The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Todd Pesek, MD.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that is involved in a number of different aspects of health. It’s required for everything from healthy skin, normal DNA replication and cell division, to cell communication and hormone balance.
What’s more, zinc is incredibly important to the immune system. In fact, even the slightest deficiency in zinc can impair your immune function!
The Role of Zinc in Immune Health
Zinc plays a star role in protecting against viral infections. Think of it as a big bodyguard with bulging muscles of steel. When a virus enters your body, its goal is to use your cellular machinery to copy itself, but zinc directly blocks this viral replication.
So you see, taking zinc once a virus has already invaded your body is sort of like fastening your seatbelt after the accident. The smart strategy is to be proactive versus reactive through regular supplementation and a diet abundant in zinc-rich plant foods, including:
- Greens: spinach, dandelion greens and beet greens
- Fruits and Vegetables: asparagus and broccoli, avocados, blackberries and pomegranates
- Nuts and Seeds: Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds
- Beans and Legumes: adzuki beans, lima beans and edamame
- Grains: brown rice, oats, sprouted quinoa and sprouted bread
- Dark Chocolate
The easiest way to get more zinc in your diet is to add a side salad to one of your daily meals, or better yet, make it a main meal. One of my favorite combinations is fresh spinach with roasted asparagus, sliced avocado, pomegranate seeds and chopped pecans with a drizzle of tahini (sesame seed paste) dressing.
To prepare a simple tahini dressing, Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie, recommends whisking together 1/3 cup of Heinen’s tahini, 2 Tbsp. of Bragg apple cider vinegar and 1 Tbsp. of Heinen’s pure organic maple syrup. Add water, one Tbsp. at a time, until your desired consistency is reached. This recipe makes four servings.
To help you navigate the confusing sea of supplements, we’ve created a hierarchy of “good,” and “optimal” recommendations. The “good” category includes the foundational supplements vitamin D and iodine. The role of vitamin D is of particular importance in immune health because it protects your cells from chronic inflammation and viruses.
Take the next step up the immune health hierarchy and consider adding zinc to your daily supplement plan. This way, if a virus happens to invade your body, zinc will act as a guard to inhibit it from replicating.
Please check with your healthcare provider before beginning any new supplements.