Sneeze – currently, almost everyone is a bit under the weather. So, what can you do to boost your immune system? Could zinc be the answer? Discover in this article the functions of zinc in the body, symptoms indicating a zinc deficiency, and the zinc-rich foods that make a difference.
The functions of zinc in the body
Humans cannot produce zinc in the body, nor do we have a zinc reservoir. Therefore, we depend on regular intake from our diet. The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends 7 to 10 milligrams of zinc per day for women aged 19 and above, and for men, the values range between 11 and 16 milligrams of zinc per day. But why does the body need zinc?
- Support for the immune system
- Promotion of wound healing
- DNA synthesis and cell division
- Component of numerous enzymes –> Functions in various metabolic processes
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
A balanced zinc level is essential for our health.
Symptoms of zinc deficiency
Signs of a zinc deficiency are diverse and can affect various areas of our body. These include a weakened immune system, hair loss, skin problems, impaired wound healing, diarrhea, and perception issues.
Certain groups should pay particular attention to their zinc intake. For example, individuals with diabetes eliminate zinc more rapidly. In chronic inflammatory bowel disease, absorption is often reduced, potentially leading to a deficiency. Those with a predominantly vegetarian or vegan diet should follow higher intake recommendations due to phytates in plant-based foods inhibiting zinc absorption.
Additionally, some medications like stomach protectors (proton pump inhibitors) reduce zinc absorption in the intestine. For all these individuals, a high zinc content in their diet is crucial.
Importance of zinc during Pantoprazole intake and Gastric-Balloon-Therapy
Proton pump inhibitors like Pantoprazole are commonly used for treating heartburn and may be part of gastric balloon therapy. However, prolonged use of such medications can lead to a zinc deficiency. Zinc is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, and the acid production inhibited by Pantoprazole affects this absorption. Therefore, it’s important to focus on a zinc-rich diet during therapy.
Recommended reading: Gastric Balloon: Properly Managing Side Effects
7 Zinc-rich foods easily integrated into daily life
With 100 grams of oats, you already consume 4.1 milligrams of zinc. Starting your day with a delicious muesli or porridge means you’ve got your first source of zinc. Another benefit: Oats are a whole grain with plenty of fiber, keeping your blood sugar levels stable – ideal for those looking to lose weight.
2. Wheat Bran
Add 1-2 tablespoons of wheat bran to your muesli for even more zinc and fiber. In 100 grams, you’ll find an incredible 13.3 milligrams of this essential mineral. You can also use wheat bran for baking bread or add it to a smoothie.
3. Nuts, seeds, and kernels
These tiny powerhouses are full of nutrients. Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, and peanuts are particularly rich in zinc. Incorporate them as a snack or as toppings for various recipes like soups and salads.
Legumes, in general, are a good source of zinc and contain valuable protein, which can support weight loss. Use chickpeas for making hummus, add them to a vegetable stir-fry, or prepare them in the oven with spices for a crispy snack.
Especially beef and pork are rich in zinc. However, be mindful as these foods can also be high in fat. Therefore, meat shouldn’t be a daily staple in your diet.
Milk and its derivatives like cheese help meet your zinc requirements. Emmental, for example, contains 5.8 milligrams of zinc per 100 grams. Consider the fat content and consume cheese in moderation.
7. Whole Grain Sourdough Bread
Whole grains are rich in zinc, but they also contain phytate, which hinders absorption in the intestine. Through the fermentation of grains in sourdough, most of the phytate is broken down, allowing your body to better absorb zinc.
Are zinc supplements worthwhile?
Supplements can be an effective way to compensate for a zinc deficiency, especially if caused by the use of proton pump inhibitors like Pantoprazole. If symptoms of a zinc deficiency persist and diet alone is insufficient, supplements can be a suitable option.
However, use supplements judiciously. Overdosing on zinc can have adverse health effects, leading to conditions such as anemia. Therefore, do not exceed the recommended dosage. An overdose is hardly possible through a healthy diet rich in zinc-containing foods, so you can’t go wrong with prioritizing a balanced diet.
More on the topic of supplements:
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