3. First, about Zinc:
All right—so Zinc is such an important micronutrient to get enough of Daily…as it’s central for youthful, healthy skin; a robust immune system; sharp vision; stable blood sugar control; balanced and strong hormonal health & a good sex drive; and far more.
Daily Zinc is even needed for protection against the heavy metals that pollute our environment…and it’s key for Vitamin A metabolism.
It is common to be deficient in Zinc though too—especially with Vegetarians or people who eat wheat/bread and beans often…as these foods are rich in phytic acid (phytates, in the family of anti-nutrients) that actually block the absorption of zinc.
How to know if you’re getting enough daily Zinc (awesome video here):
Dr. Chris Masterjohn shares that there are 5 principles to keep in mind (with an update from his more recently published Vitamins & Minerals 101 free course), to make sure you’re getting enough Zinc:
A. There are 2 Zinc super foods:
oysters & red meat
You can get enough Zinc for the day if you eat 1 or 2 oysters…or 1 or 2 servings of red meat (where a serving is a 1/4 pound)…
Cheese could be considered a Zinc super-food--as you could get enough Zinc for the day with 2 - 3 servings of most cheeses (where a serving is 100 grams/3.5 ounces)--however!:
The dairy protein found in cheese--casein--actually limits the amount of Zinc you can absorb.
On the other hand, Dr. Chris Masterjohn writes:
"Protein from meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, and whey enhance zinc absorption...Sour acids also enhance zinc absorption. These include lactate, found in yogurt, kefir, and many fermented plant foods; citrate, rich in citrus fruits; and malate, rich in non-citrus fruits."
And again, the casein protein in cheese makes the Zinc not absorbable.
The same goes for Phytate & phytic acid found in legumes and whole grains (white rice being an exception)--these foods also bind up Zinc & inhibit it's absorption.
Oyesters & red meat are the Zinc superfoods ^^^ and animal food sources are better sources of Zinc than fruits & veggies, because your body can readily absorb it…and zinc is found in foods like meat, eggs & seafood.
Surprisingly though—Non-fortified Nutritional Yeast (like the fabulous one from Sari Foods) also is a good source of Zinc. 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast has 1.6 mg (20% daily value).
Nutritional Yeast tastes great on top of salads, or instead of butter on top of potatoes/sweet potatoes/rice too.
B. Beware of Phytate
(Phytate is a compound found in whole grains, seeds & legumes…that essentially *locks in* minerals to prevent them from getting lost before it’s time for the grain or seed to sprout…good news for the plant, not very good news for us.
So, even though pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds & cacao are all high in Zinc, the phytic acid content would make it less bio-available….and additionally, these phytate sources can inhibit the absorption of Zinc from other foods in the same meal as well.
It wouldn’t be like the phytates in these seeds bind all the minerals for the entire day…but it does affect the minerals in that particular snack or meal as a whole. So one solution is to eat your phytate-rich foods in separate meals from your Zinc-rich foods.
The other idea to consider--is that if you’re eating phytate-rich foods, or have been eating them (wheat, grains & beans)—then you may need to supplement Zinc.
C. You’ll absorb more Zinc if you spread it throughout your day.
Weird (and research-based) fact about Zinc:
Your body can only absorb about 7 milligrams of zinc at a time (and this ability resets every 5 hours)…so that’s why it’s best to have some Zinc Superfoods in each meal…or essentially, you could eat two canned oysters every 5 hours to optimize your Zinc.
You would also want to adhere to this principle by taking a low dose of zinc (10 - 15 milligrams) that’s balanced with 1 or 2 milligrams of copper....if you're going to supplement Zinc (and copper).
D. Some conditions increase your need for Zinc:
If you’re pregnant or if you’re wanting to build muscle quickly, you need 1 extra serving of Zinc a day…if you’re breast feeding, you need 2 extra servings of zinc each day…
Also chronic malabsorption problems, diabetes, alcoholism, and potentially other medical conditions could affect your ability to absorb Zinc (discuss these principles with your doctor, and determine what would be best for you).
E. Be strategic about your supplementation.
If you’re following the other 4 principles, then you won’t need to worry about supplementing. But if a lot of your Zinc is coming from phytate-rich foods or meals…then to stay on the safe side, Dr. Chris Masterjohn recommends that it would be good to take a low-dose Zinc supplement.
Another reason why you may want to supplement Zinc (with copper)…is that Zinc supplementation can help you remove detox from heavy metals (mercury, cadmium, lead…)
And we actually make our own heavy-metal-detoxing protein called Metallothionein, to help get rid of heavy metals in our body, and it takes Zinc to make this protein!
If you have heavy metal toxicity, then you need to work with a health care specialist, one-on-one. However, if you’re just a little high in a heavy metal—then Dr. Chris Masterjohn details that using Zinc is a much gentler and safer way to ferry out extra heavy metals than using chelation therapy.
The best Zinc supplement?
Dr. Chris Masterjohn recommends that if you're going to supplement Zinc (and copper)...to take a low-dose amount of Zinc on an empty stomach, 1 hour before next meal...(you can take it with a collagen shooter, or take it with a meal if it upsets your stomach).
Since too much zinc can cause an imbalance with copper…a zinc-copper supplement brand from Jarrow (link in my Guide on this page) is already balanced with a low-dose of each….so this brand & dosage & form of zinc too, is recommended by Dr. Chris Masterjohn.
You could also eat two canned oysters every 5 hours to optimize your Zinc/Copper. 🙂
Testing your Zinc status is the only way to know for sure if you have a Zinc deficiency, of course. More about how to test your Zinc status here.
And tracking it on cronometer.com is super helpful & being mindful if your Zinc-rich foods are being eaten with phytate-rich foods at the same time...
Best sources of Zinc: 7 oysters cooked (82 mg, 1029%), 2 canned oysters (10.6 mg, 133%), 5 ounce grass-fed beef (8mg, 100%), 5 ounce lamb (7mg, 86%), 1 chicken leg (4.3 mg, 54%), 1 tablespoon Sari non-fortified nutritional yeast (1.6 mg, 20%), 3 egg yolks (1 mg, 13% DV)
4. Second, about Copper:
Being deficient in both Copper and Zinc is common. Copper deficiency can cause anemia, hypothyroidism, graying of hair and heart disease. You can become copper deficient by supplementing with too much Zinc!! More about testing & managing your Copper status here.
And Zinc & Copper need to be in balance because a very important antioxidant—the zinc-copper superoxide dismutase (see superhero immune system image below)—contains both.
Are you getting enough…or too much…Copper?
Dr. Chris Masterjohn asserts that it’s hard to get too much Copper from real foods. Copper toxicity instead comes from too much supplemental copper…and by using copper mugs & pans (ditch the copper cups & cookware)…and water from copper pipes. Get your Moscow Mule, if you do, in a regular glass.
These sources of copper can cause major brain degeneration, especially in the elderly.
To get a fabulous amount of Copper from real food:
Quite simply, if you eat the recommended 1/4 pound of beef or lamb Liver per week (or doing desiccated liver supplements)…that equates to 12 - 16 milligrams of copper per week (which is a great target amount of 2 milligrams per day).
Additional Copper-rich foods are also oysters, shiitake mushrooms, dark chocolate or cocoa, cashew nuts, squid and lobster.
Chicken liver & refrigerated cod liver oil both do not contain copper…you can add in some Copper though with the above Copper food ideas…or use the recommended Zinc-Copper supplement strategy.
Also, again—copper cooking gear and mugs leech copper into foods in toxic amounts—so you want to avoid those! (They are pretty though :))
Best sources of Copper: 1/4 pound beef liver (16.1 mg, 1793%), 7 oysters cooked (2.8 mg, 140%), 3 oz cooked squid (1.8 mg, 90%), 4 Ancestral Supplement desiccated liver pills (1.7 mg, 85%), 3 ounce cooked lobster (1.3 mg, 66%), 1 cup shiitake mushrooms (1.3 mg, 65%), 1 cup cooked white mushrooms (0.78 mg, 39%), 1/2 avocado (0.1 mg, 13%), 1 cup cooked kale (0.2 mg, 10% DV)
And if you want to supplement Zinc & Copper—see my Guide for a brand that Dr. Chris Masterjohn recommends to help you reset a deficiency or help you get rid of a slightly high level of heavy metals (if you have high levels, get one-on-one care).
You can get adequate Zinc & copper from food…and supplementing big doses of Zinc upsets your Zinc-Copper imbalance needed for a healthy immune system (and other mineral deficiencies too). Whew! 🙂