Is essential to the cognitive and nervous systems.
Zinc – the mineral your body can’t function without
Like calcium, zinc is an essential nutrient that your body requires to stay healthy. It is commonly present in all tissues and bodily fluids. It is particularly abundant in the brain, and is thought to be one of the most powerful natural antioxidants in the human body. There are a number of different food sources which can supplement your body with the amount of zinc needed to fulfil your daily requirement. Unfortunately, this mineral can’t be stored in your body, and therefore needs to be supplemented on a regular basis.
The role of zinc in the body’s everyday processes
- It is involved in the activity of more than 300 enzymes in the body which aid metabolism, digestion and nerve function processes, amongst others.
- Zinc plays a pivotal role in the function of certain cellular mechanisms. It can help the body to adjust to seasonal weather changes by improving immune response.
- It aids the healing process of wounds and helps your body fight against skin disorders and diseases. - It plays an important role in the process of protein synthesis.
- Zinc is a powerful antioxidant. It has the ability to neutralise free radicals, protect skin cells and promote healthy growth of your hair and nails.
- It is necessary for your body’s cognitive and nervous systems to function properly.
- It plays a role in the process of DNA synthesis in the body.
- It promotes healthy growth and development by aiding cell growth and cell division.
The effects of a zinc deficiency on your body
- Zinc is required for the body’s cognitive system to function properly. As such, a zinc deficiency in the body can result in decreased mental performance and mood or behavioral disturbances.
- A zinc deficiency in the body can also prevent you from enjoying the aroma and taste of a flavourful meal.
- It can impede healthy growth and development.
- It can cause skin rashes.
- Zinc is commonly used in hospitals to treat burns, certain types of ulcer as well as skin injuries. It is also required for the promotion of progressive wound healing, which may be impaired if your body suffers from a zinc deficiency.
- A zinc deficiency can weaken your immune system and make you susceptible to falling sick more frequently, apart from increasing your risk of contracting an infection.
Zinc can be absorbed by the body through the consumption of most animal meat products and many plant-based foods. As such, a person should be able to supplement their body with adequate amounts of zinc if they simply abide by a healthy and balanced diet which consists of both animal-based and plant-based foods.
Zinc food sources
- Oysters and some types of seafood (crab and lobster)
- Lean red meat (beef, pork and bison)
- Poultry (chicken and turkey)
- Fish (flounder, sardines, salmon and sole)
- Dairy products (milk, yogurt and cheeses)
- Nuts (almonds and hazelnuts)
- Whole grains (oats, rye and whole wheat bread)
- Vegetables (mushrooms, kale, peas and asparagus)
- Dried fruits
Due to the fact that not everyone absorbs zinc in the same way and in equal amounts and that zinc is not stored by your body, supplements are highly recommended.
There are some groups of people who are more at risk of zinc deficiency than others. They include:
- Vegetarians and vegans
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Older infants who are exclusively breastfed
- People with sickle cell anaemia
- People who are malnourished
- People who abuse alcohol
- People with chronic kidney disease
Zinc is needed in various processes in your body and plays an important role as an antioxidant, in DNA synthesis and in growth and development. That is why you should always remember to eat plenty of foods rich in zinc or use dietary supplements.
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