Whenever I have a cold, I find myself more and more trying to avoid cough syrup and starting to google at-home remedies or supplements that can help me beat it. A popular search term that comes up often is zinc for colds. Not being too familiar with that particular mineral, I turned to the Care/of Scientific Advisory Board to get some answers.
"Zinc is an essential mineral that benefits the immune system," the board says. "It's also known as a trace essential element. Although we require it in very small amounts, our body doesn't naturally produce it." Zinc helps support the function of over 300 critical enzymes in our bodies and helps our metabolism, its experts note.
Most importantly, it plays a key role in strengthening our immune system. They recommend children get anywhere from three to eight milligrams a day and they recommend eight to 12 milligrams for adults.
It is because zinc directly helps our immune system that it indirectly helps with colds as well. "By providing added support to our immune system, zinc play a role in preventing the common cold," they said. "However, some studies have shown that zinc can also boost our immune system's response while the body is fighting off a cold. Zinc lozenges may help to quicken the recovery time from a cold and reduce symptoms." If you are deficient in zinc, you not only face a weakened immune system, but they also say you will experience lower levels of energy and cognitive function—and sometimes even a loss of appetite.
You can find zinc in various foods, mostly meats such as beef and lamb. Zinc is also found in seafood, including oysters. Lesser-known sources include legumes, nuts, and dark chocolate, and you can also find it in many cereals and dairy products where zinc is strengthened with other minerals and vitamins. But if you want to get the maximum amount you need without having to rearrange your diet, they recommend taking zinc supplements, especially if you're vegan or vegetarian.
"For many, getting all the vitamins you need through a natural, healthy diet can be a challenge," they say. "Because many sources of zinc are found in meat or shellfish or dairy, vegetarians and vegans are at risk for inadequate zinc intake, which can affect the immune system. Taking zinc as a supplement is an easy way to ensure your body has the essential levels of zinc for optimal health."
When looking for a zinc supplement, they suggest to always check for the quality and where the ingredients are sourced from. Another important thing to note is that zinc works with copper in our body to make sure everything is functioning well, so it's important to ensure that both minerals are balanced. With those tips in mind, excuse us while we go stock up on zinc on these last days of winter.