The topic of zinc seems to suddenly be popular. Word is going around that we should be consuming more of it for health and possibly as an immune booster. Is there adequate zinc in foods? Should we be supplementing? Is there any truth behind the rumours that zinc is a super immune booster?
Let’s explore this tidy, essential mineral a little further. Zinc cannot be manufactured in or stored by our bodies so we need to consume it in our diet. It is important that a fairly balanced level of zinc be kept up in our systems by the food we eat so that our supply is not in jeopardy.
As an essential mineral, zinc is important in functions at the cellular metabolism level as well as in supporting the function of multiple enzymes, immune function, protein synthesis and wound healing to name a few jobs it regularly handles. It is also an important contributor to conditions for proper growth and development. Zinc is necessary for the proper function of our taste and smell senses.
The Federal government’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that our nutritional requirements should ideally be supplied by foods, “Foods in nutrient-dense forms contain essential vitamins and minerals and also dietary fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have positive health effects.” These guidelines go on to allow for the fact that this it is not always possible for our diets to provide what we need and often fortified foods and/or dietary supplements may assist in making up for dietary deficiencies.
So, what foods contain zinc? Zinc is an essential mineral found in the following common foods:
- Whole grains
- Some vegetables
- Dark chocolate
These foods are not necessarily difficult to come by or consume but obtaining enough zinc in the diet may be a challenge to some. Combinations may also affect zinc absorption further complicating the matter. Despite the fact that some whole grains, vegetables and legumes are on this list , the Phytates in them can inhibit zinc absorption causing this source of zinc to be a little less dependable than the top 4 on the list. That reduces our options somewhat, especially for vegetarians and vegans. Interestingly, leavened breads, in their rising, break down the phytates in certain grains making the zinc in them more bioavailable than in flatbreads or crackers.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of zinc is 8 mg for adult women and 11 mg for men. The higher end for zinc consumption is a limit of 40 mg per day. This would be a challenge to get from food but is potentially a harmful risk to those using zinc supplements. More is not better. Too much zinc can lead to nausea, vomiting, headaches and diarrhea. Too much zinc also depletes your body’s copper stores.
Those who are at risk of not obtaining enough zinc in their diets include those with gastrointestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, that challenge zinc absorption. Vegetarians, vegans as well as pregnant and lactating women run the risk of not consuming enough zinc in their diets as do those with sickle cell disease and those dealing with alcohol dependency.
Supplementation may be wise for people in these categories or those whose diets do not contain enough natural zinc containing nutrients.
The current popularity of zinc has to do with its role in immune support at this time of pandemic. How does it stand up? According to US National Institute of Health, zinc is essential as a resource in healthy immune responses: “Severe zinc deficiency depresses immune function, and even mild to moderate degrees of zinc deficiency can impair macrophage and neutrophil functions, natural killer cell activity and complement activity. The body requires zinc to develop and activate T-lymphocytes”.
This prompts us to further explore the nutritional makeup of our favourite source of natural tryptophan, pumpkinseed powder. Pumpkinseeds are a very good source of zinc. According to the USDA 100 g of pumpkinseeds contain 7.64 mg of zinc which is about 90% of your daily recommended amount. They also contain very outsized amounts of tryptophan, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese and iron. As we have seen earlier, however, it is more about bioavailability than simple presence in food.
Pumpkinseeds are also very high in good fats. Close to 50% of the pepita pumpkinseeds you would most likely find in your grocery or health store is made up of oil. Pumpkinseeds are high in Omega 3 and Omega 6 which are good fatty acids we need to get from food. The fat content is fairly high, however, at about 50% of the seed so this must be kept in mind by those needing to watch fat intake. While these are good fats, they also can work to counteract some of the beneficial elements in the rest of the seed.
For the pumpkinseed powder in the Zenbev formulation, we remove the oil to double the tryptophan concentration. Once the oil is removed in a cold press method, we grind the remainder, or “presscake”, into a fine flour. We love the health qualities of pumpkinseed oil but the fat in it dampens the surge our sleep and anti-anxiety formulation is designed to boost. That is why you can’t get the Zenbev response just by eating pumpkinseeds alone.
While there is a lot of zinc in the pumpkinseed, much of it is in the oil and gets removed by our process. Our formula requires the natural tryptophan more than the other nutritional elements. They are still present in a concentrated state but for Zenbev, it is more important to remove the oil so that all the tryptophan gets to your brain to produce serotonin and melatonin naturally. The concentrated zinc and other minerals are a bonus!
So zinc is a very healthy element to try to maintain in your system whether by the balanced diet you eat or by further supplementation in moderation. It is a proven immune supporter and great for overall health and nutrition and worthy of the buzz and our respect.