One nutrient most people never think about is zinc. Vital for a strong and healthy immune system, zinc is often deficient in many western diets, causing immune systems to weaken and other illnesses to appear. Zinc is vital for human growth, for healthy T cells and lymphocite activity and it helps fight infection. Men also need zinc for reproductive health and to stave off prostate cancer. If you think you might be deficient in zinc and need to strengthen your immune system, check out these symptoms of zinc deficiency, along with what foods to add to your diet to ensure you’re eating enough zinc.
Common Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency – The problem with zinc deficiency is the symptoms can be mild for so long that many people have a severe deficiency, and thus a weakened immune system, before they realize it. An easy way to tell if you have a zinc deficiency is to monitor how many illnesses you have in a six month period. If you’re seeing increased infections, colds hanging around longer than normal, or are having problems concentrating, these can all be symptoms of a zinc deficiency.
Other symptoms include prostate problems in men and sexual development problems in both boys and girls. Every day symptoms include loss of appetite, wounds taking longer to heal, nails and hair aren’t growing like they used to, you feel nervous or depressed, or you’re having problems seeing at night. All of these symptoms will get more severe the longer you continue to have a zinc deficiency.
Foods To Eat That Have a High Zinc Content
Oysters – The best food to eat to strengthen your immune system with zinc are oysters, as they have by far the highest zinc content than any other foods. One problem with eating oysters though as they are ‘bottom feeders’, meaning they eat a lot of junk at the bottom of the ocean, which can result in toxins being passed onto the person eating them. For someone with a weakened immune system, like a patient with HIV/AIDS or cancer, this can be extremely dangerous. That’s why, if you know your immune system is already damaged, avoid eating oysters until its fully recovered.
Cashews – An easy way to strengthen your immune system with zinc is by eating cashews. Add a handful of cashews to your snack foods every day, and you’ll soon see a marked improvement in your immune health. Cashews are also great to add to foods (cashew chicken, cashews in your morning breakfast cereal, crushed cashews on a slice of toast on top of a layer of peanut butter, cashews sprinkled in a salad), and will give you a powerful boost of zinc as well as some added protein.
Whole Grains – If you’re already eating whole grain foods, add more to your diet. Whole-grain cereal is better than the stuff made with bleached white flour, whole grain bread is the only bread you should ever eat, and even whole grain muffins and cookies are excellent ways to get zinc and easily available at your local health food store.
Chicken – Another wonderful way to strengthen your immune system is to cut out some of the red meat you eat and substitute chicken instead. Chicken is loaded with zinc and, as it’s an easy food to cook and eat, doesn’t require too much change in your diet. Eat grilled chicken in a burrito, add cubed grilled chicken to a salad (don’t forget the cashew nuts too, have grilled chicken fillets with a baked potato and salad once a week, or add it to a vegetable stir fry (add a zesty herb dressing to it too before serving – absolutely delicious!). You can substitute chicken in so many beef recipes, there’s no reason to ever have a zinc deficiency again.
Seeds – Seeds are also an excellent source of zinc, plus they’re cheap and easy to snack on or add to foods. Roasted pumpkin seeds are awesome mixed into a yoghurt, you can sprinkle them on a salad, add them on top of peanut butter on toast, put them in homemade soup for a bit of a crunch, or just eat roasted pumpkin seeds in place of potato chips or peanuts as a snack.
Other foods that will help strengthen your immune system with zinc include eggs, meat and shellfish. If you make sure your daily diet includes one or more of these foods (cooked healthily and not from a fast food restaurant where the ‘food’ isn’t really food), you’ll soon notice a big difference in the strength of your immune system as all your deficiency symptoms disappear.
Zinc: The Immune System Nutrient – Dummies.com