I’ll admit it – I’m one of those people who has a whole cupboard full of vitamins but only remembers to take them when I’m feeling particularly blah. It’s like going to confession to have my sins absolved or flossing before the dentist. Mentally, one good day reverses three months of neglect… right?
But as you know – minerals and vitamins are pretty important. Even though we are eating wholesome and healthy foods, there are certain things we don’t get enough of. I like to think of vitamins are naturopathic cures – especially when it comes to things like nails, skin, hair, etc. I’d rather tackle those problem areas from the inside-out rather than slather on expensive creams and potions that have dubious results. Yes, I’ve rubbed collagen on my inner thighs and massaged caffeine into my neck jowls. Turns out, it doesn’t do much good in the long run. Most of it sits on the surface and sloughs off with our skin cells.
So I was reading about Zinc and it’s effects on skin problems – especially acne. You know how they put zinc oxide in some acne creams? Well, turns out you can get it naturally in food and reap the same (if not better) results. Biology 101 – Zinc will stimulate the production of collagen and white blood cells. This helps bolster your skin’s defenses, smooth old scars, and fight any infections hiding out in your pores. It also normalizes your production of skin oils and testosterone, both of which – unbalanced – can lead to funky breakouts.
Zinc has a ton of other great effects too. Your taste and smell receptors use zinc, as well as the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory and concentration. It can help you fight colds by boosting your immune cells and reducing (nerd word alert) cytokine responses, which cause inflammation and that overall BLEH feeling you get when you’re sick. Zinc protects our DNA from breaking down when our cells divide, which is super important for pregnant mommies with growing buns in the oven.
For those of us who are dieting, we may be neglecting some of the most zinc-rich foods, red meat in particular. However, there are plenty of healthy options available:
- Seafood – especially cooked oysters and lobster, as long as you can take it without the drawn butter (who can tho?). It has twice the amount of Zinc as red meat though and all those other health benefits.
- Spinach – reigns on as king of the superfoods!
- Cashews – this is one of my go-to snacks, even though they have high fat content, it’s like eating an avocado.
- Dark Chocolate – omfg yass this IS a diet food I promise (in moderation). Antioxidants are the best excuse ever.
- Chickpeas – one of the healthier bean choices. They make great additions to soups and salads but are are heaven in chana masala.
- Pumpkin Seeds – if you can manage to eat a cup of them (without salt) you’ll get 44% of your daily value of zinc
- Toasted Wheat Germ – It may sound gross but it’s an O.G. superfood. Basically, it’s the good part of wheat that’s not starch and fiber. Buy it as a food additive. Use it to substitute half the flour when baking, sprinkle it on your yogurt or smoothies, use it when breading chicken or fish or as a crunchy topping for broiled veggies.
The target goal for adult males is 11 mg/day while adult females need only 8mg/day. If you are really low in zinc, animal sources are going to be your best bet. That’s one reason why vegans and vegetarians are at greatest risk for zinc deficiency. Symptoms of deficiency include poor wound healing, fatigue, hair loss, weird food cravings, poor concentration, worse PMS/menopause symptoms and low immunity.
Even if you’re not deficient, try rotating some zinc-rich foods into your diet and enjoy its many health boosting benefits. Be sure to let us know if you notice a difference in your complexion!