Zinc. A word that probably makes you think of thick sticky sunblock at the beach or keeping colds away in winter. Either way, zinc is featured in all our Eat for You product nutrient panels due to the inclusion of nuts and seeds (and in the case of Little Hero, the humble pepita (pumpkin) seed).
Zinc is a very important mineral found in every single cell within the body. In fact, zinc influences the activity of over 300 enzymes in our bodies, so its importance is really quite huge.
Severe zinc deficiencies can manifest in many ways including:
- loss of smell and/or taste
- lowered immunity
- poor wound healing
Whilst you should be considerate of obtaining enough of this mineral within your diet all throughout the year (let’s face it, our immune system really needs to be firing on all cylinders no matter what season), it is of particular importance for general immune function and healing over the cooler months when our immunity to viruses may be lower. Due to this, ramping up your zinc intake or getting your levels checked during your next healthcare visit is recommended as we head into winter.
Zinc has been proven within studies to reduce the severity and duration of the common cold when supplemented. But why wait until we get sick? Being proactive about your health, and utilising the magic of prevention, is key. Ensuring your zinc levels are adequate gives your body the best chance at mounting a defence against colds quickly.
To expand on this, zinc is vital for the optimal functioning of our immune system (which is so complex and contains many different lines of defence). Zinc’s roles also include maintaining the integrity of our skin, and for cells, mediating immune responses such as neutrophils (a type of white blood cell).
Studies have shown people who are deficient in zinc are more susceptible to infection which further backs up the call to supplement zinc whilst unwell.
The following table obtained from the NHMRC outlines the RDI requirements for zinc based on age.
Zinc is found in many different foods, some better sources than others. The following stars of the show contain higher sources of zinc and are worthwhile inclusions in your diet:
- pumpkin seeds
- sesame seeds
- grass fed red meat
- shiitake mushrooms
There are many reasons that someone may be deficient in zinc. Lack of dietary intake is one reason, and the rise of processed foods is another. In addition to poor dietary intake, increased need for zinc (beyond our typical everyday needs) can also contribute to a relative deficiency of this nutrient. This happens when our body is utilizing zinc at a higher level as it takes zinc from the blood to give to our tissues, creating a relative deficiency.
Things like chronic infections, trauma and stress (very common), certain medications and health ailments (digestive complaints in particular, which are very common in today's society) are some of a myriad of examples and situations where a relative deficiency may occur.
Too much zinc, which is a risk that is run when supplementing, can impair copper status within the body. Copper and zinc directly compete for absorption within the gastrointestinal tract, so knowing the status of both of these minerals within the body can be really important.
Without knowing our zinc levels, we run the risk of upsetting a very complex and delicate biochemical balance if we jump in with supplementation straight away when it may not necessarily be needed. Especially when eating a well balanced diet could be just as effective.
Always, always, always focus on foods that can support your body and the balance of nutrients it requires. And always remember, food comes first.
At Eat for You, we are particularly passionate about consumers truly understanding what is in the food that they are eating. It is for this reason that we nutrient test every single batch of our food.
There is so much more to food than just macronutrients, and we will always be up front and honest with not only ingredients, but educating on what is within those ingredients, as they do vary depending on seasonality and where they are sourced.
You can find our nutrient panels here to learn exactly what is in our food.Written by Eat for You Nutritionist Adelle Rutch