While zinc is more often known as an important mineral in supporting our immunity, it is also an essential mineral needed to be consumed daily because it’s literally involved in hundreds of processes in our body! Due to many modern lifestyle and dietary habits, it is also clinically common to see a deficiency in this integral mineral.
If you’re wondering where your zinc levels may be at – some common deficiency signs manifest are frequent colds, white spots on nails, fatigue and poor wound healing. However, levels can still be low without these signs, which can also be tested with your functional medicine practitioner. The highest food sources are oysters, grass fed red meat and pepita seeds, which are best consumed away from caffeine and black tea as they can reduce the absorption of minerals.
Here are 4 reasons to start including more of these zinc-rich foods into your diet –
- Promotes healthy immune function – Zinc is an important nutrient for immunity as it is involved in the development of our immune cells. Similarly, a deficiency can lead to impaired production of natural killer activity, macrophage and neutrophil cells..these are our immune cells involved in prevent and fighting infections! Moreover, research has shown that zinc supplementation administered within 24 hours onset of cold symptoms reduced the severity significantly compared to the control group which didn’t receive any zinc .
- Helps hormones – Trying to conceive? This wonder mineral nourishes ovarian follicles and helps to promote ovulation. Moreover, zinc can reduce period pain due to its effect on diminishing inflammation, which plays a major role in period pain and blood clotting. Together with selenium and iodine, zinc plays an important role in activating the thyroid hormones, which optimising thyroid health is an important factor in fertility and women’s hormones.
- Improves metabolism – while zinc is more commonly known for its role in immunity and inflammation, it is also an important mineral needed in controlling diabetes and promoting healthy insulin sensitivity. A meta-analysis of 32 controlled trials found that zinc supplementation improved the glycaemic index in individuals with diabetes . It was observed that participants who had low levels of zinc had issues with beta cells in the pancreas, which is needed to produce insulin.
- For healthy skin and wound healing – zinc supports the production of collagen, which is a protein that helps to form connective tissue. Moreover, since zinc is important in collagen production, it’s an key mineral necessary to promote healing from burns, wounds and any form of skin injury or damage. Similarly, it can be used to help decrease breakouts of acne due to its anti-inflammatory ability.
There are many more important functions zinc plays in our health, and often in chronic conditions it needs to be supplemented at times. However, as zinc comes in many forms, always check with your naturopath or nutritionist to tailor form and dosage to best complement your individual needs.
By Fallon Cashell
 Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jun 18;(6):CD001364. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001364.pub4. Update in: Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;(4):CD001364. PMID: 23775705.
 Wang, X., et al, “Zinc supplementation improves glycemic control for diabetes prevention and management: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online, June 4, 2019, DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz041