The Importance of Zinc.
Zinc, which is actually a type of metal, is an essential trace element. Zinc is needed in small amounts every day in order to maintain health and perform important functions each day. Zinc benefits the body in many ways: helps with hormone production, growth and repair; improves immunity and helps digestion. Zinc benefits also include its ability to act as an anti-inflammatory agent, therefore zinc may have significant therapeutic benefits for several common, chronic diseases like fighting cancer or reversing heart disease.
Zinc is actually present within all body tissue and needed for healthy cell division. It acts like an antioxidant within the body, fighting free-radical damage and slow the aging process. Zinc also has a big impact on hormonal balance, so for this reason, even a small zinc deficiency can result in an increased risk for infertility or diabetes.
Without enough zinc present in your diet, it’s possible to experience symptoms like frequently getting sick, feeling like you’re always tired and run down, poor concentration, stunted growth, and the inability to heal wounds.
Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
Zinc deficiency is common around the world, including in the U.K Zinc deficiency occurs when someone doesn’t eat enough foods that contain zinc or has trouble absorbing and using zinc from foods due to digestive disorders or very poor gut health. The highest levels of zinc are found in foods high in protein — especially animal proteins, including high-quality meats, certain kinds of seafood and dairy (milk and dairy products that are unpasteurized and organic are best).
Zinc is found in grains and legumes, plus it’s usually added to processed, packaged grain products like cereals. However, this type of zinc isn’t as absorbable or useful by the body
For this reason, even zinc found in whole foods like legumes and whole grains aren’t as good of a source as animal foods due to naturally occurring antinutrients that block zinc absorption. Research even points to the fact that high intake of carbohydrate foods (especially processed, packaged kinds) may be one reason why zinc deficiency is on the rise. Zinc deficiency is caused because carbohydrates are replacing high-quality protein sources, but also because people’s impaired digestive systems make it difficult to absorb enough zinc.
Who is most at risk for zinc deficiency?
Anyone following a plant-based diet that doesn’t include meat or dairy products (vegan or vegetarian) is usually at the greatest risk since their diets eliminate the highest food sources. People who suffer from severe stomach-acid issues, chronic digestive problems or alcoholism are also more likely to have a zinc deficiency.
Finally, it’s believed that women taking the birth control pill or who are on hormone replacement therapies drugs may also be at a higher risk, since this can interfere with zinc’s roles in the body related to hormones.
The most common signs and symptoms associated with zinc deficiency include:
Changes in appetite, including food cravings for salty or sweet foods
Changes in ability to taste and smell
Weight gain or loss
Digestive problems, including diarrhoea
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Hormonal problems, including worsened PMS or menopause symptoms
Poor concentration and memory
Slowed ability to heal wounds, skin infections or irritation
Top Health Benefits of Zinc
1. Increases Immunity and Fights Colds
Zinc is often taken as a natural over-the-counter remedy for fighting colds and symptoms of illnesses. When taken for at least five months, zinc may reduce your risk of becoming sick with the common cold, plus supplementing once you already feel sick can speed up the healing process.
2. Acts as a Powerful Antioxidant that May Help Fight Cancer
Zinc is an effective anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent, helping fight the chance for disease development, including as a natural cancer treatment. Especially in elderly patients, zinc benefits include its ability to support healthy cell division, preventing cancerous cell mutation and stunting tumour growth.
3. Balances Hormones
Zinc benefits hormonal health and fertility because it plays an important role in hormone production, including increasing testosterone naturally, which has very widespread roles in both men and women. Zinc also impacts female sex hormones and is even involved in the creation and release of eggs within and from the ovaries.
Zinc is needed for the production of estrogens and progesterone in women, which both support reproductive health. Either too high or too low levels of estrogens can cause problems with menstruation, mood swings, early menopause, infertility and possibly even increase the risk for certain cancers.
4. Fights Diabetes
Zinc is needed to balance most hormones, including insulin, the main hormone involved in the regulation of blood sugar and as a diabetes natural cure. Zinc benefits blood sugar levels because it binds to insulin so insulin is adequately stored in the pancreas and released when glucose enters the bloodstream
5. Maintains Heart Health by Supporting Blood Vessels
Zinc is needed to maintain the health of cells within the cardiovascular system, while also lowering inflammation and oxidative stress. The endothelium, the thin layer of cells that lines the blood vessels, partially relies on adequate levels of zinc. Zinc benefits heart health by supporting healthy circulation, since it helps as a natural remedy for high blood pressure and cholesterol levels from clogged or damaged arteries.
6. Prevents Diarrhoea
Zinc deficiency is related to chronic digestive problems and diarrheal diseases, so zinc supplementation has been shown to be effective in the treatment of Diarrhoea
7. Increases Fertility
Studies show that zinc plays an important role in fertility, especially modulating testosterone levels in men. Dietary zinc restriction and deficiency in normal young men is associated with a significant decrease in testosterone levels, which can negatively impact fertility and lower libido.
Zinc also impacts women’s fertility since adequate levels of zinc are needed during the growth process of the female’s eggs, otherwise eggs cannot properly mature and ovulation suffers.
8. Aids in Nutrient Absorption and Digestion
Zinc affects how protein is used and it is required by the body to use amino acids from foods. It’s also involved in the breakdown of carbohydrates from foods, which are one of the main sources of energy for the body. For this reason, a lack of zinc can cause low energy levels
9. Supports Liver Health
Zinc is shown to reduce the rate of infection and is related to lower levels of liver damage. Zinc can help with a liver cleanse to reduce inflammation in the liver, reduces free radical damage, helps with nutrient absorption and allows for proper waste elimination.
10. Helps with Muscle Growth and Repair
Zinc plays a crucial role in cell division and cell growth, so zinc benefits muscle repair and growth by making it possible for the body to heal itself and maintain strength in the muscular and skeletal systems. Zinc also helps with the release of testosterone, growth hormone all of which build muscle mass and a healthy metabolism.
Top Food Sources of Zinc
High-protein foods contain the highest amounts of naturally occurring zinc. Here are the top 12 food sources of zinc,