It is highly possible to increase your zinc levels through the foods you eat. Highly recommended zinc sources include liver, crimini mushrooms, sea vegetables, pumpkin seeds, beef, and green peas. Another common food source is spinach, which you are going to know more about in this article.
Have you had your share of spinach lately?
Types and Characteristics of Spinach
Spinach is an edible flowering plant that is native to central and southwestern Asia. An annual plant, it grows to a height of up to 30 centimeters, and it has simple, alternate leaves and inconspicuous yellow-green flowers.
It is thought to have come from ancient Persia, which is now Iran and its neighboring countries. Arab traders brought it with them to India, and then spinach was carried into ancient China afterwards. The earliest known record of the spinach plant was in Chinese, which says that it was introduced in China through Nepal, potentially in 647 AD.
This vegetable offers a high nutritional value and boasts rich antioxidant content, especially when fresh, steamed, or just boiled quickly. It provides an abundance of vitamins A, C, E, and K, along with manganese, magnesium, folate, iron, calcium, potassium, folic acid, protein, and zinc, to name a few. Spinach has also been recently found to have opioid peptides called rubiscolins.
Older varieties of spinach should be set apart from more modern ones. The former tend to bolt too early in warm temperatures, like the latter have the tendency to grow more rapidly but are less inclined to run up to seed.
There are three basic spinach types: (1) savoy, with dark green, curly, and crinkly leaves and is the kind sold in fresh bunches in most groceries in the United States; (2) flat- or smooth-leaf spinach, with broad and smooth leaves and is the type often grown for canned and frozen spinach (think of soups and baby foods); and (3) semi-savoy, a hybrid with slight crinkly leaves and is grown for both fresh market and processing.
How About Zinc Supplementation?
Eating spinach and other dietary sources of zinc, though, may still not guarantee getting optimal amounts – even when done regularly. Overcooking and overprocessing often get in the way, preventing adequate zinc to enter your body to be absorbed.
Experts estimate that as many as two billion individuals around the world have diets deficient in zinc, while approximately 12 percent of Americans do not get the recommended daily intake (RDI) for zinc and are therefore at risk of deficiency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points to 35 to 45 percent of American elderly adults who are potentially at risk.
Another subgroup that should watch out for zinc deficiency symptoms are vegans and vegetarians – zinc is mostly found in animal products. Furthermore, the grains they eat contain high amounts of phytic acid, a compound binding to zinc and possibly decreasing its absorption.
Plant sources of zinc, like spinach, are also believed to be less well-absorbed compared to animal ones.
What to do if you are at-risk due to being a vegetarian (there is lower zinc bioavailability in your diet than in non-vegetarian fares) or simply lacking enough zinc from your food? You may consider zinc supplementation if you want to address any of these factors.
It is a must, though, for your zinc supplement to be sourced from a high-quality, reputable manufacturer, who has solid evidence of high quality assurance safeguards and independent objective lab testing.
As for dosage, the recommended adult upper limit is less than 40 milligrams a day. It is best to always ask your doctor or healthcare professional when looking at higher dosages. This is because the potential for unwanted side effects are present at higher dosages.
Noemi Caleb is a nutrition blogger who has a special focus on supplementation. She currently runs a blog series on how to spot zinc deficiency symptoms, and how to address this lack.