The mineral zinc is present in every part of the body and has a wide range of functions. It is particularly important for healthy skin, a healthy immune system, healthy insulin activity, healthy function of the ovaries and testes, and in liver detoxification. Zinc is also involved in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and lipids (fats).
Pumpkin seeds are one of the most concentrated vegan sources of zinc. Other dietary sources of zinc include beans and lentils, nuts, sunflower seeds, mung bean sprouts and wholegrain cereals.
Ways To Increase Zinc In Your Diet:
- Try to eat a handful of seeds and nuts per day as a general practice of good health for minerals and good fats. They also taste nice in smoothies with soy milk and banana. A tasty zinc-rich green smoothie recipe consists of: 2 cups of kale/english spinach , 1 banana, 1 orange, 1 apple or pear, 2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds, a few sprinkles of powdered clove spice and 1 -2 cups of water. Blend until it reaches a smooth consistency and enjoy!
- If you have a blender or food processor you can make your own nut spread with almonds, cashews and pumpkin seeds. Blend it until it reaches a crumb-like consistency and begins to stick to the edge of the bowl! This spread tastes especially nice on apple slices.
- Add pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds to salads to provide more nutrition. Pumpkin seeds taste very nice after sitting in salad juice for a while. This tends to marinate them and gives them a whole new flavour and texture.
- Try this delicious apple latte drink: Put ½ cup each of sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, 2.5 – 3 cups of freshly squeezed apple juice (or use 3 whole apples for a thicker latte). Blend until smooth. The latte will turn a nice brown colour. Sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy! (Recipe adapted from the book Turn Over a New Leaf)
Some people think that phytates interact with zinc absorption. BUT studies showing this were done looking at servings of only one food type e.g. a bowl of grains. The China Study (the most comprehensive dietary study ever conducted) found that phytates did NOT interact with nutrient absorption. This is probably because other foods and nutrients cancel out the effect of phytates on stopping nutrient absorption. Phytates are also thought to have health benefits of their own such as being anti-inflammatory and in labs they have been shown to stop the increase of cancer cells. They may also help to prevent cardiovascular disease and lower the glycaemic index (GI) of foods.
When I worked in a pharmacy I tested people’s zinc levels on a daily basis almost and found that most people were deficient in zinc. These people were not vegetarian/vegan. This broke the myth that vegetarians are low in zinc compared to non vegetarians. Zinc levels were especially low in people on medication for over-acid stomach/reflux and those on a restricted calorie diet and unhealthy diets (many people in the population!). Symptoms of zinc deficiency may include hair loss, poor appetite, decreased sense of smell and taste, delayed wound healing, lowered immunity, white spots on the nails, skin problems and lowered fertility.
So try including more of these zinc-rich foods better health and wellbeing!
Eve Nguyen, ND is a degree-qualified Naturopath, CPAP therapist and K.L stretch teacher with over 10 years experience in the field of health and Nutrition. In addition to teaching nutrition and cooking classes, Eve was chosen to be a Fairfield City Green Champion in 2010. As a vegan with a particular interest in environmental impacts on our health, Eve enjoys delivering information/presentations to help people realise the link between the state of the environment and their own health.
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