A truly healthy lifestyle includes a wide variety of foods that provide a host of nutrients that are essential to life. I don’t like to value one nutrient above the other, what is important is variety and balance, but I do want to give you some more information on a few specific nutrients that many of us simply don’t get enough of. I also want to explain why they are important and how we can incorporate them into our healthy eating regimen easily. Let’s dive into nutrient #3: Zinc.
Zinc is a trace mineral that is often overlooked in the diet, unless you feel like you’re coming down with a cold. We tend to only hear zinc, and often Vitamin C as well, come up in conversation when we want to stave off cold and flu symptoms. Zinc can be an effective cold remedy because it increases your body’s production of white blood cells, the ones responsible for fighting infection. However, it is important to get small doses of zinc every day to strengthen your immune system, maintain your mood and mental clarity, keep your gut health in check, keep your senses of taste and smell functioning properly, and much more. Additionally, zinc is needed for the conversion of glucose (sugar) into energy within your cells. Without zinc, this chemical reaction could not take place and you could suffer from symptoms of insulin resistance, poor concentration/memory, chronic fatigue syndrome, digestive problems, low immunity, and other serious issues that will certainly dampen your quality of life.
A diet high in processed foods yields no zinc benefit, so the focus must be one whole, real foods in order to get this essential mineral. Animal products are the richest sources of zinc, and the highest sources are oysters (at up to 182mg per 100g!), grass-fed beef, king crab, and lamb. As you will notice here, high protein foods contain the highest amount of naturally occurring zinc because protein helps our bodies absorb it more readily. If you are looking for vegetarian options, there are a few but they serve up zinc in much lower amounts: mushrooms, chickpeas, roasted pumpkin seeds, tahini (ground sesame seeds), cashews, and almonds. One thing to be aware of, however, is that a diet high in un-soaked/un-sprouted grains and legumes can interfere with zinc absorption, so be sure to soak/sprout your grains and legumes to remove that phytic acid inhibitor.
If you think you may be deficient in zinc, speak with your doctor or holistic practitioner about potentially taking a supplement.