Zinc is an extremely beneficial mineral, necessary for reproduction, immune function, protein structure, growth, wound healing, insulin release, neurotransmitter secretion, as well as numerous essential chemical reactions.
Therefore, foods high in zinc include lamb, pine nuts, beef, mushrooms, oysters, soybeans, veal, crab, pumpkin and sesame seeds, peanuts, oats, cashews, wild rice.
However, these same foods also include ingredients which prevent the absorption of zinc, phytate in particular. However, even though it tends to lower the zinc absorption, it also provides important health benefits. Namely, it is the storage form of minerals and phosphorus in plant seeds.
It was initially regarded to be an “anti-nutrient,” but its positive effects have been soon discovered, like anti-cancer and antioxidant action. Moreover, its presence reduces the glycemic effects of foods which contain it, and binds harmful toxic metals, and thus lowers our absorption of them.
Moreover, it has been found to prevent the creation of kidney stones, as well as vascular calcification. The highest concentrations of phytate can be found in nuts, seeds, beans and grains.
Apart from it, numerous other factors may also prevent the absorption of zinc, like folic acid, protein intake, older age, calcium, iron, protein quality. Also, it can be lost during the cooking process and food milling.
Zinc prevents depression
This mineral is important for the brain, as it is necessary for the release of neurotransmitters. Zinc may also act to reduce oxidative stress in the brain. The reduced zinc status in the body may cause depression and anxiety.
According to scientific studies, the zinc concentrations in the blood are consistently lower in depressed subjects, compared to control subjects.
Also, the severity of depression was reported to elevate with the increased zinc deficiency. Due to this, its supplementation has been examined as an adjunct treatment in the case of depression and gave promising results. M
oreover, the link between depression and reduces zinc amounts have been found to be more prominent in women than men.
Zinc status in vegetarians and vegans
According to a review of 34 studies done in 2013, vegetarians have reduced amounts of zinc compared to omnivores, particularly women and vegans.
The requirements of this mineral for people eating an entirely plant-based diet are measured to be around 50 percent higher than the standard recommendations of 16.5 mg/day for men and 12 mg/day for women.
Hence, it is advisable to take zinc supplements along with zinc-rich foods, in order to maintain the adequacy of a vegan or near-vegan diet.
Zinc and the prostate
Normal prostate cells include more elevated zinc levels than any other body tissue. Yet, if these cells become malignant, their capacity to accumulate zinc gets lost.
Zinc has been proven to contain anti-cancer properties in the prostate, but its relation to the prostate cancer risk is still unspecified. Certain studies have found no connection at all, some found that the risk is reduced, and some examined an increased risk.
A study placed mice on three distinct diets—zinc-deficient, normal, and supplemented, and found that zinc in optimal levels prevents prostate cancer while its deficiency or excess amounts may lead to prostate tumor growth.
These findings are relevant in the case of humans as well. Namely, the VITAL study examined more than 35,000 men for three and a half years, who were asked to complete a questionnaire about their use of supplements in the last ten years.
Those who took 15 mg of zinc or more on a daily basis had a 66 percent reduced risk of advanced prostate cancer in comparison to those who did not use supplements. Except for those who consumed more vegetables, they found no link between the overall prostate cancer and zinc supplements.
The critical finding was that participants who consumed more zinc-rich foods and took 15 mg of zinc had a lower risk of overall prostate cancer. Yet, those who took the same dosage of supplements, but ate fewer vegetables, did not have a reduces risk.
Also, one study discovered that the long-term (10 or more years) zinc supplementation was related to a 53 percent reduction in breast cancer risk. Scientists suggested zinc supplements to be of great benefit, especially in people who follow a vegan or near-vegan diet.
You may often experience certain health issues, but not be aware of the fact that you are deficient in this mineral. Therefore, it is of high importance to learn to recognize the symptoms of zinc deficiency:
Joint pain and pain in the hips
Zinc deficiency may also cause pain in the knee joints and the hips. Namely, the bones have high zinc concentrations, and their reduction will lead to pain and other issues.
According to research, the deficiency of this mineral can be more harmful to the development of bones than a general restriction diet.
The reduces amounts of zinc negatively affect the health of the skin. Namely, the skin may turn rough or pale, or greasy, and this may trigger the creation of acne and stretch marks. Zinc is responsible for the collagen synthesis which aids the healing process of wounds, and it may also help in the treatment of herpes types 1 and 2.
Hypogonadism is the medical term for the improper function of the reproductive system, which leads to a disorder of the operation of gonads (testes and ovaries).
They have two functions, to produce sperm or eggs, and to produce hormones. The reduced amounts of sexual and reproductive hormones may lead to defective primary or secondary sexual development. This serious issue may be prevented with the consumption of foods high in zinc.
The deficiency of this mineral may have an influence on the brain and thus, cause numerous emotional disturbances in the everyday life. The symptoms include depression, sudden fright, anger, and low confidence, as well as mood swings, as the most common symptom.
In some cases, it may also lead to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Zinc deficiency may cause appetite loss, and further on lead to even more severe complications, such as anorexia. Reduced diet leads to malnutrition and reduces the intake of zinc, and thus aggravating the state even more, as the levels of zinc continually drop.
Furthermore, reduced appetite leads to weight loss and prevents the growth of new tissues and cells in the body. Also, newborns with zinc deficiency may be underweight. Additionally, a weak body is more susceptible to infections and poor immunity.
Zinc deficiency may lead to diarrhea, but the exact cause of this is still unclear. In some cases, the severity level was lowered by around 15% with zinc supplementation. Yet, although you can find these medications easily, you should always consult your doctor before use.
This is a common zinc deficiency symptom, and it is a result of dandruff. The normal hair growth is blocked as long as the amounts of zinc in the body are reduced.
Moreover, loss of hair may be also experienced in other body areas in case of a long-term zinc deficiency. Yet, similar symptoms can also indicate an abundance of zinc in the body, which may also cause hair loss.
Therefore, this mineral is of great importance for the health and its deficiency should be treated on time, in order to prevent severe health complications.
Hence, you should regularly consume foods rich in zinc, such as pine nuts like fish, eggs, cashews, and pecans. Moreover, you can also take zinc supplements in order to elevate the zinc levels, but you should always consult a qualified medical practitioner before their use.