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Top Vegan Sources of Immune-Boosting Zinc

a Care2 favorite by Michelle Schoffro Cook

Zinc is one of the most critical nutrients needed for maintaining a strong immune system. It’s also imperative for digestion and utilization of carbohydrates like grains, vegetables, fruits, and sugars as well as protein foods.

It helps to ensure healing from wounds and burns and supports healthy prostate function in men. It is necessary for healthy blood, bones, brain, heart, liver, and muscles. If you haven’t already guessed, adequate zinc is essential for great health.

Some of the symptoms of a zinc deficiency include: acne, a small appetite, brittle nails, growing pains or stunted growth in children, diarrhea, difficulty conceiving children, frequent colds or flu, hair or nails grow slowly, loss of sense of smell or taste, prostate disorders or impotence in men, sleep disturbances, and slow-healing wounds or injuries.

pumpkin seeds

There are many plant-based sources of zinc.  Here are some of the best ones:

  • Beans/Legumes, including:  black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans, Romano beans, etc.
  • Beets and beet greens
  • Brazil nuts (other nuts too but Brazils contain higher amounts)
  • Carrots
  • Dark leafy green vegetables
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Seeds like pumpkin and sunflower seeds
  • Sprouts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Whole grains and breads

Be sure to eat fermented foods as well since zinc tends to become more bioavailable during the fermentation process.  These foods include:  miso, tempeh, sourdough breads, fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, seed and nut cheeses that are fermented, and non-dairy yogurt.

Adapted from The Life Force Diet by Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, ROHP.

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The Importance of Zinc

by Jane Cronin

Do you suffer from acne, stretch marks, white spots on your nails, poor wound healing, poor immunity? Zinc may have something to do with it. Here we discuss Zinc deficiency, causes, symptoms and why zinc is important.

Zinc is an essential trace mineral and is one of the most abundant to be found in the body.  It is naturally found in some foods, added to others and also available as a dietary supplement. You have approximately 2-3g with around 60% is in the muscles that support your skeleton and 30% is in the bones.   So if nothing else zinc plays an important part in keeping you upright.  The remaining 10% is found in the teeth, hair, nails, skin, liver, leukocytes (white blood cells), prostate, sperm and testes.

So what are some functions of Zinc in the body?

Zinc makes things happen

Zinc is used in by over 100 different enzymes in body, that are involved in the chemical processes of building things that the body needs or breaking down stuff that it doesn’t want.  Here are a couple of examples.

  • Thyroid function – Zinc is used to make the hormone (TRH) that signals the thyroid to make thyroid hormones. It converts the protein we eat into amino acids, including tyrosine which powers the thyroid hormone production. Finally it is involved in the making of T3 the active form that is used in the muscles
  • Formation of bone – Zinc is used by enzymes in the production of collagen and alkaline phosphatase (ALP), which are important for bone formation.  It is also used to make calcitonin, a hormone that inhibits the breakdown of bone.
  • 30% of the zinc found in a cell is found in the nucleus. This makes sense as it is very involved with DNA and the replication of cells and proteins needed by the body.
  • Zinc is important for immunity

Zinc is very important in the first line of defence in our bodies. This first line is represented by physical barriers, such as the skin and mucous membrane linings inside the body.  Zinc is found in the mucous secretions of the respiratory system and on the surfaces of lungs and throat.  It has an antimicrobial effect, so helps to kill inhaled bacteria and viruses before they get chance to take hold.   Zinc is also secreted in the saliva and the mucous membranes of the digestive system to kill any ingested invaders.

However, it is not just supporting the barriers that makes zinc important for immunity.  Zinc also supports white blood cell production and the activating of the B and T cells required by the immune system to fight viruses and bacteria.

Zinc is a great antioxidant

It appears that zinc protects our cell membranes against the oxidative damage that can be caused by other metals in the body, such as iron or copper.  It also forms part of an important antioxidant in the body called superoxide dismutase.  This is used by the liver to bind toxins that are the removed from the body.

What are some common zinc deficiency signs?

  • Poor sense of taste or smellBenefits of Zinc
  • Stretch marks
  • Acne
  • White spots on the nails
  •  Poor growth – mostly in children
  •  Hair loss
  • Anorexia
  • Poor wound healing
  • Chronic and severe diarrhoea
  • Poor immunity
  • Poor night vision
  • Dry skin

What can cause deficiency?

  • Phytates that can be found in wholegrain, rice, corn and legumes can reduce absorption.  This means that strict vegetarians and vegans are at risk of low zinc as these foods often contribute highly to their diet.
  • Zinc absorption is impaired by iron, copper and calcium
  • Oral contraceptive
  • High perspiration – so athletes can lose a lot in sweat
  • Diarrhoea – people with persistent diarrhoea can become deficient.  This can include people with inflammatory bowel disease and other digestive conditions with impaired absorption.
  • Diabetes, liver or kidney disease
  • Caffeine and high alcohol intake
  • Antacids and antibiotics
  • Stress – zinc decreases and copper increases in stress
pumpkin seeds

Testing for Zinc deficiency

  • Serum zinc – Measures zinc in the blood stream
  • Hair Testing – Zinc is one of the minerals that can be tested through hair analysis
  • Zinc oral taste test –This test is often done in pharmacies.  It works by taking a mild zinc solution into the mouth and assessing by what you can taste.  Results are assessed as follows:
  • Grade 1 (Poor zinc status) – No specific taste or sensation.  Just like water
  • Grade 2 ((Mild deficiency) – No initial taste, but gradually starts to taste dry, mineral like, furry or sweet
  • Grade 3 (Good zinc status) – A definite taste straight away that intensifies over time
  • Grade 4 (Optimal zinc status) – Strong unpleasant metallic taste immediately that does not go away for agesBe aware that too much zinc is also a bad thing. Zinc toxicity symptoms include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and headaches. Ensure you get yourself tested.

What foods are high in Zinc?

  • Animal proteins such as chicken, lamb, beef, eggs
  • Fish and seafood especially oysters
  • Vegetarian sources include nuts, legumes, wholegrains, miso, tofu, brewer’s yeast, mushrooms, green beans, seeds (like pumpkin, sesame), green leafy vegetables, avocado
  • Sea vegetables like kelp and spirulina

Practical applications of zinc

Eye health

As one of the deficiency signs of zinc is poor night vision, you can see it is important for eye health.  Locally its antioxidant actions help to protect the eye from age related macular degeneration caused by oxidative damage.   Zinc is also needed by the liver to synthesise vitamin A, which is very important for good eyesight.  It is also part of the mechanism to transport it in the blood to the eye area.

Healthy skin

Zinc found in the skin has antioxidant properties that provide UV protection.  Due to its importance in the production of collagen it is important for wound healing and makes it important for dry and allergic skin conditions.  It is very beneficial in the treatment of acne. This is due to its role in the regulate oil glands and also because of its anti-inflammatory actions in the skin. If you think of teenage boys, needing lots of zinc for growth and sexual development, with acne,  zinc is perfect.

Men’s Health

Traditionally oysters are known as an aphrodisiac and this may be due to their high zinc content. Since zinc is shown to be stored in the prostate, sperm and testes, you can imagine it must be beneficial to men’s health.  Research has shown that supplementation of zinc can increase sperm count, motility and morphology.

With regards to prostate health zinc can help to reduce the chances of prostate enlargement. This is  important for men over 50, as they are at increased risk  of BHP (Benign prostatic hyperplasia).

Mood and Brain health

Amounts of zinc can be found in the brain and it has been shown to reduce oxidative damage. Oxidative damage of the brain is linked to the progression of some diseases, such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Regarding mood, zinc has a calming effect on the brain and deficiencies can lead to agitation and mood swings.  Zinc can be depleted by stress and copper is increased.  The balance of these two minerals is important for balanced mood.  Low levels of zinc have been found in those with major depression and there is a hypothesized link between zinc and serotonin uptake in the brain.  There have also been studies showing benefits for children with autism and ADHD. There are also links between low zinc and post natal depression.

Immunity

Zinc is one nutrient you can look at to improve your immune system to try and prevent those ills and chills.  There is also data to suggest that if you catch something zinc supplementation can help to move it on much quicker.


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Hats Off to Maple Syrup For Its Many Health Benefits

by Heather Dale    SEPTEMBER 2, 2011

When you need a sweetener, what do you turn to? Honey, agave nectar, or maybe just plane ole sugar? I’m far from being this “freaky” eater, but my sweetener of choice is organic, Grade A maple syrup. Aside from smothering pancakes and waffles in this delicious brown syrup, maple syrup is a very versatile sweetener. I like adding it to yogurt, oatmeal, or apple sauce, but you can also use it in dressings for salads, in fish or chicken dishes, or in a granola parfait, or roast some almonds in maple syrup and spicy cinnamon for a light, healthy snack. These maple syrup recipe ideas are sure to inspire you.

Pure maple syrup tastes great, and it offers a myriad of health benefits. Here are just a few:

It’s an antioxidant powerhouse. Researchers at the University of Rhode Island found that maple syrup is filled with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that may help prevent several chronic and inflammatory diseases like diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s. It also comes packed with phenolics — the beneficial antioxidant compounds in maple syrup — that may help diabetics keep their blood sugar levels balanced since phenolics inhibit the enzymes that are involved in the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar.


Here are more reasons why it’s good for us.

It settles digestion issues. Try swapping out sugar in baked-good recipes for maple syrup, and you may find that the usual gas and bloating you normally experience after consuming processed sweeteners is no longer an issue. If you do replace sugar with maple syrup, just be sure to reduce the amount of liquid the recipe calls for by about a half-cup.

It helps with muscle recovery. Real maple syrup is an excellent source of manganese, which helps repair muscle and cell damage; it also keeps bones strong and blood sugar levels normal.

It is filled with important nutrients. Maple syrup contains essential nutrients like zinc, iron, calcium, and potassium. Zinc not only supports reproductive health, but it also helps to keep your white blood cells up, which assist in the protection against colds and viruses.

As sweet as all of this sounds, keep in mind that at the end of the day, maple syrup is still just liquid sugar. Too much sugar intake can increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, unhealthy blood levels of fat and cholesterol, and high blood pressure, so regardless of its health benefits, be sure to use maple syrup in moderation.


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The 5 best soup ingredients to beat a cold

Bolster your immune system with these delicious soup ingredients that help fight off the common cold and flu.

By Matthew Kadey, RD

1. Pumpkin seeds

Forget the medicine cabinet. If you really want to fend off a cold or flu, find comfort in a healing bowl of soup. Grandma’s chicken noodle remedy isn’t the only soup to lift your spirits when sick. Research shows a number of foods (which also make for some delicious soup ingredients) can boost your body’s natural defences against viruses. Keep your immune system in fighting shape and feed that pesky cold by slurping up soups infused with these immunity-boosting, sniffle-busting good guys. 

These jack-o’-lantern castoffs are brimming with zinc. A number of studies suggest that loading up on zinc – which aids in the function of immune cells – can help reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms when under the weather. 

Soup’s on: Toast handfuls of pumpkin seeds and sprinkle them over squash soups or bowls of creamy potato or mushroom soups. 

2. Miso

A staple in Japanese kitchens, miso is made from fermented soybeans. The fermentation process produces a healthy army of probiotic bacteria, which can cut down the number of days a cold or flu will leave you symptomatic. Dutch scientists attribute this to the probiotic’s activation of certain genes in the walls of the intestines. 

Soup’s on: For a quick immune system–enhancing soup, simply whisk some miso with warm water and dried mushrooms, and let it steep for five minutes. A miso broth is also a great base for soups full of chicken, noodles and Asian greens. 

3. Barley

The soluble fibre found in oats and barley is already hailed for helping lower cholesterol, but it can also keep your nose from dripping like a leaky hose. University of Illinois scientists discovered soluble fibre increases the production of an anti-inflammatory protein that strengthens the immune system. Beta-glucan, the main soluble fibre in chewy barley, has been found to slash the number of sick days taken by those with upper respiratory tract infections. 

Soup’s on: Barley and zinc-rich beef make a dynamic soup pairing. Also try serving barley in soups with chunky vegetables, lentils, mushrooms or turkey. 


4. Carrots

It’s likely that Bugs Bunny wasn’t knocked off his feet by a cold or flu too often. His orange-hued vegetable of choice is brimming with beta-carotene. In the body, beta-carotene can be converted to vitamin A. In addition to supporting vision, one of vitamin A’s many roles is keeping your immune system running smoothly. A more robust immune system is a surefire way to help send a cold packing. 

Soup’s on: Try this immunity-friendly creamy carrot soup made with sweet potato, another beta-carotene powerhouse. Consider using toasted pumpkin seeds as a garnish. Also work chunks of carrot into beef and barley soups. 

5. Salmon

Is a regular rotation of winter sniffles getting you down? Then be sure to reel in salmon – one of the few foods that brings vitamin D to a pot of soup – to keep future runny noses at bay. An Archives of Internal Medicine study involving nearly 19,000 subjects found those with the lowest average levels of vitamin D were 36 percent more likely to develop upper respiratory infections than those with higher levels of the sunshine vitamin. Similar research published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases found subjects with better vitamin D status were less likely to take sick days from work than those who were given placebos. Washington State University researchers also suggest that astaxanthin – the pigment that gives salmon its pink glow – can increase immune cell activity. 

Soup’s on: Use fresh or even canned salmon in seafood chowders. Or grab your chopsticks and slurp up a soup replete with salmon, soba noodles, bok choy and miso broth. 

Avoid these ingredients when you’re sick

While you should take in plenty of fluids when fighting a cold or flu to stay hydrated (the main benefit of chicken noodle soup – thanks, Grandma!), it’s best to abstain from imbibing alcohol. Wine, beer, and liquor may compromise your immune system and reduce the body’s ability to fight infection.  


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10+ Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds

Alisa Rutherford-Fortunati    October 9, 2013
  
October, November and December are all prime pumpkin months in the U.S. and soon enough, people will be carving up pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns, homemade pies and pumpkin bakes! But before you prepare your pumpkin as a decoration, dessert or dinner, remember to save your seeds. If you simply scoop out and compost your pumpkin/squash seeds you could be throwing out a heap of great nutrients and their inherent plant-based health benefits.

Vitamins, minerals and other important phytonutrients in pumpkin seeds*:

–   Manganese
–   Tryptophan
–   Magnesium
–   Phosphorus
–   Copper
–   Zinc
–   Iron

* Pumpkin seeds are either an excellent or very good source of all of these nutrients and vitamins. There are many other nutrients, minerals and vitamins present in pumpkin seeds that are not listed here.

 

Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds:

Tryptophan: Helps fight depression (converted into serotonin and niacin).

Glutamate (needed to create GABA): Anti-stress neurochemical, helps relieve anxiety and other related conditions.

Zinc: Boosts immune function and fights osteoporosis.

Phytosterols: Reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and raise HDL (the good kind). May also be effective in the prevention of cancer.


Rich in Antioxidants: Pumpkin seeds have a diverse range of antioxidants in them. These include, but are not limited to:

-Vitamins: Pumpkin seeds contain E in a variety of forms: Alpha-tocomonoenol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol and gamma-tocomonoenol. Having so many forms of Vitamin E in one food is beneficial because some of the forms of Vitamin E are more bioavailable than others.

– Minerals: Pumpkin seeds also contain mineral antioxidants like zinc and manganese.

– Phenolic antioxidants: Pumpkin seeds include phenolic antioxidants like the following acids: hydroxybenzoic, ferulic, protocatechuic, caffeic, coumaric, sinapic, vanillic, and syringic acid.

– Other antioxidant phytonutrients: Pumpkin seeds contain beneficial lignans including: lignans pinoresinol, lariciresinol and medioresinol.

Antimicrobial Properties: According to whfoods.com, “Pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed extracts, and pumpkin seed oil have long been valued for their anti-microbial benefits, including their anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Research points to the role of unique proteins in pumpkin seeds as the source of many antimicrobial benefits. The lignans in pumpkin seeds (including pinoresinol, medioresinol, and lariciresinol) have also been shown to have antimicrobial—and especially anti-viral— properties.”

Diabetes Support: Preliminary studies have suggested that ground pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed extracts, and pumpkin seed oil may improve insulin regulation and help protect the kidneys of those with diabetes.

Cancer Prevention: Because of pumpkin seeds’ rich antioxidant profile (and thus their potential to reduce oxidative stress) they may help decrease our risk of cancer. Preliminary studies have focused specifically on the lignans in pumpkin seeds, and their potential to reduce the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer.


Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH): Pumpkin seed extracts and oils are used in the treatment of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) (A non-cancer enlargement of the prostate gland). U.S. Studies have shown a beneficial link between nutrients in pumpkin seeds (pumpkin seed oil extract), and treating BPH. These nutrients include phytosterols, lignans, and zinc, among others.

Protein: Along with all the beneficial phytonutrients and antioxidants in pumpkin seeds, they are also a rich source of protein! One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains 9.35 grams of protein.

How to use pumpkin seeds:

–   With any nut or seed a little goes a long way (remember it contains the building blocks to create a whole new plant!)
–   Enjoy the whole kernels on their own, raw or lightly roasted. (This way you get the complete package of nutrients.)
–   Sprinkle some seeds on top of your cereal or granola in the morning.
–   Enjoy them with your evening salad.
–   Throw shelled seeds into a smoothie (as long as you have a good blender.)
–   Take a small handful of pumpkin seeds mixed with some dried fruit along for a hike.
–   Sprinkle on top of your homemade bread (or mix it into the dough) before baking.

There are many ways to enjoy pumpkin seeds, so experiment and enjoy!

Sources:   whfoods   Huffington Post   Wikipedia


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Five Natural Remedies to Reduce Inflammation

By Carey Rossi     Guest Writer for Wake Up World

Inflammation — what does the word mean to you? For most people, it’s a swollen cut or the swelling that occurs with pain or injury. And while, yes, these outward signs indicate inflammation, this same action happens deep inside the body. This natural process takes place when the body’s normal protective mechanisms are lacking or even over-acting.

In some, inflammation is chronic because their bodies are exposed to stress: internal, such as eating a high-fat diet or smoking; and external, such as difficult relationships or life events, like a divorce or death of a loved one. Research has shown that chronic inflammation is linked to a wide range of health problems including arthritis, allergies, cancer, diabetes and heart disease, among others. Luckily, there are many natural remedies for inflammation that effectively work to provide natural inflammation relief.

1. Açai Berry
All hail, antioxidants and the Amazon berry that has an abundance of them — açai (pronounced: ahh-sa-ee). According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Açai-rich juice may reduce levels of inflammation markers linked to conditions such as heart disease by protecting cells from oxidative damage.

“Given the high content of certain specific polyphenols in the juice blend, the increased antioxidant protection [in the body] after consumption of the juice blend, and the anti-inflammatory capacity in vitro, further research is warranted to evaluate whether juice blend consumption may provide reversal of risk markers in subjects with conditions such as arthritis, obesity, chronic viral diseases, cardiovascular disease and compromised cognitive function, as well as other conditions associated with chronic inflammation,” wrote lead author Gitte Jensen from Holger NIS Inc., a contract research laboratory.

Other research has indicated that the açai berry contains a wide array of inflammation-fighting antioxidant compounds and has great potential to be used as a natural inflammation remedy.

2. Flax Seed Oil
A tiny super seed chock full of essential omega-3 fatty acids can give inflammation a one-two punch. The omega-3s its oil contains can help the body reduce C-reactive protein, a marker that is present in the body when inflammation is present. According to a study published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, healthy post-menopausal women who ate low-fat muffins enriched with flax seeds for six weeks saw a 15% reduction C-reactive protein. Flax seeds also contain lignans, which may protect against breast cancer in post-menopausal women.

Flax seeds and flax seed oil have many health benefits, and as this research indicates, they may serve as an effective remedy to naturally decrease inflammation.


3. Quercetin
What do red grapes, broccoli and green tea have in common? They all contain quercetin, a natural antioxidant that has been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Recently, Chinese researchers reported in the November 2008 issue of Molecular Biology Reports that quercetin negatively alters intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1)—one of the important pro-inflammatory factors—especially in the early phase of inflammation.

As more and more research reveals, quercetin has great potential to serve as a natural anti-inflammatory, and may also boost immunity.

4. Zinc
Many people take zinc to fight off a cold or virus, and now research shows that zinc may also be a natural inflammation remedy. Popping zinc regularly can help reduce inflammation and has also been shown to fight infections in older people. Researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit, tested whether zinc supplementation decreases oxidative stress. They found that consuming 25 mg three times a day for three months decreased TNF-alpha, a cytokine that amplifies inflammation. (Bao B, et al. Transl Res. 2008 Aug;152(2):67-80. Epub 2008 Jul 11.)

5. Fish Oil
It shouldn’t surprise you that more research has emerged touting this omega-3-rich super supplement’s natural anti-inflammatory powers. The latest comes from the United Kingdom. Researchers found that taking 3.5 g of fish oil daily for six weeks may activate anti-inflammatory and lipid modulating mechanisms believed to impede the early onset of coronary heart disease. (de Roos B et al. Proteomics. 2008 May;8(10):1965-74.)

Fish oil is well known for its ability to improve cardiovascular health and to fight inflammation naturally. Research has shown that it may even be a viable alternative to NSAIDS for back pain and for the pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arhritis.

Keep in mind that while supplements can help tame inflammation in your body, you can make lifestyle choices to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Stay away from trans fats in your diet. Exercise on a regular basis (but don’t over do it since that can cause inflammation!) and keep stress at bay by adopting mindful activities, such as yoga, tai chi or meditation.

The bottom line is, chronic inflammation has been recognized as perhaps the cheif culprit in many diseases which can dramatically affect the quality of your life as you age. Do what it takes to keep inflammation to a minimum with proven natural anti-inflammatory supplements such as açai berry, flax seed oil, quercetin, zinc and fish oil, and by making anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle choices.

About the Author
Carey Rossi is a writer and editor with 10 years of experience covering all aspects of nutrition and fitness. She was the editor-in-chief of Better Nutrition, a shopping magazine for natural living, and the founding editor of Muscle & Fitness Hers. In addition, her work has appeared in Muscle & Fitness, Looking Good Now, Healthy Family, Vegetarian Times and Natural Health. She is the author of No More Diets Ever, Lose Weight the Natural Way.