Why You Need Zinc In Your Diet (And The Best Food Sources!)

You already know that minerals like calcium and potassium are vital to your health. But did you know that zinc is just as important?

If you have a zinc deficiency, you could be at risk of a whole host of health problems. Here’s some information on just why you need to make foods high in zinc a staple of your everyday diet.

An Incredibly Important Mineral

One of the many reasons you need to find good sources of zinc is that the mineral helps fight infections.1 It also provides protection against the damage that oxidation can cause.

For example, oxidation creates free radicals, which are very dangerous molecules. They’re missing an electron and will move through your body looking for a replacement. Free radicals don’t really care where they get that extra electron. So, they usually steal it from other cells. When this happens, that can lead to significant damage to tissues and muscles.

In addition, a deficiency makes it hard for people to be able to effectively fight off respiratory illnesses like colds. And zinc-deficient patients may also find it hard to recuperate from surgical procedures or other injuries.2

You see, when you have a deficiency, it can put your immune system at risk.

These are just a few of the other problems that can occur:

zinc protects colds

  • Appetite loss
  • Concentration problems
  • Depression
  • Lack of nail and hair growth
  • Night blindness
  • Overall growth problems
  • Smell and taste impairments
  • Wound healing delays3

Do You Have a Zinc Deficiency?

Your body’s actually the most reliable tool when it comes to figuring out if you have a deficiency.

One sign is that you get an upset stomach on a regular basis.4 This is because zinc helps your body to digest food.

And if your eyes have a hard time adjusting when you go from a light place to a dark one, you might be surprised to know a deficiency could be the culprit.5 Weight gain and fatigue are other signs you need more of this vital mineral. A deficiency can affect the way the body metabolizes protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

zinc soreness

One sign of a zinc deficiency you might not have thought of concerns exercise. If it’s been a few days since your last workout but your muscles are still sore, you might need more zinc.6 The same holds true if you suffer a bruise and it lasts longer than it should.7

The Health Benefits of Zinc

Now, there are several health benefits associated with increasing your intake. And research indicates that zinc plays an important role in helping brain neurons communicate. This, in turn, has an effect on how we learn as well as how we form memories.8

Furthermore, zinc helps maintain the integrity and structure of your skin. When people have a deficiency, they’ll usually be at higher risk for problems such as chronic wounds or skin ulcers. One study showed that zinc could stimulate the healing of leg ulcers by decreasing the growth of harmful bacteria.9 There are even indications that it can help slow the progression of vision problems such as age-related macular degeneration.10

So, now that you know all about the health benefits, you may be wondering…

Where Can I Find a Good Source of Zinc?

sources of zinc

The amount of the mineral you need each day varies according to gender and age. Children need from 2-8 milligrams a day while men need about 11 mg. Women need about 8 mg, but pregnant women should strive to get around 11 mg each day.11

There are a lot of different foods that are high in zinc. Many of them are on the shelves of your local grocery store. Here are just a few:

Cereal – A staple of breakfast tables across the country, cereal is high in zinc, especially whole grain and multi-grain cereals. But cereals that have a lot of sugar can counteract any benefits you might receive. So, make sure you opt for low sugar cereals.

Dark Chocolate – Wait – something that tastes as fantastic as chocolate can also be good for you? It’s true. Dark chocolate is a great source.

Fruits – A cup of blackberries contains nearly 1 mg of zinc. Dates and raspberries also contain the mineral.

Meat – Just 100 grams of lean beef will provide you with 12.3 mg of zinc. Lean pork is another good source with 100 grams proving about 5 mg. Eating 100 grams of chicken will deliver 2 mg. Meat can also help with zinc absorption, but most types are also high in cholesterol. So don’t go overboard eating meat. Get your meat in moderation.

Mushrooms – A cup of white mushrooms will provide slightly more than 1 mg of the mineral.

nuts high in zinc

Nuts – Almonds, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, and hazelnuts are all great choices. Especially the cashew which has 6mg per 100-gram serving.

 

Pumpkin seeds – If you eat as little as 100 grams of raw pumpkin seeds you’ll get a whopping 10.3 mg. But you have to eat them raw.

Shellfish
– Crabs, lobsters, and clams are all really high in zinc. The oyster is also a good source of the mineral. Eating a plate of six oysters will deliver an astounding 80 mg. Be careful, however. As you’ll see in the following section, too much can be just as harmful as a deficiency.

Vegetables – Many vegetables are high in zinc, including peas, lima beans, and soybeans. Just a cup of soybeans will provide 9 mg, while the same amount of peas and lima beans provide 2 mg each. Spinach, Brussels sprouts, and green beans are some of the other vegetables that contain healthy amounts of the mineral.

Can You Have Too Much in Your System?

The answer, yes. While there are a lot of benefits associated with getting enough zinc, there are also quite a few problems associated with getting too much. If you get more than 40 mg each day, you could be at risk for some potentially severe side effects.

For example, an overabundance of zinc in the body could lead to serious digestive issues and can also reduce the amount of “good” cholesterol in your blood. It could also weaken the immune system.12

So it’s best to stay on the safe side and talk to your doctor before making major changes to your diet. This should also be the case if you’re thinking of taking a supplement. Play it smart and get medical advice first.

Learn More:

What is the Metabolome? (And Why It’s Essential to Health)

Got Stomach Pain? Maybe Your Diet is to Blame


Sources
1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130207131344.htm
2. http://www.dummies.com/health/nutrition/zinc-the-immune-system-nutrient/
3. https://www.healthline.com/health/zinc-deficiency
4. http://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/signs-youre-not-getting-zinc
5. https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/diet-and-nutrition/zinc
6. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/signs-youre-not-getting-zinc
7. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/signs-youre-not-getting-zinc
8. http://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(11)00646-5
9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2275309
10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11594942?dopt=Abstract
11. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-Consumer/
12. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-Consumer/#h8

9 Gut-Friendly Foods That Supercharge Your Health

It’s no secret… your gastrointestinal tract – or gut – is filled with billions of bacteria and microbes – aka gut flora.

While many of those bacteria are actually good for you, there are others that aren’t. When the balance between good and bad bacteria goes the wrong way, you’re at risk for a wide range of digestive problems. Fortunately, there are several foods that can help make sure you have a good supply of beneficial bacteria.

Here are nine gut-friendly foods that you should consider making a part of your regular dietary routine.

The Big 9 – Your Gut’s Friendliest Foods

1. Kefir

This fermented drink is typically made from goat or cow milk. You can think of it like drinkable yogurt. It’s filled with probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, that help offset the harmful ones. The result? A good assist for your gut health.

Making kefir is simple – just add kefir grains (which are actually probiotic cultures) to milk. The cultures multiply and ferment and 24 hours later you’ve got kefir. You can even take the grains from the liquid and repeat the process.

Kefir contains about 30 different strains of beneficial microbes, so it is an incredibly diverse source of probiotics. One strain, Lactobacillus kefiri, has been shown to help inhibit the growth of the harmful Helicobacter pylori strain – a strain associated with severe gastrointestinal problems.1

But it doesn’t just provide you with beneficial bacteria. It also provides other key nutrients like vitamin B12, magnesium, vitamin D, calcium, protein and phosphorous.

gut friendly foods | Probiotic America

2. Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is also a rich source of probiotics and contains several types of beneficial bacteria. It’s become hugely popular in mainstream grocery stores, but you need to be careful when buying it.

Why? Because some brands might be labeled Greek yogurt, even though they’re basically just regular yogurt with gelatin added for thickness. True Greek yogurt should only have two main ingredients – probiotic cultures and milk.

The beneficial bacteria in Greek yogurt help boost your immune system and protect you from digestive problems like leaky gut syndrome. This problem occurs when the walls of the intestines become weak. Of course, when this happens, toxic microbes can enter the digestive tract. Clearly, nobody wants that.

Also, Greek yogurt is loaded with protein, which helps build strong muscles, cartilage, bones, and skin.

Furthermore, it can give you added energy. Getting enough protein is even more important as you get older. In fact, people 65 and older need about a gram more per day than younger adults.2 Greek yogurt’s also high in calcium, which can play a key role in helping keep your bones and muscles healthy and strong.

3. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is basically fermented cabbage. While you can get it in your local grocery store, you need to make sure that it hasn’t been pasteurized. Pasteurization can be an important food safety process, but while it kills bad bacteria it can also destroy your good microbes.3 If your sauerkraut is pasteurized, you won’t get the probiotic benefits.

Sauerkraut’s also filled with beneficial microorganisms that act as reinforcements to the good bacteria in your gut. There are nearly 30 beneficial strains in sauerkraut that are great for gut health. They help you avoid digestive problems like diarrhea and constipation.4 They also help your body do a better job of absorbing nutrients from the foods you eat.

4. Kimchi

Kimchi is the delicious Korean version of sauerkraut. Kimchi is made through a fermentation process that produces beneficial bacteria. The longer it ferments, the more bacteria develop. People have known for decades that kimchi can be a very effective way to reduce the symptoms of many different digestive issues.

Beyond being tasty, Kimchi is also pretty high in fiber. Of course, fiber helps promote a healthy digestive tract too. And fiber also helps lower your “bad” cholesterol levels. Also known as LDL (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) bad cholesterol can contribute to heart problems. In addition, fiber helps you feel full after a meal, which will reduce the chances you’ll overeat.5

gut friendly foods | Probiotic America

5. Artichokes

Next up – artichokes. They’re a great source of prebiotics, which are fibers the body can’t digest. But guess what… probiotic bacteria can.

They serve as a critical energy source for the good bacteria that live in your gut. Artichokes also contain a substance known as cynarin, which helps produce bile. And bile is important to your digestive process because it helps your body do a good job of absorbing nutrients. If you don’t have enough bile, there’s a good chance you won’t get the nutrients you need from the food you eat.6

6. Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented tea that contains a lot of beneficial bacteria. Many people drink it instead of soda – and you should too. The fermentation process that goes into making kombucha not only produces good bacteria, but also several different B vitamins. Some of the bacteria in kombucha also produce cellulose, a substance that protects cells.

Kombucha also acts as an antioxidant, which helps to protect the body from the effects of oxidation. Antioxidants inhibit the growth of free radicals, dangerous molecules that can damage cells and tissues. Beneficial bacteria, such as those found in the drink, also help stop the formation of the dangerous candida yeast in your gut.7 And it’s a good thing too because candida is associated with many serious health issues.8

7. Miso Soup

Believe it or not, miso soup is extremely popular in Japan – and not just for lunch or dinner. The Japanese love to serve miso soup at breakfast. It has a salty taste and comes in a variety of colors, including yellow, red, brown and white. Miso is not only high in good bacteria, it also contains vitamin K, copper, and manganese.

gut friendly foods | Probiotic America

8. Bananas

Not only do bananas taste great, they’re filled with healthy fiber and beneficial bacteria. They’re also high in magnesium and potassium. Also, bananas have almost no fat, so they’re super low in calories. In fact, a banana only has a little more than 100 calories.

And bananas help to regulate blood sugar levels and control appetite too.9 There’s even evidence that eating bananas can also help with weight loss.10

9. Blueberries

One of the best superfoods out there, blueberries not only taste great in muffins, they also contain beneficial bacteria and a lot of vitamin C. Of course, vitamin C can help improve the texture of your skin and also protect you from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.11

The fruit might also help improve your cognitive functioning. One study involved a group of people who were in mild cognitive decline and ate blueberries each day for four months. According to the results, they not only showed improved cognitive performance, their brains functioned better overall.12

Blueberries are also rich in magnesium, calcium, and potassium which can lower the risk of developing high blood pressure.13 They can also help make your heart healthier because they contain anthocyanins. These substances not only give blueberries their unique color, they might also reduce the risk of a heart attack.14

One Last Thought

You never want to start any new dietary routine or take any sort of supplement without talking to your doctor first. Even though you can benefit from an increased supply of good bacteria, you don’t want to take the risk of eating something you might be allergic to. Your doctor will let you know what you can eat safely.

For more health tips, keep reading:

5 Simple Ways to Restore Gut Health After Antibiotics

Got Stomach Pain? Maybe Your Diet is to Blame

Sources:
1.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4273153/
2.https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-blog/seniors-beef-it-up-to-prevent-muscle-loss/bgp-20136508
3.https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/cellular-microscopic/pasteurization2.htm
4.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12788716
5.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23885994
6.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3958332/
7.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23361033
8.https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/thrush/index.html
9.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2849298
10.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/238859
11.http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/vitamin-C
12. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/307797.php
13. http://jandonline.org/article/S2212-2672%2814%2901633-5/abstract
14.http://www.uea.ac.uk/documents/1493191/4649679/FMH-SF-14-03+Cassidy.pdf/b0561527-4268-4920-a396-38d73383faf4