Power Up with Pork: Zinc
In this new series, our resident dietitian Vincci Tsui highlights some of the key nutrients found in pork and their benefits!
Now that kids are getting settled into their back-to-school routine, there’s another concern that’s starting to pop up – germs! While practicing good hand hygiene is the best way to prevent colds, making sure you’re boosting your immune system through good nutrition doesn’t hurt, either. One nutrient that plays an important role in immune function is zinc. Pork is an excellent source of this mineral.
Why is zinc important?
It has been estimated that zinc is associated with 100-300 different enzymes in our body, each with their own specific function. In addition to boosting our immune systems, zinc plays a role in cell development, wound healing, our sense of taste and smell, and growth and development in children and in pregnancy. For the fellas, zinc is necessary to produce testosterone. Our bodies cannot create or store zinc, so it is important to make sure we get enough zinc in our diet daily.
How much zinc do I need?
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for zinc is 8 mg for adult females and 11 mg for adult males. Zinc needs increase with pregnancy and breastfeeding. Most pork cuts contain about 1-4 mg per 75 g (2.5 oz) serving. Pork liver has the highest amount of zinc with about 5 mg per serving.
Zinc deficiency is uncommon in Canada and difficult to diagnose as symptoms are non-specific. Older adults are at higher risk because they tend to not eat enough, and are more likely to have health issues that can affect absorption. Young children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are also more likely to be deficient in zinc as they have higher needs. Zinc deficiency can manifest in many ways; mild zinc defiency can cause change in quality of hair/skin/nails, depressed immune system and loss of appetite. Severe zinc deficiency can result in taste and smell changes, skin lesions, poor wound healing, diarrhea and growth retardation in children. In contrast, there have been no reported symptoms of having too much zinc.
Where can I get my zinc?
Oysters are the most concentrated source of zinc in our diet – a single oyster contains about 16 mg of zinc, which is double the RDA for an adult female! Red meats, particularly liver, and legumes are also rich sources of zinc. Some grain products, like flour, bread and cereal, are fortified with zinc.
As mentioned previously, pork liver is the pork cut that is richest in zinc, with about 5 mg per 75 g (2.5 oz) serving. Pork shoulder generally has about 3-4 mg per serving, while cuts from the pork loin and leg contain about 1-2 mg. Cured meats like bacon and “variety” meats like hock and jowl tend to be least concentrated in zinc.
Try our Bacon Hummus, Smoked Oyster & Honey Toasted Pecan recipe for a double-whammy of zinc.