We often talk about protein foods, iron in meat, potassium in bananas and other big and “famous” nutrients, but we forget that there are many other nutrients that are as important and valuable. Today’s nutrient hall of fame shout-out is to ZINC!
Zinc plays a role in regulation of your immune system (including development and function of immune cells), skin health and repair, growth and development, DNA synthesis, and more! In fact, hundreds of different molecules in our body that are responsible for proper metabolism and digestion rely on adequate zinc supplies to do their job. Isn’t that amazing?!
More than that (!) there is increasing evidence that zinc deficiency is closely related to development of many allergic diseases, as well as severity of asthma and eczema symptoms. If this is true (more studies need to confirm this theory), then I wonder if some common restrictive diets that remove multiple foods at once can exacerbate the situation by trapping a person in this vicious cycle: low zinc – > food allergies/eczema/asthma –> removal of foods high in zinc that also happen to be common allergens / -> even lower zinc levels -> worsening of symptoms…and so on. What do you think? I think this is interesting food for thought…
My second thought is that zinc is an “essential” mineral, which means that we cannot get it in any other way besides eating it. Furthermore, our body can’t store zinc, which means we also need to eat it on a regular basis! “So”, you may wonder, “how come we talk about zinc so rarely then?”
One of the reasons, I think, is that this mineral can be found in so many different foods that it has been long assumed that zinc deficiency is rare. Zinc is high in meats, shellfish, eggs and dairy…staple foods in many countries. Plant food sources that are rich in zinc are also widely available and include nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes (although the absorption of zinc from plant sources is generally lower and quite controversial). The problem though, is that people with multiple food allergies may need to exclude these foods from their diet, sometimes for many years, other times for their whole lifetime!
· If you wonder about your zinc levels, talk to a doctor you trust
· Unless you are severely depleted, the best way to get zinc is with food, not supplements!
· Try to think of foods that you eat on a regular basis (remember we don’t store zinc!) and see how many natural zinc-rich foods you eat
As always if you need any help figuring it out, talk to your dietitian or send me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here. Love you all and til next!
ZINC FOOD EXAMPLES
Very rich sources of zinc: Atlantic oysters, king crab, steamed lobster, crab cake, all cuts of beef, and all cuts of lamb.
Other notable sources of zinc: Pork, poultry, milk, low-fat cheese, yogurt, eggs, nutritional yeast, nuts, seeds (e.g. pumpkin seeds), various whole grain products, legumes and tofu.
1. Ozdemir O (2014) Zinc and Allergy Relation. MOJ Immunol 1(1): 00005 DOI: 10.15406/moji.2014.01.00005
2. Gray NA, Dhana A, Stein DJ, Khumalo NP. Zinc and atopic dermatitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2019 Jun;33(6):1042-1050. doi: 10.1111/jdv.15524. Epub 2019 Mar 15. PMID: 30801794.
3. Kamer B, Wąsowicz W, Pyziak K, Kamer-Bartosińska A, Gromadzińska J, Pasowska R. Role of selenium and zinc in the pathogenesis of food allergy in infants and young children. Arch Med Sci. 2012 Dec 20;8(6):1083-8. doi: 10.5114/aoms.2012.32420. Epub 2012 Dec 19. PMID: 23319985; PMCID: PMC3542500.
4. Health Canada; Dietary Reference Intake Tables. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/dietary-reference-intakes/tables/reference-values-elements-dietary-reference-intakes-tables-2005.html
5. Solomons, N. W. (2001). Dietary sources of zinc and factors affecting its bioavailability. Food and nutrition bulletin, 22(2), 138-154.