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This power house of a mineral is responsible for a huge amount of wide ranging processes in the body. It’s probably best known for its role in the immune system, from modulating T cells to helping us fight infection. It’s also essential for our mental wellbeing too. Zinc is crucial for a healthy reproductive system and a tip top digestive system due to its role in stomach acid production. It’s also essential for a proper sense of taste and smell and for healthy skin because it keeps the hormone testosterone in check – too much testosterone can lead to increases in sebum production…which means spots!
A mighty micro mineral indeed!
However, the problem with our modern day 24/7 lifestyle is that it often depletes our stores of this precious micro mineral, coupled with the fact that our dietary zinc intake is often low…or certainly not on the optimum side of things. How often do you eat these zinc rich foods: lean beef, dark chocolate, prawns, ginger root, oysters, pecans, split peas, egg yolk, sesame seeds and tahini? Probably not enough.
Zinc absorption can also be affected by too much of another essential mineral, copper. We often discuss minerals and vitamins on their own but their ratio with other nutrients is also of paramount importance to our health. These two minerals work together on lots of jobs such as in reproductive health but they can also compete for absorption if the ratio becomes out of whack. Copper pipes, pans and the copper coil can all lead to an imbalance.
Zinc is also affected by our lifestyle. The contraceptive pill for example, can lower levels as can drinking alcohol (zinc is needed to get excess alcohol out of the body). These lifestyle factors, coupled with a low daily intake, are the likely reason that the most recent Nutrition Data Survey in the UK found that teenage girls and women were often low in this mineral (UK RDAs are set to minimum levels to avoid deficiency as opposed to optimum levels for vitality).
So aside from upping your zinc rich foods, being aware of lifestyle habits that might be depleting your zinc stores is also something to think about. Something to note is that zinc from animal based foods are thought to be up to 50% more bio-available than plant sources so if you’re vegan then make sure you eat these foods in abundance. If you’ve been drinking, do you need more zinc rich foods? If you’re trying to get pregnant, do you need a zinc boost? Are you catching everything going and in need of some zinc support? The answer to all of those is probably yes!
Written by Team Tonic Nutritionist, Karen Newby.
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