Lifestyle: The Health Benefits Of Zinc, Food Sources And Its Benefits In Fighting COVID-19

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image from https://www.insideedition.com/boy-11-dies-suddenly-suspected-allergic-reaction-smell-cooked-fish-49683

Zinc is an essential mineral in the human body, responsible for normal metabolism, nutrient synthesis and proper functioning of the nervous, reproductive and cardiovascular systems. It is involved in triggering over 300 enzymes, which are crucial in supporting life and various body functions. 

Even though zinc is an important mineral, the body is not able to make or store this trace element. WHO reports that at least a third of the world’s population is affected by zinc deficiency. This deficiency has associations with delayed child development, problems with production of new cells and an increased risk of infections. Here’s how to get your child to eat healthily.

Zinc deficiency is also a significant risk factor for the development of pneumonia which can be a consequence of Covid-19, reports Medical News Today. Hence, the following section lists natural sources of zinc and the best alternative foods for vegetarians.

Food sources rich in zinc

Zinc deficiency has dire consequences on the immune system, sexual maturation in adolescents and overall functioning of the body. However, over consuming zinc supplements leads to zinc toxicity which could cause adverse side effects such as; nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and anaemia. 

Nonetheless, you cannot over-consume this mineral by eating zinc containing foods. This is why the following foods are recommended if you’re looking to supplement your body with this essential mineral.  

  • Red meat
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Milk and cheese
  • Dark chocolate (a high-calorie snack though)
  • Shellfish
  • Cooked lobster
  • Fish
  • Fortified breakfast cereal and oatmeal (check the label for vitamins and minerals, although packaged cereals are usually fortified).
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Avocados
  • Blue berries
  • Peaches
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Apricots
  • Cantaloupe
  • Guavas
  • Raspberries
  • Pomegranate
  • Black Berries

The presence of phytates in vegetables could hinder the absorption of zinc in vegetarians leading to zinc deficiency. This is why vegetarians require 50% more of zinc since they do not eat meat or seafood.  Foods such as hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, garlic, sprouted grains, peas, yoghurt, nuts, bread and beans are great sources of zinc. 

Pumpkin seeds. Image from https://greenblender.com/smoothies/9363/health-benefits-of-pumpkin-seeds

The benefits of Zinc 

Zinc is responsible for many roles which have a bidirectional relationship in the fight against Covid-19. 

  1. Protecting the body against virus invasion

Zinc has antiviral properties. It prevents the entry of infections,  pathogens and viruses by preserving natural tissue barriers. This aids in the improvement of the immune system, safeguarding individuals against bacterial infections, autoimmune diseases and even cancer. 

2. Aids in wound healing

Zinc aids in cell division and cell growth which have a great influence on the body’s ability to heal. In this regard, a balanced zinc intake is essential for tissue recovery, wound repair and healing after inflammation or tissue damage. How to restore collagen to your skin naturally

3. Supports proper functioning of taste and smell senses

If zinc lacks in the body, it affects the action of carbonic anhydrase, an enzyme that maintains the taste and smell function. This leads to a loss of appetite and eventually one may suffer from poor nutrition.

On the other hand, adequate zinc in the body supports taste sensitivity, saliva secretion and improvement in chemosensory functions. This fact favours the use of zinc to maintain chemosensory functions, which have a great influence on someone’s appetite, nutrition and the body’s ability to maintain a healthy immune system.

After all, if you cannot taste or smell your food, doesn’t that negate the primary purpose of eating?  A weak immune system makes you vulnerable to viral diseases.

4. Zinc boosts the immune system

This can be termed as the main reason why people take zinc supplements or natural foods rich in zinc. Zinc plays a major role in cell renewal, cell synthesis and cell maturation, which are key factors in the building the immune system. A healthy immune system captures and destroys bacteria, fights diseases and helps the body recover after an infection.

Besides supporting the immune system to fight infection, zinc regulates inflammation, preventing the overproduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which contribute to some of the symptoms of COVID-19, early in the infection. 

5. Delay the progression of Age-related Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is an age-related eye disease which often leads to poor vision and eventually permanent vision loss. Oral zinc supplements have shown to slow down the progression of this AMD, and improve vision for people with intermediate and advanced Age-related Macular Disease.

6. Promotes hair growth

Zinc plays a critical role in promoting tissue growth and repair which impacts hair growth. Studies show that taking oral zinc supplements reduces hair loss, although eating foods rich in Zinc can also work effectively. People with zinc deficiency are likely to experience hair loss as one of the symptoms.

7. Clears severe acne

Both oral and dietary zinc are generally effective when it comes to clearing inflammatory acne. Zinc has anti-inflammatory properties, which relieve redness, irritation and the appearance of moderate to severe acne scars. Zinc is used for other skin conditions such as rosacea, eczema, melasma and seborrheic dermatitis.

Check out why you need vitamin E in your diet.

8. Improves testosterone levels

Research posits that a diet rich in zinc increases testosterone levels and curbs erectile dysfunction, especially for ageing men. Zinc deficiency, on the other hand, reduces testosterone levels, affecting sexual function, arousal and the ability to maintain an erection.

Zinc also impacts the sense of smell which is important to libido, particularly in younger men. Zinc supplements are used to treat erectile dysfunction and are mostly preferred than taking prescription medicines such as Cialis and Viagra.

9. Zinc inhibits viral replication

Aside from blocking the replication of rhinoviruses, which are responsible for respiratory infections, including the common flu, a study done in 2010 showed that zinc inhibited the replication of the Coronavirus that led to SARS-Cov outbreak in 2002. 

It should be noted that although zinc reduces the severity of a common cold, there’s not much evidence to support zinc as a treatment for COVID-19.

The impact of zinc on COVID-19

Zinc deficiency is responsible for 16% of all deep respiratory infections worldwide and it has been noted as a contributing factor in the progression of COVID-19.

During this pandemic, reports have shown that complications of COVID-19 lead to the damage of body tissues which affects the blood vessels, the nervous system, the liver, heart, gastrointestinal system, kidneys, and the skin. 

In this regard, zinc helps the body by boosting the immunity, inhibiting the replication of the coronavirus, repairing damaged tissue and promoting normal body functioning. Hence, even though zinc cannot treat Covid 19, it plays a huge role in the management of COVID-19.

So make sure you boost your levels of zinc so that if you do get the virus your body will be able to fight off the infection. Please remember that the best way to avoid getting Covid 19 is by observing social distancing, wearing a mask and sanitizing your hands as often as needed.

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