In my office, we talk a lot about zinc. Mostly because I work primarily with women's health conditions, and zinc is huge in the women's health world. I like to reference some of the studies done for IFV that show the moment an egg and sperm meet and the amazing fireworks that occur. This is zinc at work.
I've had discussions with many different practitioners about nutrition. I have been told my many conventional doctors and nurses that nutritional deficiencies in the US are rare thanks to food fortification. Sadly, this is NOT the case. In fact the rate of nutritional deficiencies in the US are more rare than we have been let to believe. One of these is zinc.
Zinc deficiency is very common around the world, with 17% of the world population having a deficiency. Here in the US we are not immune to this deficiency, even with food fortification. 12% of the general US population, and up to 40% of the elderly, are deficient in this essential mineral.
So, What is Zinc?
We can start with the fact that zinc is a mineral. It is an essential mineral, meaning we have to consume it in our diet. It plays a major role in the body's biophysical processes. In fact, it is the catalyst for the majority of the enzymatic reactions that occur in the body. Without enough zinc, we can have some serious problems.
Its role in immune function has been widely known, as it is a common over the counter supplement and addition to cold and flu prevention products.
It is often found in foods containing protein, such as meats, and is necessary for protein metabolism (in addition to DHEA, but that is a completely other topic for another day).
It is so important for DNA synthesis that research shows that even MINOR deficiencies are associated with increased DNA damage and Oxidative Stress.
It is ESSENTIAL for the reproductive system, and is associated with infertility and increased frequency of miscarriage (specifically those that occur before 8 weeks).
It also controls cell division, which is especially important for growing fetuses, children, and proper wound healing. Deficiencies have been associated with an increased risk of cancer, especially Estrogen based cancers.
All that being said, the body cannot store zinc, so we need to consume foods that contain enough zinc every day.
Foods that Contain Zinc
So, what are the foods we are suppose to be eating everyday to get adequate amounts of zinc, and how much zinc do we need? Excellent questions! Knowing how awesome zinc is does nothing if you don't know how to get it.
The average person needs 10mg per day of zinc (give or take based on age, gender and health) according to the RDA. This is slightly debated, as most nutritionist believe you actually need more. So, let's just call this the minimum.
Like I mentioned above, zinc is used in protein metabolism, and thus most of the food sources of zinc are found in conjunction with proteins. Oysters are the star of the zinc show, offering a whopping 74.0mg per 3 ounces! Goo that's a lot!
For those of you who can't stomach eating oysters, I know you are out there you crazy people. There are other sources as well.
As a little side note on food preparation. Many of the non-meat sources of zinc need proper preparation and cooking before the zinc can be readily available and absorbed.
For those of you who have heard me speak, I am a HUGE proponent of proper cooking techniques. This is a part of human life that has been lost, and is vital to proper nutrition.
With Nuts, Seeds and Grains, techniques such as soaking, sprouting and fermenting/souring unlock the phytic acid bond that holds mineral and nutrition within the germ. Without this lost food preparation art, you cannot access the nutrition inside.
Green leafy vegetables also need proper preparation. Spinach needs to be cooked, drained and recooked again to remove the Oxalates that bind the minerals within. (I like to use the traditional Indian dish of Saag for my example.)
So, just be aware of these.
Costco sells these awesome raw, sprouted Pumpkin Seeds that I put on EVERYTHING. See my recipes page for ideas
Need Recipe Ideas?
Check out some of these recipes!
Banana Date Quinoa Porridge
JapChae with a Twist
Weekend Chicken Soup