Zinc and Immune Health – How It Helps and Where to Find It

By Lillian Lin-Levitan a recent ASU Nutrition student

 

With the current pandemic hitting our nation hard, many of us are thinking about ways to promote health in ourselves and our family. The foundation of health is proper nutrition – your body must have a number of essential nutrients in order to function and effectively protect against outside pathogens. Now is a time of uncertainty, and there is so much that is out of our hands. So why not take control of what you can – make sure you and your family are getting enough of all the essential micronutrients each day.

 

One essential nutrient that plays an extra important role in immunity is Zinc. Zinc is a mineral that is found in every single cell within your body. Zinc is a cofactor (a helper molecule) that is required to make all sorts of body reactions happen – everything from energy production to DNA synthesis and regulation of gene expression requires the assistance of zinc.

 

Zinc affects our immune system in multiple ways. From the very start, the presence of zinc is necessary for our immune system to operate – because zinc is crucial for the normal development and subsequent function of cells that mediate our innate immune system – the first line of immune defense. Zinc is also vital to the development and function of your adaptive immune system – this is where your immune system recognizes and then targets specific invaders to destroy them. Zinc also functions as an antioxidant – preventing cell injury as a result of free-radicals released during the body’s natural inflammatory process.

 

When we are deficient in zinc, our immune cells aren’t able to perform the life-saving function they are meant to do.

 

So, give yourself a leg up and provide your body the fuel it needs to fight off unwanted invaders!

 

Foods rich in zinc:

 

  • Seafood – oysters, crab, lobster
  • Beef
  • Legumes – chickpeas, lentils, kidney, pinto
  • Seeds – hemp, pumpkin
  • Nuts – cashews, almonds
  • Cheese

 

Prasad AS. Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells. Molecular medicine (Cambridge, Mass.). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2277319/. Published in 2008. Accessed April 26, 2020.

 

Office of Dietary Supplements – Zinc. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/. Accessed April 26, 2020.

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