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Z is for Zinc

Posted on Sep 02, 2016

You have probably heard the saying that true beauty starts on the inside. When you consider all of the vitamins and nutrients that your body needs to function properly, the idea that beauty begins on the inside takes on an entirely new meaning. Your body depends on an incredible variety of nutrients for balanced, proper health, and that includes healthy skin. There are many benefits of minerals, for starters they work to help your body build, repair and maintain all of the necessary functions of life. Individually, each of these vitamins and minerals can be singled out for the positive impact that they have on your health and well-being. Of these, Zinc is one of the most important. The benefits of zinc impact your skin, immune system, and beyond.

Zinc is a trace mineral. Trace minerals are inorganic materials that your body needs in very small amounts. Even though they make up just a small portion of the nutrients that you take into your body on a daily basis, trace minerals, such as zinc, are absolutely essential for you to be in your best state of health, both inside and out. The average woman needs just eight to nine mg per day, and from that you receive an incredible range of healthy benefits. Zinc helps to keep your immune system functioning properly, it is a catalyst for almost one hundred different enzymes in your body, it plays a role in nerve transmission, meaning that your senses depend upon it, and it is absolutely essential for the building, repair and maintenance of healthy hair, skin and nails.

Zinc is so important, but as a society we are suffering greatly from zinc deficiency. In fact, on a global scale, zinc deficiency is the fifth leading risk factor for the spread of disease. While yes, zinc deficiency is more common in the developing world, even in highly developed countries, the lack of zinc in our diets still poses a threat to our health. With zinc deficiency comes a host of unpleasant symptoms that include:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Greater sensitivity to allergens due to adrenal fatigue
  • Leaky Gut and poor nutritional absorption
  • Poor neurological function
  • Hair loss
  • Acne
  • Skin Rashes
  • Slow healing wounds
  • Dry skin
  • Hang nails
  • White spots on your nails

A deficiency in zinc is not only unhealthy, but it can also make you feel unattractive. Even the most self-confident among us is prone to feeling and thinking less of themselves when something like zinc deficiency damages your physical beauty and outward glow. Zinc is so vital to skin and hair health that it is difficult to look and feel your best without adequate amounts.

Still wondering about the benefits of zinc per skin? Let’s start with the fact that zinc interacts with vitamin A and increases the rate at which the vitamin is transported in the blood. This interaction is important because vitamin A is one of the best vitamins for skin as it increases blood flow, helps speed healing, promotes strong cellular membranes, decreases excess sebum production and can help prevent skin damage. All of this would be impossible without the help of zinc.

If you are seeking a luscious mane of hair, you need not look much further than zinc. Zinc deficiency is one of the primary causes of random hair loss in both men and women. Have you ever been stressed and not paying careful attention to your diet, or gone through a phase where nutrition was the last thing on your list of priorities? How many of those mornings did you wake to find hair all over your pillow? How many showers did you take only to find the drain clogged by hair? Random hair loss during times of stress, illness and poor nutritional intake is quite common, and lucky for all of us, it is almost always able to be remedied. Zinc helps build the protein structures of the hair follicle. When those are weakened, it can cause an otherwise normal, healthy follicle to shed the hair prematurely. Adequate zinc supports new hair follicle division and healthy hair growth.

Additionally, zinc may play an important role in both the treatment and prevention of acne. A group of Turkish researchers looked into the role of zinc in a study with people that suffered from mild to severe acne as compared to a group that had clear skin. What they found was that those people who suffered from acne had an overall reduced level of zinc and were more likely to be labeled as zinc deficient. This wasn’t the only study to be done on the subject. In fact, at least a dozen other studies have been conducted and have produced similar results, all pointing to the fact that zinc is vital for clear and healthy skin.

The exact mechanisms of how zinc functions to reduce acne are not fully known, however we can come up with some pretty solid theories. First of all, we can look back to the previous mention of zinc and the interaction with vitamin A, one of the ultimate skin care vitamins. Also, zinc helps control and balance hormone production, which when out of sync can cause havoc for your skin. Additionally, zinc has been shown to kill acne causing bacteria and act as an anti-inflammatory against acne causing bacteria which helps to reduce redness and promote faster healing. Also, one of the lesser known qualities of zinc is that it reduces keratinocyte activation. To put it more simply, keratinocytes are the cells that produce keratin, which is a skin cell binding protein. Too much keratin can lead to clogged pores and acne. Zinc helps to keep the production of keratin and check. Zinc might not be the single magic bullet for curing acne, but it is a primary player in a healthy skin care arsenal.

So, how do you know if you are zinc deficient? The number one way to find out is to go to your primary care provider and ask them to test your levels for you. However, let’s say that you just want to do what you can on your own to make sure you are getting enough of the trace mineral in your diet. Here is what you can do. First of all, take a look at the above symptoms of zinc deficiency and make note of how many of them you experience. Secondly, take a look at your diet. If you eat a diet that is high in processed foods with little emphasis on nutrition, then there is a good chance that you are zinc deficient. It seems that those people who adhere to a vegetarian or vegan diet also tend to suffer from zinc deficiency at a higher rate than their carnivorous counterparts. Luckily for all of us, you can easily remedy a zinc deficiency.

You can get more zinc into your body in two different ways; food or supplementation. Not all zinc is created equal and some forms are more readily available for absorption than others. The other thing about zinc is that your body does not store it. Therefore, you must make it a daily priority to make sure you are getting adequate zinc intake. Remember that zinc is a trace mineral and that means that you really don’t need very much at all. The recommended daily intake amounts of zinc are as follows:

  • Adult males: 11 mg/day
  • Adult females: 8 mg/day
  • Pregnant females: 11 mg/day
  • Lactating females: 12 mg/day

For children and young adults under the age of 18, check with your primary care provider for recommend daily values.

The best sources of zinc in food are lean protein such as grass fed beef, chicken and lamb. Vegetarians can find zinc in foods such as pumpkin seeds, cashews, chickpeas, mushrooms, spinach and cocoa. Yes, cocoa. It has .4 mg per tablespoon so go ahead and enjoy that hot chocolate. Boost the zinc content up even further by making it with cashew milk!  

Food sources are the best way to get your zinc not only because of the bioavailability of the mineral, but also because the foods that are the highest in zinc also offer great nutritional content in other areas as well. If you are looking to add more zinc into your daily diet the following foods are some of the highest in zinc and are a delicious way to start!

  • Oysters: 3 ounces has 66.8 mg of zinc
  • Grass Fed Beef: One average sized Ribeye has approximately 14 mg of zinc
  • Wheat Germ: One ounce has 4.7 mg of zinc
  • Pumpkin Seeds: One ounce has 3 mg of zinc
  • Spinach: 1 cup, cooked has 1.4 mg of zinc
  • Cashews: One ounce has 1.6 mg of zinc
  • Chickpeas: One cup, cooked has 2.5 mg of zinc

As you can see, there are plenty of delicious ways to get 8 to 11 mg of zinc in your diet every day!

If you are struggling to get enough zinc into your diet through just food alone, then it is time to head towards supplements. Supplements are a secondary choice for a couple of reasons. First of all, the zinc in supplement form generally has less bioavailability then through food, which means your body is not able to access and use all of the zinc in the supplement that you take. Additionally, zinc supplementation can cause some minor unpleasant side effects, such as diarrhea and stomach upset, in some people.

There are several types of zinc supplements available. You might find selections such as chelated zinc, zinc orotate, zinc picolinate, zinc gluconate, zinc methionine and zinc acetate are among the selections you might find. Of them, the best options for supplementation are zinc picolinate and zinc methionine because of their high bioavailability. Zinc citrate and zinc sulphate offer the lowest bioavailability and should be avoided. When using supplements make sure to notice not only the amount of zinc listed on the front of the label, but also the elemental amount listed on the back. You should not exceed 40-50 mg of elemental zinc per day.

Keep in mind that too much a good thing isn’t always a great idea. The benefits of zinc that we have mentioned can be provided to you with just the recommended daily intake suggestions. Some doctors will recommend that those who follow a strict vegetarian diet take in up to about 30 mg per day. Zinc supplementation in higher amounts is also sometimes prescribed to increase immune response and to fight stubborn colds. With all of that in mind, taking too much zinc for too long of a time can actually reverse the healthy benefits of the mineral. Too much zinc can reduce immune response, lead to iron deficiency, copper deficiency, nausea, gastrointestinal distress, headaches and fatigue. As with all things, including zinc for health and beauty, moderation is best.

We all want to be look and feel the best that we possibly can. Let’s be honest, the reflection we see in the mirror and how we appear to the outside world is a huge motivator for taking care of ourselves. Zinc is mineral that can help you put your best face forward. Healthy, glowing skin reflects the priority that you put upon taking care of yourself. When it comes to naturally vibrant skin, a well rounded diet and natural skin care routine are important. Zinc, is an important part of that regimen.

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