Oh zinc, how oft you are forgot! We see the zinc content in foods so regularly, but how often do you actually ask yourself whether you’re getting enough zinc in your diet or how much zinc content is in a particular food item? Do you even know what zinc does? I certainly didn’t until just a few minutes ago! So join me and let’s learn together, because knowing everything about what’s going into your body is certainly important! Let’s learn about zinc!
Looking inside your body and what it does, zinc plays a role in its ability to grow strong and develop correctly. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. Zinc assists with quite a few chemical reactions, one of which helps produce more blood cells and proteins, which in turn can boost your immune system quite a bit. Having a properly regulated intake of zinc will put you in top shape, so it’s good to be sure you know what’s happening, at least if you want to run at peak efficiency.
The trouble comes though when trying to actually determine the proper amount of zinc needed to get to said peak efficiency. No one can seem to hit a definite conclusion as to how much a human body needs at any given time or how to structure your diet properly. Right now it seems that men need 15 milligrams while women only need 12, but still we aren’t 100% sure because our bodies have a funny habit of regulating themselves pretty well, so if you’re lacking zinc it figures out how to store it really well and if you’re getting too much it knows how to expend it really well.
Beyond simply not knowing how much to have per day, a lot of studies keep saying that we don’t get enough, though the common reason for this is the belief that we’re setting the standard too high (and I’m sure you knew the standard and just felt like ignoring it of course). The bigger problem here is that zinc most commonly comes from…animal products. The implication is that by setting the standards higher in the US, it encourages the consumption of animals over a vegetarian or especially a vegan diet. Still, science be damned, vegetarians tend to have great levels of zinc regardless.
There are a few major food products that can significantly cut your ability to properly absorb zinc though, and one of them is pretty huge. Whole wheat grains contain something called phytates which just so happen to block zinc absorption, or at least reduce it. The same goes with nuts and legumes. The phytates fuse with the zinc, making it more difficult for your body to absorb it properly, and adding calcium to the mix further complicates things.
However, there are some things you can do to improve the zinc content/absorption ability of foods, such as adding acidic foods to a meal like tomato sauce or lemon juice, which somehow brings out the zinc. Also, cooking or simply soaking legumes tends to opening up their zinc potential rather than hindering their zinc potential, and also seeds that are just sprouting seem to have quite a bit of the mineral.
The funny thing about the vegetarian diet is that for one reason or another, we’re capable of getting more zinc into our bodies and keeping our levels good, mostly because we aren’t overloaded with protein, which will up the need for zinc. Zinc zinc zinc. Since we don’t require a ton, our bodies understand this and soak up zinc more efficiently. Everybody wins! But mainly us!
So there you have it, the facts on zinc. It’s always a bit strange to consider that we need a heavy metal so regularly, but that’s just the way it goes. Keep an eye on those zinc levels and try not to inhale too much whole wheat, but beyond that go forth and zinc!