Want To Boost Your Immune System? Start Eating These Zinc Rich Foods From Today

Want To Boost Your Immune System? Start Eating These Zinc Rich Foods From Today

Human immune system is the first line of defense against any internal and external invaders. If it is not strong then fighting the diseases becomes a lot of more difficult and can result in several complications. The essential minerals present in our food provide strength to our immune system and zinc is one of them. Let’s learn more about this trace mineral.

Zinc – Its importance and benefits

Zinc is an essential nutrient that plays a vital role in metabolism and normal growth. The job of zinc involves over a hundred enzymatic reactions and boosting the immune system. Zinc is also needed for healing wound and required for senses of taste and smell to work properly.

  1. Zinc activates T-cells which are crucial for proper functioning of the immune system. That is why people with zinc deficiency are prone to various illnesses.
  2. It’s a powerful anti-oxidant necessary to fight oxidative stress and prevents the development of many severe disorders including cancer.
  3. Zinc plays a key role in wound healing. Patients with ulcers or chronic wounds are often low on zinc.
  4. Loaded with vitamin A, zinc help boost eye health and maintains proper vision.
  5. Zinc is responsible for balancing hormones. It is required for the production of progesterone and estrogen in women and testosterone in men. Serious deficiency of zinc may affect sperm motility.
  6. It is also needed for balancing insulin levels. Zinc binds to insulin and help in regulation of blood sugar levels.
  7. Zinc is involved in the process of division and growth of cells. Hence, it maintains muscular growth and skeletal system.

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How much zinc is needed on a daily basis?

The amount of zinc needed depends mainly on age. Daily recommended dietary intake is mentioned in milligrams (mg) below:

Infants

  • 0 - 6 months - 2 mg/day
  • 7 - 12 months - 3 mg/day

Children

  • 1 - 3 years - 3 mg/day
  • 4 - 8 years - 5 mg/day
  • 9 - 13 years - 8 mg/day

Adolescents and adults

  • Males age 14 and over - 11 mg/day
  • Females age 14-18 years - 9 mg/day
  • Females age 19 and above - 8 mg/day

Pregnant and breastfeeding women

  • Pregnant women – 11mg/day
  • Breastfeeding women -12mg/day

Are you getting enough zinc? Health risks related to zinc overdose and deficiency

Zinc like other minerals is derived from the daily diet. Failing to get adequate zinc or overdose of it can cause adverse effects on the body. Though zinc toxicity or overdose is rare, too much of zinc like in case of excess supplement intake, can lead to nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, headaches, and diarrhea.

Excess of zinc can reverse the effect i.e. weaken your immune system as well as creating symptoms such as chills and fever. Taking high dose over long timespan can cause urinary tract problems.

Low zinc in the body mostly occurs due to inadequate dietary intake. However, lack of zinc can also occur due to malabsorption and some chronic illnesses including liver disease, diabetes, and sickle cell anemia. People with zinc deficiency usually experience problem related to digestive health, nerve dysfunction, attention disorder, hypothyroidism, weak immunity, hair loss, skin rashes and acne, and slow wound healing.

Foods high in zinc – No need to go for supplements

Most people eating a healthy balanced diet will never find themselves in dearth of zinc. Animal meat is the major source of zinc, but it can also be found in a variety of other foods. So, from nuts, dairy, vegetables to whole grains and meat, we have included everything in the list below to satisfy everyone’s need. The dietary value given below is calculated on man’s daily zinc requirement.

Beef

Among the meat, red meat and particularly beef has the highest concentration of zinc. Beef (bade ka meat) also contains high amount of folate. However, one needs to watch large amount of processed meat intake as it may increase the risk of heart disease.

Dietary value – 100 grams of cooked lean beef contains 12.3mg of zinc, more than enough of the total daily dietary intake.

Lamb

A rich source of multiple vitamins, selenium, iron, and phosphorus, lamb (young sheep) has high reserves of zinc as well. Cook lamb steak or grille it and top salads over it for the best combination.

Dietary value – 85 grams of serving can give 6.7 mg of zinc, 45 percent of the daily dietary intake.

Chicken

In addition to reasonable zinc content, chicken is full of protein, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and niacin. Vitamin B12 regulates energy levels and boost skin health.

Dietary value – 100 grams of chicken can provide 1 mg of zinc, that’s 7 percent of daily dietary intake. This might not be enough but increasing the intake to 200-300 grams is good enough.

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Cashew nut

Nuts are a very healthy addition to the diet and never cause side effects if taken moderately. Nuts are superfoods filled with a plethora of minerals including unsaturated fatty acids. Cashew nut in particular, contains the highest amount of zinc. It also reduces inflammation, prevent heart diseases and promotes bone health.

Dietary value – One-fourth cup of cashew contains 28 percent of the daily dietary intake. This translates to about 3.2 mg of zinc content.

Cheddar cheese

Dairy foods offer host of nutrients and zinc is no exception. Milk and cheese are two prominent sources of zinc which are bioavailable, meaning these can be easily absorbed by the body. Cheddar cheese is a high store of zinc among dairy products.

Dietary value – 100 grams of cheddar cheese contains 3.1 mg of zinc, which is 21 percent of the daily dietary value.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms have proven health benefits. It contains powerful antioxidants that make it capable of strengthening the immune system and fight cancer. Zinc is one of several minerals found in these fungi.

Dietary value – 1 cup of mushroom contains 1.4 mg of zinc, which is 9 percent of total daily intake.

Spinach

This vegetable is one of the most nutrient-dense foods one can find. Spinach contains special protective antioxidants known as carotenoids which reduce the risk of severe diseases including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer.

Dietary value – 1 cup of cooked spinach offers 1.4 mg of zinc, 9 percent of the daily recommended intake.

Dark chocolate

There are fewer foods which are not only loved by majority of the population, but are health friendly as well. Dark chocolate is one of them which help boosts brain, boosts sex drive and reduces high blood pressure. It also surprisingly contains high zinc content. But occasional indulgence is better as it’s a high calorie food.

Dietary value – 100 gram of dark chocolate can give you 3.3 mg of zinc. This is 30 percent of the daily intake.

Potatoes

Potato is another vegetable that contains a reasonable amount of zinc content. This everyday food is filled with fiber and potassium that helps prevent constipation. For getting most zinc content, create a dish combining potatoes and spinach.

Dietary value – 1 large regular or sweet potato can provide about 1 mg of zinc, which equates to 9 percent of the total dietary value in a day.

Yogurt

This probiotic dairy product besides having a good amount of zinc also aids in digestion, regulate mood and improves the immune system.

Dietary value – 1 cup serving of low-fat yogurt gives 1.4 mg of zinc, about 10 percent of the daily dietary intake.

Sources

1. Prasad AS, et al.(2007, March). Zinc supplementation decreases incidence of infections in the elderly: effect of zinc on generation of cytokines and oxidative stress read more
2. Zinc: Fact Sheet for Consumers(2016, February 17). NIH read more
3. Lansdown AB, et al.(2007, January). Zinc in wound healing: theoretical, experimental, and clinical aspects read more
4. Agren MS(1990).Studies on zinc in wound healing 
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