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Why dealing with zinc deficiency is critical for a strong immune system

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Our body needs the essential mineral for the healthy function of the immune system

Walk down the aisle with cold medicine in almost any pharmacy and you will see a shelf full of zinc supplements. Of course, people need to be concerned about not getting enough zinc, a nutrient that is often touted for its ability to relieve colds and other respiratory diseases. But do many of us really need more zinc? And if so, what use is it?

As researchers learn more about how our bodies use zinc, they find that the element plays a surprisingly important role, especially in the immune system. “We believe that zinc is a gatekeeper of the immune function,” says Lothar Rink, immunologist at RWTH Aachen University, who recently co-authored an overview of the role of zinc in the immune system in the Annual Review of Nutrition 2021. And while scientists are still struggling to find good ways to measure zinc levels in the body, it looks like many people actually don’t have enough zinc in their diets for full immune function.

An essential element

Too little zinc is clearly bad news for your health. A severe deficiency – often the result of a genetic defect or extremely restricted diet – can lead to a myriad of problems, such as:

But the extent and consequences of a more subtle zinc deficiency have proven more difficult to determine. This is mainly because it is extremely difficult to accurately measure zinc levels in humans. Zinc is often in motion both inside and outside of our cells. For example, during an infection, blood levels drop as zinc is drawn from the bloodstream into cells that trigger an immune response. Zinc levels can also be influenced by diet, certain medications and hormones, and health status.

For these reasons it is possible to detect zinc levels in the blood, but these measurements are often inaccurate. And unlike iron, which can be easily determined by measuring levels of iron-containing blood proteins like hemoglobin and ferritin, there is no biomarker that can be used as an indicator of zinc levels. “There is still no one hundred percent accurate way to measure zinc in a person, especially if they have a disease,” says Daren Knoell, a zinc biologist at the University of Nebraska. Right now, the best way to determine a potential zinc deficit is to look at a person’s food intake, he adds.

Because of these limitations, most doctors diagnose zinc deficiency only when patients show symptoms of a serious deficiency such as rough skin or hair loss, Rink says. “But immune deficiency occurs much earlier if you have a slight zinc deficiency.” Researchers have found that those with zinc deficiency are more prone to infection than those with adequate amounts of the mineral. For example, studies have shown that zinc supplements reduce the incidence of infections in healthy elderly people. (The potential use of zinc supplements to ward off Covid-19 is an area of ​​active research, although the National Institutes of Health state that there is currently insufficient evidence to say whether this is beneficial.)

In order to better identify people who are not consuming enough zinc, Rink is participating in a project to help doctors and the general public better assess a person’s zinc status by using an app to track their diet and the To closely monitor dietary supplement consumption.

The data available so far show that zinc deficiency is relatively common. Based on dietary assessments and the prevalence of stunted growth, a common consequence of inadequate zinc intake during development, some studies estimate that approximately 17 percent of the world’s population is at risk of zinc deficiency – in certain low- and middle-income regions such as parts of South Asia this proportion even 30 percent.

Aging, genetics, pregnancy, disease, and other factors all contribute to this deficiency, but diet is the main culprit when people do not eat enough zinc-rich foods like seafood, red meat, and nuts. Consuming too many phytates, substances found in whole grain breads, cereals, and other sources, can also be a problem. Phytates bind to zinc and prevent it from being absorbed by the body.

Even in the United States, around 15 percent of the population lacks adequate zinc in their diet, according to a 2020 estimate of more than 26,000 US adults by researchers at a nutritional supplement company. This can be especially common in the elderly, mainly due to poor diet. But it often goes unnoticed because most people don’t show any outward signs of zinc deficiency, according to Knoell. “But if something goes wrong – you get an infection – you will likely do worse than someone who has enough zinc in their diet.”

What does zinc do?

Studies show that zinc is important for almost all aspects of the immune system: it helps skin cells and cells that line our organs keep pathogens from invading, and it keeps the thymus and bone marrow, which are responsible for making immune cells, normal Function. Zinc “is found in all parts of the immune system,” says Sophie Hambleton, an immunologist at Newcastle University in the UK – and people with zinc deficiency show a variety of immune disorders.

Most of the research to date has focused on the role of zinc in the innate immune system, the body’s defenses that carry out rapid, non-specific attacks against foreign invaders. Zinc appears to be involved in making physical barriers – like the cells that line our organs – more resistant to invasions and in ensuring the proper functioning of macrophages, the key white blood cells that devour pathogens and send out chemical signals to recruit other cellular ones Soldiers.

To ensure that there is enough zinc available for these many tasks, the levels of the mineral in the body are tightly controlled. At the beginning of an infection, for example, immune cells such as macrophages quickly produce a zinc-transporting protein called ZIP8. This protein controls how much zinc gets into these cells, which is important in maintaining the cells’ ability to capture pathogens and regulate the production of important defense-related molecules, including chemical messengers called cytokines, Knoell and others have found.

Recent work has shown that zinc is also important for the adaptive immune system, which uses memories of previous threats to launch pathogen-specific attacks via antibodies and T cells. In 2019, Hambleton and her colleagues reported that a mutation in another zinc transporter, ZIP7, causes a disease in which patients are deficient in B cells, antibody-producing immune cells that we produce throughout our lives. Further experiments in mice with the same mutations showed that a deficiency in ZIP7 reduced the zinc concentration in immature B cells and impaired their maturation.

While it is still unclear what this implies for the broader role of ZIP7 in people without this mutation, Hambleton says it is possible that a defect in ZIP7 is one way in which a generalized zinc deficiency could lead to immune function problems.

How much zinc does a person need?

Given the importance of zinc to a healthy immune system – and the difficulty of realizing if a person may be deficient – zinc supplementation is likely a good idea, especially for people at higher risk of deficiency, such as vegetarians and vegans and the elderly . (Rink has consulted for research grants, or received research grants from three companies that sell zinc supplements).

Most supplements are safe and do not cause serious side effects at the recommended daily dose of 8 milligrams and 11 milligrams, respectively, for women and men, but Rink warns that zinc can have adverse effects at very high levels. In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned against using zicam nasal spray and swabs, a cold medicine that contains zinc levels so high that it causes loss of smell. Because of this and other potential harm, experts recommend that adults consume no more than 40 milligrams of zinc per day.

While there are few clinical studies in humans, there have been a handful that have looked at the effects of zinc supplementation on viral infections. A review of two dozen clinical studies in 2021 found that in healthy people, taking zinc supplements either as lozenges or as a nasal spray at the onset of the disease can cut the duration of the common cold and other respiratory infections by a few days. The study also looked at chronic supplementation and found evidence that taking zinc supplements daily for a period of seven months to a year could help stave off the effects of respiratory infections, although it did not appear to prevent the common cold.

Hambleton notes, however, that while it is important to make sure you are getting enough zinc with your food, manipulating zinc levels in certain parts of the immune system is not easy because zinc is distributed differently throughout the body. “It’s very easy to believe that more zinc means more immunity because zinc is required for immunity,” she says.

Many unanswered questions remain. For one, the authors of this 2021 review note that there were limitations in the studies available, such as small sample sizes. Additionally, the time frame for zinc’s benefits is unclear. Most studies examining zinc’s benefits after infection reported that supplements only worked within 24 hours of symptoms onset – but the team found evidence that the window of time could be longer and that zinc could even be beneficial if consumed up to three days after the onset of symptoms. And we need better zinc supplements, says Knoell. Most now come in salt form, as zinc sulfate or chloride, but these are not easily absorbed by the body, so better formulations would be beneficial, he adds.

The question also arises as to whether certain people are genetically programmed to make zinc more difficult to absorb into their bodies than others. And the researchers are also interested in studying possible drugs that target zinc transporters in people who have problems with these proteins.

“We are now starting to ask and answer these questions in animal models,” says Knoell. “The excitement will of course be great when any of this carries over to the human condition.”

This article originally appeared in Knowable Magazine, an independent journalistic company owned by Annual Reviews. Sign up for the newsletter.

Whole Grain Benefits

12 Best Snacks for Weight Loss

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  • Healthy weight loss snacks are nutritious, portioned and balanced.
  • Some examples are an apple with peanut butter, a banana and almonds, or a protein bar.
  • You can also try hummus and carrots, fruit and plain Greek yogurt, and homemade trail mixes.
  • Check out the Insider Health Reference Library for more advice.

If you and your doctor have decided that losing weight is the best course of action for your health, then lifestyle and diet changes are likely needed.

That can mean replacing high-calorie snacks that lack nutrients, like potato chips, with healthy snacks like fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Unfortunately, many American snack foods are highly processed, high in calories and low in nutritional value. These types of snacks can make you feel sluggish and lead to weight gain,” says Amber Ingram, a registered dietitian at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

On the other hand, she says that a healthy, balanced snack can boost your energy and provide your body with the nutrients it needs. Ingram says some rules of thumb for healthy snacking are:

  • Nutritious, meaning they contain a nice mix of vitamins and minerals.
  • Portion controlled, like a single apple or orange.
  • Balanced, meaning ideally it contains protein and one complex carbohydrate – which helps to keep you full. A healthy fat can also be a great addition, but it’s not necessary for a balanced snack.
  • About 150-250 calories

Here are 12 healthy snack ideas recommended by nutritionists.

1. An apple and natural peanut butter

  • One medium apple: 95 calories
  • One tablespoon of natural peanut butter: 95 calories
  • Total calories: 190

Snacks that contain protein can help you feel full for longer, which can reduce overeating and subsequent weight gain.

Natural peanut butter is a great source of plant-based protein, and apples are high in soluble fiber, which studies have shown may help promote weight loss and reduce the risk of cancer.


diabetes

, and cardiovascular diseases.

2. Cottage cheese and pineapple

  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese with 2% milk: 90 calories
  • Half a cup of pineapple: 41 calories
  • Total calories: 131

In addition to the protein that keeps you full, cottage cheese is also packed with calcium, which can support bone health.

You can pair it with pineapple, which contains bromelain — a compound with anti-inflammatory benefits that may also aid in digestion, says Ingram.

Plus, a sweet, healthy fruit like pineapple, melon, or mango is perfect for adding a flavor explosion to a snack.

3. Fruit and plain Greek yogurt

  • A cup of strawberries: 53 calories
  • A can of plain yogurt: 100 calories
  • Total calories: 153

While yogurt may seem like a healthy choice, many flavored varieties are loaded with added sugar. Added sugar can easily lead to excess sugar consumption, which has been linked to obesity.

You can avoid added sugars by opting for plain Greek yogurt, says Alicia Beltran, MS, a nutritionist at Baylor College of Medicine.

Add flavor and sweetness by adding your fruit of choice. Berries, including strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, are a great option because they’re loaded with antioxidants that help reduce the risk of conditions like kidney and cardiovascular disease caused by free radical damage.

Plus, Greek yogurt contains probiotics, which may have benefits like maintaining a healthy microbiome and cardiovascular health.

4. Hummus and carrots

  • Two tablespoons of hummus: 60 calories
  • A cup of raw carrots: 50 calories
  • Total calories: 110

This snack has two benefits: First, the hummus is a good source of protein and fiber, both of which help keep you feeling full and satisfied, Beltran says. And second, carrots contain beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A by your body. Vitamin A can benefit your eyesight, immune system, and cholesterol.

Eating more vegetables in general can also help


weight loss

because vegetables are more filling, which a 2014 study of overweight adults found may help control hunger.

5. Cream cheese with cashew nuts as a side dish

  • A light mozzarella string cheese: 50 calories
  • A quarter cup of cashews: 197 calories
  • Total calories: 247

The combination of spreadable cheese and cashews packs healthy fats and proteins that don’t cause a blood sugar spike that might make you tired and sluggish later, says Allison Childress, PhD, nutritionist and assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Texas Tech University.

Choosing light or low-fat versions of snacks like cheese is an easy way to cut fat and calories on your weight-loss journey.

Plus, nuts like cashews, almonds, walnuts, and macadamias are heart-healthy and can help lower “bad” cholesterol levels.

6. A banana and almonds

  • One medium-sized banana: 105 calories
  • A quarter cup of almonds: 207 calories
  • Total calories: 312

“This snack combines the carbs of bananas with the fat, fiber and protein of almonds for a balanced, filling snack,” says Childress.

The banana is high in potassium, and nutritionists recommend bananas as a weight-loss snack. This is because bananas contain pectin and


resistant starch

, that’s enough.

Note: This snack has a little more calories than the others on this list, so it might not be a snack you want to reach for every day.

7. Wholemeal Toast with Peanut Butter

  • A slice of whole wheat bread: 110 calories
  • One tablespoon of natural peanut butter: 95 calories
  • Total calories: 205

Bread is often vilified in weight loss diets like keto and Whole30 for its high carb content. But if you eat the right type of bread, you can still enjoy a slice every now and then.

In fact, a small 2012 study found that overweight participants who ate bread as part of a restricted-calorie diet were more likely to stick to the diet than those who were told to avoid bread altogether.

Just be sure to avoid white bread and other refined grain options like bleached flour. These typically have little to no fiber. Instead, opt for whole grain breads, which provide more fiber and nutrients like B vitamins, iron, and folic acid.

You should also consider toasting your bread, as research suggests it can lower the glycemic index — a measure of how likely a food is to spike blood sugar. However, more studies are needed to determine how much toasting lowers the GI for whole grain bread and how this might affect weight loss.

8. A protein bar

  • One Quest protein bar: 190 calories

If you’re looking for easy on-the-go snacks, try some protein bars. However, be sure to read the label and make sure they aren’t loaded with added sugar.

A 2020 review found that a high-protein diet can be beneficial for losing weight and preventing weight gain over the course of six to 12 months, whether you’re on a low-calorie diet or not. Additionally, the review found that a high-protein diet may promote feelings of fullness or satiety.

Childress recommends Quest bars, which contain about 15 grams of fiber, 21 grams of protein, and just 2 grams of sugar. Other brands with a healthy balance of fiber and protein and low in sugar include ONE and Alani Nu, says Childress. Experiment with different protein bars and find out which ones are your personal favourites.

Best protein bars

Checking the protein bars


Amazon

We test and recommend the best protein bars. Check out our selection:

9. Homemade Trail Mix

  • A quarter cup of trail mix: about 160 calories

Of course, buying pre-packaged trail mix is ​​an option, but Beltran suggests going the DIY route because you can more easily control total calorie count by choosing what’s in it. Beltran says some healthy options should be included:

  • almonds
  • cashew nuts
  • pecans
  • Dark chocolate chips
  • raisins
  • Dried cranberries

Since trail mixes usually contain high-calorie foods like dried fruit and nuts, moderation is key. Make sure you measure out a quarter cup before snacking instead of eating straight from a bag for portion control.

10. Crispy chickpeas and a hard-boiled egg

  • 1/4 cup crispy chickpeas: 161 calories
  • One large hard-boiled egg: 78 calories
  • Total calories: 149

Roasting chickpeas makes them nice and crispy — a bonus if you’re trying to lose weight, as researchers have found that foods that make a lot of noise when eaten lead people to eat less overall.

Also, eggs are good for weight loss as they are high in protein and nutrient dense while being low in calories.

11. Fruit smoothie with protein powder

The total calorie count depends on the ingredients you choose for your smoothie. In general, opt for a mix of fruits and vegetables such as:

  • 1 medium banana (105 calories) and a bunch of baby spinach (27 calories): About 132 calories
  • 1 medium apple (65 calories) and a handful of celery (20 calories): About 85 calories

One thing to keep in mind about smoothies is that they contain less fiber than if you were to eat those foods whole. As a result, your blood sugar may be more likely to rise. To slow digestion and prevent a spike in blood sugar, add a scoop of protein powder to your smoothie.

12. English muffin with avocado

  • One half of a whole wheat English muffin: 65 calories
  • A quarter of an avocado: 81 calories
  • Total calories: 146

Avocados are high in healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats and rich in nutrients that make them good for heart, eye, and skin health. Plus, the fiber in whole grains can help you feel fuller and promote good gut health.

A 2019 study found that among non-obese people, those who consumed avocados were less likely to gain weight than those who did not consume avocados.

Insider snack

There are so many options for delicious and nutritious healthy snacks to eat while trying to lose weight. Be mindful of portion sizes and always remember that moderation is key.

Also, Beltran says you should make sure you’re really hungry before grabbing a snack, rather than just eating out of boredom, stress, or distraction.

The right healthy snacks will keep you full until your next meal and can help you lose weight.

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Whole Grain Benefits

5 Morning Routines Tips for Holistic Heart Health

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By by now you probably know that keeping your heart healthy is just as important as keeping the rest of your system feeling good and working properly. But when it comes to your ticker, it certainly doesn’t hurt to get full advice from a cardiologist on how best to do it. Mona Shah, MD, a cardiologist also trained in holistic integrative medicine, several lifestyle factors play a role in heart health, including diet, exercise, sleep, and stress.

This is why it’s so important to look at all of the factors that affect your heart health, and not just cardiovascular fitness or cholesterol levels. Enter: holistic integrative medicine.

What exactly is holistic integrative medicine?

It is a comprehensive and informative approach to treating the patient because diagnosis and treatment looks at the whole person – their diet, stress levels, sleep intake, exercise schedule, vitamin intake, supplements and more to reduce their risk of heart disease and other complications later in life.

“Often patients are just given medication without really addressing the underlying causes of inflammation, blockages, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and more, all of which can lead to heart disease,” explains Dr. shah “There are definitely cases where we need drugs, but what is the best way to integrate these two different approaches? [medication and lifestyle changes] That’s what I believe most strongly.” She not only believes it for her clients, but also practices it herself, beginning her day with specific rituals designed to keep her mind and body healthy.

dr Shah’s morning routine to promote holistic heart health

“Morning is a great way to start habits that can set the tone for the day, because all too often we get out of bed with a list of everything we need to do and stress levels start to rise,” says dr shah “I’m not a morning person at all, but this morning routine was such an important positive change I’ve made in my life that anyone can do.”

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“After dropping my boys on the doorstep of school, I have about 2030 minutes for me before I have to get ready for work,” she says. This is how she spends it.

She drinks water with turmeric and lemon after waking up

“I start with a tall glass of warm water with lemon and turmeric because turmeric has so many health benefits and drinking warm water as a first drink is so calming,” says Dr. shah Additionally, turmeric can promote gut health and kick-start the digestive process, and it is anti-inflammatory, which boosts the immune system.

She practices gratitude

After drinking her water, Dr. List three things she’s grateful for to encourage positive feelings and keep stress levels from rising early in the day. “Stress itself is a big risk factor for heart disease, so simple breathing techniques, meditation, yoga, or journaling can help, even for five minutes a day,” she says. “Writing in a gratitude journal and showing kindness releases a variety of feel-good hormones that can lower your risk of heart disease. Gratitude has been shown to improve quality of life, lower cortisol levels, relieve depression and boost immunity, so don’t skip it.”

Then she meditates for 5 minutes

“I breathe in slowly through my nose and I usually say a mantra like ‘I am’ as I breathe in, and I visualize love coming into my heart before I breathe out,” says Dr. shah “With that exhale I could say ‘at peace’ and imagine love going out into the world.”

She wakes up the body with a short yoga flow

“I then do a few yoga poses, such as the sun salutation, to get my body moving before taking a shower, as yoga has a variety of health benefits, including lowering stress levels, improving blood pressure, and enhancing immunity and inflammation. ” She says.

To start your day soaking up the sun like Dr. Greetings Shah, Check out how to do the following yoga flow:

In general, exercise helps reduce heart disease risk, manage weight, reduce stress and improve our mental state — Shah says even just 30 minutes of walking a day can improve mood, tame stress and protect the heart. So swap out yoga for any workout that makes you feel good. Bonus points if it gets your blood pumping.

She puts off breakfast a few hours

“I typically do intermittent fasting, so along with black coffee with a shot of stevia, I don’t eat my first meal until 11 a.m. or noon,” says Dr. Shah risk of heart disease. I’m a vegetarian, so the night before I usually make overnight oats with sprouted gluten-free oats and unsweetened almond milk, blueberries, chia seeds, hemp hearts, and a pinch of powdered cinnamon and stevia.” Other suggestions include whole wheat toast with avocado, chia seeds, and crumbled feta; smoked salmon and Greek yogurt; nut butters and berries; or hummus with egg and vegetables.

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Whole Grain Benefits

Consume these nutrient-rich, whole foods to glow on your wedding day

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From salmon to beetroot—here’s all you need to incorporate into your diet

Time to have healthy foods! (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

Wedding day is, undoubtedly, one of the most special days for anyone. Thus, people end up spending months to make sure all the arrangements are perfect and in place. However, amidst this hustle-bustle, many tend to forget their self-care routine which is crucial to glow on your big day. You may have the best hair and make-up artist in place but nothing beats the glow that comes from within.

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Wondering how to amp up your fitness and nutrition game? Nutritionist and diet coach Minaschi Pettukola is here to the rescue. This wedding season, incorporate these colourful, varied, nutrient-rich, whole foods suggested by Pettukola and make sure that you shine not just on your wedding day but for days to come.

salmon

Salmon is a powerhouse of essential fatty acids and is very rich in omega. It is the perfect recipe all on its own for glowing skin and shining hair.

Turmeric

Every Indian household is familiar with the benefits of turmeric. It is an age-old staple in our kitchens and is excellent in healing damaged skin and can repair sun-damaged skin.

Garlic

Garlic is known to reduce and fight off any skin infections. It is also recognized for boosting immunity which is of prime importance nowadays.

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits can easily be added to your breakfast as oranges and grapefruit. They promote healthy collagen production and can fight inflammation and toxicity.

greens

Greens like spinach, kale, broccoli, mustard and fenugreek leaves are rich in antioxidants, calcium and folate, necessary to keep your skin healthy and glowing.

bedroot

Beetroot is an exceptionally rich source of antioxidant compounds which repair skin cells, promotes new skin growth and younger cells.

Whole grains

Whole grains are rich in fiber and nutrients, especially in these days of highly processed and nutrient-depleted foods. Whole grain foods help tilt the balance towards a healthier diet.

Others

Other foods which make a big difference to enriching your diet are eggs, nuts and seeds, pro and prebiotics, lentils and green tea.

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📣 The above article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional for any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.

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