Zinc is Majorly Important: Here’s Why
The human body is extraordinary.
Using minerals found in the foods we eat, which come from the Earth (plants absorb them through the dirt, and animals eat the plants and absorb them from there), we’re able to function at a level unlike anything in creation.
I’m often amazed by how God designed us to take rocks and minerals and circulate them through our bodies to achieve peak health.
I’ve written about many important nutrients several times over the past ten years, but I don’t think I’ve touched on zinc more than once.
So, I wanted to change that.
Partly because it’s “sick season,” and zinc is a boon for human immune health.
Partly because I saw an article floating around talking about the multi-faceted aspects of zinc’s ability to improve our health, I figured I’d chime in, too.
Now, there’s a decent chance you get enough zinc in your diet, but you may want to get more (and testing will support whether or not you should supplement) after you read this article.
Zinc is amazing, and I’ll show you why.
What Can Zinc Do for You?
Since I initiated this article around zinc and immune function, I figured I’d start there while honing in on the benefits of this mineral.
1 – Boosts Immune Cell Function:
Zinc is a key player in the development and function of immune cells, particularly white blood cells (neutrophils and lymphocytes). There are no more important cells for defending against infection.
According to a study in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” zinc deficiency significantly impairs the immune response, highlighting the mineral’s importance in maintaining immune cell function.
2 – It Helps Offer a More Balanced Immune Response:
Your immune system is always working.
Zinc helps make your immune system more active, more responsive, and more lethal.
The big thing that zinc does is ensure that your immune system doesn’t necessarily go overboard and respond in a way that can prove to be negative.
Zinc helps to prevent an “overactive immune response which may lead to inflammation and autoimmune diseases. The “Journal of Nutrition” published findings indicating that zinc influences the immune system’s response through regulation of gene expression in immune cells.
3- Exhibits antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Effects:
We often think of antioxidants as molecules that will help prevent big-time diseases like cancer, and they can definitely do that.
However, antioxidants can also provide a ton of help with normal immune function, and zinc has some antioxidant activity that reduces oxidative stress as well as inflammation in the body.
Oxidative stress can damage cells, is linked to chronic diseases, and sets you up for the risk of infection.
A research article in “Free Radical Biology and Medicine” explains how zinc helps in reducing oxidative stress markers in the body.
4 – Knocks the Cold Out Early:
Studies show that zinc is incredibly effective in combating the common cold.
It doesn’t matter if you’re using things like zinc lozenges or nasal sprays. Studies have shown many of them help you get through a cold faster.
In fact, a meta-analysis in the “Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews” gave a full-throated endorsement for using zinc to reduce the duration of common cold symptoms. This is one of the best reasons to take zinc during the sick season.
On top of that, zinc may help you resist other respiratory infections.
It can strengthen the function of mucous membranes in your body that form a barrier, making it harder for viruses to enter the body. A study in “BMJ Open” discusses the potential of zinc in reducing the risk of pneumonia in elderly patients (Source).
Zinc Is More Than Beneficial for the Immune System
By now, I’m sure you can see how effective zinc is at helping with your immune health. But the benefits don’t stop there.
Again, zinc is foundational for health, so when you have the right amount coming in daily, then it likely means you’ll experience the benefits of healthy zinc levels.
Supporting Sexual Health for Men and Women:
Just a few months ago, I wrote an article detailing ways men could improve their testosterone levels and mentioned zinc intake.
Zinc plays a crucial role in testosterone production, which is vital for sexual health. It is also essential for the health of the prostate gland and plays a role in sperm production and motility, thus impacting fertility.
Basically, if you’re a male who wants to enjoy peak sexual function, you can’t do that without zinc.
It’s also important for women, as it plays a role in the regulation of menstrual cycles and ovulation and even impacts the balance of many other hormones related to sexual health balance, impacting overall reproductive health.
It Benefits Your Brain Too:
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it’s fascinating to think about how zinc (a metal) helps us become the best version of ourselves.
Zinc plays a huge role in how our brains work. Healthy levels of zinc intake are related to boosted cognition.
Like magnesium, it helps regulate the function of 300 enzymes and plays a key role in synthesizing and modulating neurotransmitters, which are the brain’s chemical messengers.
Zinc affects some of the major neurotransmitters like glutamate, GABA, and dopamine, which are instrumental in helping you regulate mood and are essential to memory and learning.
Zinc influences the activity of these neurotransmitters by regulating their receptors and release mechanisms. Notably, it modulates the NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptors involved in synaptic plasticity and learning processes.
For those wishing to keep their brain healthy, zinc could help as it’s been observed to have a protective role against neurotoxicity caused by excess glutamate, which can otherwise lead to neuronal injury.
Unsurprisingly, deficiencies in zinc have been linked to mood disorders, learning disabilities, and cognitive decline, highlighting its importance in brain health.
This intricate relationship between zinc and neurotransmitter function underscores the mineral’s vital role in maintaining cognitive functions, impacting memory, learning, and mood regulation.
Best Source of Zinc?
I could write far more about how zinc can help benefit your health, but I won’t do so here since I just wanted to give you a flyover of how good it is and dive a bit deeper into the role it plays in helping with immune function.
If you’re looking to boost your zinc intake, here’s a list of some awesome foods that are packed with zinc. It’s like a treasure hunt in your grocery store!
Oysters: These are like zinc bombs, as they pack more zinc per serving than any other food. Great for a fancy dinner or a treat.
Red Meat: Think steaks and ground beef. They’re not just tasty but also good for your zinc levels.
Pumpkin Seeds: Perfect for snacking, these little guys are surprisingly full of zinc. Plus, they’re easy to add to salads or just munch on their own.
Lentils: These are a great plant-based zinc option. They’re also super versatile – throw them in soups salads, or make a yummy lentil curry.
Hemp Seeds: Another snackable option that’s rich in zinc. Sprinkle them on yogurt or add to your smoothie for an extra health kick.
Cashews: Nuts, in general, are good for zinc, but cashews are particularly great. Plus, they’re perfect for an on-the-go snack.
Cheese: Good news for cheese lovers! Certain types, like cheddar, are good sources of zinc. Cheese board, anyone?
Dark Chocolate: Yes, you read that right. Dark chocolate has zinc! So you can feel a little less guilty about that chocolate craving.
Shellfish: Besides oysters, other shellfish like crab and lobster are also high in zinc.
Chickpeas: Hummus time! Chickpeas are not only delicious but also a great source of zinc, especially for vegetarians and vegans.
Enjoy getting your zinc fix and feeling better to boot!