Category: Minerals

Zinc, zinc, zinc.

Photo by Paula Borowska

For years, we’ve been told to take vitamin C to prevent or recover from colds. So we’ve all been glugging down orange juice or taking those horrible tasting vitamin C tablets in the hopes or speeding away our colds.

It seems that we have a new contender for being a cold supermineral. New research has been published that demonstrates that zinc is much more effective for healing and recovery during colds and flu than vitamin C. Additionally, when taken within 24 hours of getting sick, zinc is associated with a shorter duration of the common cold.

What is zinc?

Zinc is a mineral that is found throughout the body and helps the immune system to heal wounds and fight the viruses and bacteria that cause cold and flu. Zinc is very important for cell reproduction in the body and for babies and children to grow.

How much zinc do you need?

Age                                                                                                                  Daily Zinc Requirement

Birth to 6 months 2mg
7 months to 3 years 3mg
4 to 8 years 5mg
9 to 13 years 8mg
14 years to adult (men) 11mg
14 years to adult (women) 8mg
Breastfeeding women 12mg

However – taking zinc tablets within 24 hours of getting sick can help tremendously. If supplementary zinc is taken, the UK Food Standards Agency and the UK Department of Health recommend that no more than 25mg a day is taken, as too much may cause anaemia and weakening of the bones. Wild Nutrition’s immune support tablets are excellent as they are as close to food state as possible, which makes it much easier for your body to absorb the minerals and vitamins they contain.

Okay, so what does this actually mean in terms of real food?

Fruits and vegetables are not good sources of zinc, because the zinc in plant proteins is not as bioavailable for use by the body as the zinc from animal proteins. Therefore, low-protein diets and vegetarian diets tend to be low in zinc.

Oysters, red meat, poultry and crab are good sources of zinc, with beef, lamb, pork, chicken and turkey having the highest concentration of this mineral.

Food                                                                                                                                  Zinc Content

A piece of cooked beef the size of deck of playing cards (100g) 12.3mg
A piece of cooked pork the size of deck of playing cards (100g) 5mg
6 oysters 76mg
A small bag of cashews (100g) 5.6mg
3-4 medium mushrooms (1 cup) 1.4mg
2-3 handfuls of pumpkin / squash seeds (100g) 10.3mg

As ever, it’s important to look at your weekly rather that daily intake of food to get the true picture of what vitamins and minerals you need to increase / decrease / maintain.

What about magnesium?

Photo by Juan José Valencia Antía

As a mother, I’m constantly quizzed about my son’s milk intake and whether or not he gets enough calcium, but it’s very rare to hear much from the NHS or other mainstream nutrition experts about other vitamins, minerals and enzymes, with the exception of vitamin D.

So why is magnesium so important?

Magnesium is a very important mineral, used in the fluid between cells, and is required for muscles and nerves to function normally, for bone growth, for heart function and for the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins. In other words, without magnesium, your muscles wouldn’t be able to retract after they contract when you flex them, your body couldn’t convert your breakfast omelette into energy, your heart wouldn’t beat properly and your bones wouldn’t get stronger after doing any kind of weight bearing exercise.

Getting enough magnesium

Luckily, with a real food diet, it’s relatively easy to make sure that you and your child get enough magnesium. It’s plentiful in green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, avocado, seafood, nuts & seeds such as pumpkin seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pine nuts, flaxseed & pecans, berries & other fruit and meat.  According to the NHS, women need 270mg a day and men need 300mg a day. Children between 1 and 4 years old need 80mg a day and go up to 130mg a day between 4 and 8 years of age.

What does this look like in real terms?

Food                                                                                                                     Magnesium Content

1 medium banana 32mg
1 cup cooked spinach 157mg
1 avocado 58mg
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds 14mg
6 medium strawberries 9mg
1 kiwi 13mg
1 large baked potato 90mg

If you aim to eat the rainbow most days, it should be fairly easy to get the daily requirement of magnesium without needing to resort to a supplement.