Zinc Benefits Immunity, Plus Other Reasons to Take a Zinc Supplement
- Zinc is a powerhouse. It plays a role in everything from your immune system and cardiovascular function to hormone production.
- Although zinc occurs naturally in food, it plays hard-to-get. It’s bound by phytates, blocked by folic acid and competes for absorption with copper.
- Using a supplement like Bulletproof Zinc with Copper can be a great way to unlock zinc benefits in a convenient, easy-to-take form.
In need of zinc supplementation? First, some facts. Zinc is a powerhouse, critical to some of your body’s most important processes. It’s involved in protein and DNA synthesis, cell division and the function of more than 200 enzymes. Zinc benefits also include helping keep your immune system strong.
Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of this important mineral, how to get zinc from food and what you should look for in a zinc supplement.
Zinc intake is essential for any gender and brings along many health benefits. Here are a few of the most important roles zinc plays in your body:
- Helps keep your immune system strong: Zinc is a “gatekeeper” of your immune function. It’s a key player in the signaling between your body’s immune tolerance and defense systems, which means it flags when it’s time to bring in the tanks or call off the guards. Zinc has antioxidant properties, and it’s essential in the development of T-cells, your body’s guards against antigens. The full details of the zinc-immunity connection aren’t yet fully understood, but studies clearly link zinc supplements with immune functions.
- Supports healing: Zinc supports the function of mucous membranes and skin tissue cells. It’s involved in every step in wound healing, from repairing cell membranes to managing oxidative stress, tissue generation and scar formation.
- Some forms of zinc may reduce the length of a cold: If you’re ready to get rid of those annoying cold symptoms, then a zinc supplement could be your answer. One study suggests that when rhinovirus, the virus behind the common cold, encounters zinc gluconate in the nasal passages, the mineral beats down the virus and keeps it from multiplying. In another study, people who took zinc gluconate lozenges got over their cold one day faster on average than people who took zinc acetate lozenges.
- Zinc benefits for men: When it comes to zinc benefits for men, this important mineral plays a key role in supporting testosterone production and fertility. Research shows that zinc affects thyroid function by producing thyroid-releasing hormones. A zinc deficiency means not enough hormones are being created, which can impact testosterone levels. This could affect men’s fertility, sex drive and long-term sexual health.
- Zinc benefits for women: Zinc benefits for women differ slightly from those for men. While this mineral is important to the female reproductive system, it is more generally associated with overall health. So for women, maintaining adequate zinc levels can help with immune support, wound healing and normal cellular function.
How much zinc do I need?
Zinc is easy to find, but hard to get. Since your body doesn’t have a way to store or make zinc, your dietary intake needs to be plentiful each day to reach optimal zinc levels. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for men is 11mg of zinc per day, and women need 8mg.Pregnant women should consult with a healthcare provider before taking a zinc supplement.
Lots of foods contain zinc, and meat is the most convenient source of this essential mineral. The challenge is that the zinc in some foods can’t be used by your body, and other foods may not fit into your diet.
Here’s a list of the top food sources containing zinc:
- Oysters: 74mg per serving (Winner, winner!)
- Beef: 7mg in 3oz
- Crab: 6.5mgin 3oz
- Baked beans: 5.8mg per cup
- Lentils: 3mg per cup
- Breakfast cereal, fortified: 2.8mg per serving (varies by cereal type)
- Chicken, dark meat: 2.4mg in 3oz
- Pumpkin seeds: 2.2mg in 1 oz
- Black beans: 2mg per cup
- Yogurt: 1.7mg in 8oz
- Cashews: 1.6mg in 1oz
- Cheese, Swiss: 1.2mg in 1oz
- Oatmeal, instant: 1.1mg in 1 packet
Oysters are nature’s super zinc supplement. One oyster contains over six times the daily requirement for men and nine times the recommendation for women. If you love oysters and can enjoy one a day, you’re all set with zinc!
The rest of us have to get creative to make sure we’re getting enough. Even if the labels say foods contain a healthy dose of zinc, the zinc absorption may not be at the level you want. It depends on how the food is prepared and what you eat with it. Keep reading for details.
What’s the best way to get zinc?
First of all, be mindful of how much zinc you’re taking in relation to copper, which is another trace mineral.
When you take too much zinc, it can actually compete for absorption with copper—but you need both micronutrients in your diet. A copper deficiency could lead to muscle weakness, neurological problems and anemia. (That’s why you want to take it zinc and copper in science-backed amounts, like what you get in Zinc with Copper.)
Lastly, while legumes, whole grains, and cereals score high on the zinc meter, they also contain phytates that bind to zinc. This makes the zinc unable to be absorbed by your body, so all that healthy zinc goes down the drain. (Literally.) To get enough zinc, steer away from unleavened grains such as crackers. If you eat bread, look for one containing sprouted whole grains.
You can also soak beans and lentils for several hours before cooking them. This releases the zinc from the phytates to make it more absorbable. To play it safe, vegetarians should aim to get 50% more zinc than meat-eaters to ensure they reach their daily requirements.
Of course, whole grains don’t work for everyone. If you have a gluten intolerance, or if you’re concerned about antinutrients, it’s best to find another source of zinc that won’t cause discomfort in your digestive system.
Types of zinc supplements
If you want to make sure you’re hitting your daily recommended dose of zinc, the safest bet is to take a dietary supplement. However, it’s important to first speak with a healthcare provider who can check your zinc status and provide proper dosages. You’ll see the form of zinc listed in different ways including zinc sulfate, zinc gluconate, zinc acetate and zinc orotate (the form used in Bulletproof’s Zinc with Copper).
Don’t worry—research says they’re all bioavailable, absorbable and tolerated. Some zinc lozenges, marketed for sore throats, also apply as a supplement, but note that some zinc nasal sprays have been linked to a loss of smell.
How do you choose the best zinc supplement?
Follow these two steps:
- Don’t take zinc and folic acid at the same time. Many multivitamins contain both, and that folic acid may block your body from metabolizing the zinc alongside it. (This is one of the reasons you should throw away your multivitamin.)
- Make sure your zinc supplement also contains copper. You can actually deplete your copper levels by taking zinc on its own, which is why you want to take them together.
Bonus benefit: Zinc and copper combine to become a boosted antioxidant enzyme called copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD), which helps your body fight oxidative stress.
For a supplement that combines the power of both minerals, check out Bulletproof’s Zinc with Copper. Together, this powerhouse duo:
- Supports your cardiovascular system
- Plays an important role in your brain and body’s stress response, supporting your mood
- Keeps your immune response strong
- Supports the conversion of amino acids into usable cellular energy
- Helps to promote normal testosterone and estrogen levels
- Helps to signal apoptosis which normally regulates cells based on age, condition or cell health
- Helps to fortify cell membranes to reduce oxidative damage
- Plays an integral role in maintaining prostate health
How do you take a zinc supplement?
Taking zinc supplements comes along with a few important points that a lot of people don’t know about.
Alcohol reduces your body’s ability to absorb zinc. So, if you like a glass of wine or cocktail in the evening, don’t take your supplement at night.
Some supplements are best absorbed when they’re taken without food. Zinc is one of them. However, side effects could occur, like an upset stomach, if you take it without anything in your system. That’s why we recommend taking Bulletproof Zinc with Copper with food for most people—you’ll still get all the good stuff thanks to science-backed doses of zinc and copper.
Potential drug interactions with zinc
It’s important to keep in mind that zinc supplements can interact (or interfere) with medicines you take.
For example, taking a zinc supplement along with certain antibiotics can cause your body to absorb less of each substance. Instead of consuming both at once, speak to your healthcare provider or pharmacist about taking the antibiotic at least two hours before or four to six after your zinc supplement.
Zinc can also reduce the absorption of penicillamine, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. This can result in the drug not working as well as needed. Discuss with your prescriber taking supplemental zinc either two hours before or after your dosage of penicillamine to reduce this effect.
Plus, certain diuretics increase the amount of zinc lost in urine.
As another reminder, always seek medical advice before committing to a zinc supplement. Zinc toxicity is possible and can cause gastrointestinal problems, loss of appetite, and nausea/vomiting.
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