might test for often, so if you’re suffering from any of these symptoms, you might not be aware if that’s what your body is in need of. Obviously, consult a nutritionist or doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet, but luckily – there are many delicious options of getting enough zinc into your system.
Meat, dairy products and eggs are excellent sources of zinc. It’s a rather acquired taste, but liver is another great source of nutrients, among them zinc as well. For the vegetarians and vegans out there, no need to worry – zinc can be found in plenty of plant-based options. Chickpeas, beans and lentils are great sources of zinc.
Additionally, oats, quinoa, cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds. If your zinc levels are slightly low, keep a bowl of toasted pumpkin seeds at your desk and snack on them throughout the day. Certain medicines can inhibit the uptake of zinc, so if you’re not getting enough zinc through your diet, then you might need additional supplements as well, however you should be careful with the intake and confirm appropriate dosage with your doctor.
Too much zinc can be just as dangerous as too little, with zinc toxicity causing issues like diarrhoea, nausea, cramps and headaches and even a reduction in your good cholesterol.
As always, everything in moderation – but now that you know a bit about it, don’t overlook this important nutrient and see if you can introduce some of the foods mentioned above into your diet to make sure you get plenty of that metallic goodness.