Zinc - It Does The Body Good!

Did you know that zinc is vital to the function of a healthy immune system? COVID-19 has brought this vitamin to the forefront and many studies have been done recently to showcase that zinc is an important way to boost our immunity.  Zinc deficiency is known to cause anosmia and taste dysfunction (loss of smell and taste), which was often a symptom that occurred with COVID-19, as zinc is one of the first things the body depletes when fighting pathogens.

Zinc (Zn) is an essential micronutrient that is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, with 85% of it found in muscles and bone. Zinc is anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative and is required for cell growth. It helps with metabolic function, and it plays a role in every aspect of immune response, including thymus health. Found in every cell, zinc also plays an important role in reproduction, blood clotting, collagen creation, and proper insulin and thyroid function.

There are many things that can hinder the body’s ability to properly absorb zinc. Toxin exposure, increased stress from fasting or illness, poor diet, alcohol consumption (zinc is used to break down alcohol), use of birth control pills (supresses zinc) and low hydrochloric acid in the stomach can all impede absorption. Growing food in healthy, nutrient rich soil is also crucial to ensure it is rich in zinc.

Besides a loss of taste and smell, there are many signs and symptoms of a zinc deficiency. Poor immunity, poor connective tissue health (white spots on nails), hearing loss, brittle hair, slow growing hair and nails, hair loss, lack of alertness, impotence, poor growth, loss of appetite, lack of menstrual period, stretch mark formation, night blindness, depression, hypogonadism in males (lack of testosterone or sperm production), growing pains, PMS, increased acne or acne that doesn’t heal well, white coated tongue, sleep issues, prostate issues, macular degeneration, and slow wound healing are all signs of deficiency.

Like anything in life, it is important to remain balanced. While I personally feel it is a good idea to take a zinc supplement in the form of a lozenge or tablet while fighting a cold, flu or COVID-19, supplementing with zinc over extended periods of time or in high doses may lead to copper deficiency. For this reason, many doctors recommend that you take 2mg of copper along with a zinc supplement.

With a robust, varied diet, your body can usually get enough zinc. By eating your zinc versus supplementing with it, your body synergistically gets the right balance of vitamins and minerals it needs. Not surprisingly, the very best food source for zinc is the oyster! Oysters contain more zinc per serving than most other foods. Two oysters will fully meet your daily requirement of zinc (yum - I will be looking for an oyster bar tonight!). Oysters also contain vitamins D and B, along with copper, iron, magnesium, and selenium.


Other foods high in zinc include organ meat, meat, eggs, dairy cheese (ricotta, swiss, gouda), wheat germ, real maple syrup, mushrooms, ginger, ground mustard, chili powder, black pepper, shrimp, as well as crab and other shellfish. Something to note - zinc is best absorbed when taken with a protein rich meal.

Some other decent, although not as easily absorbed, sources of zinc are legumes (lima beans, soybeans, peanuts, black-eyed peas), whole grains, brewer’s yeast, miso, cooked greens, green beans, tahini, and pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

If you do choose to take a zinc supplement, when possible, purchase supplements from a natural health store versus a drug store. Speak to the experts at the health store as they are very knowledgeable. Look for supplements that have been third party tested. Choose brands that have a good reputation and have done the work to certify and test their products. Look for consumer ratings about the company and product. Be aware of additives and fillers and be wary of where the ingredients are sourced. Be vigilant about vitamins coming in from Asia. Local is always best.

However keep in mind that taking supplements alone is not a great long-term plan. When you are fighting a cold or flu, by all means add a zinc lozenge or tablet to your daily toolbox. However, on an ongoing basis, try to maintain a strong foundation of health, by making sure you incorporate a variety of zinc rich foods into your daily routine. Oyster bar...here I come!


Find more insights into optimum Nutrition HERE.
Learn more about my Journey To Wellness.

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