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Millennials may be zinc deficient because they shun traditional foods

Millennials could be deficient in zinc because they have switched traditional foods such as kippers and liver for trendy alternatives, research has found.

Less than a quarter of Generation Y have tried zinc-packed cupboard staples such as cockles and herring favoured by our grandparents, with 70 per cent citing social media as an influence in dinner decisions.

That compares to 49 per cent of those aged between 35 and 54 who indulge in zinc rich foods because they are good for their health, and are unlikely to be swayed by social networks.

The research, commissioned by The Meat Advisory Panel (MAP), found 90 per cent of middle-aged Brits would pick zinc rich foods because their parents used to serve it to them.

But millennials are instead turning away from the norm in favour of trendy alternatives.

Commenting on the importance of zinc in the millennial diet, Robert Pickard, Professor of Neurobiology at the University of Cardiff, said: “Our diet has changed drastically over the years, and as foods such as liver, cockles and kippers have been lost from the menu, we have also lost some of our key sources of zinc.

“Zinc plays an important role in the body, from contributing to the growth of cells to helping maintain the immune system and healthy skin, hair and nails.

“We don’t need to resurrect some of the old-fashioned classics however to help us increase our zinc levels, as lean red meat is one of the best sources of dietary zinc.”

Lean red meat, such as beef, pork and lamb, is one of the best sources of dietary zinc, helping increase your sex drive, boost brain power and fight flu and tiredness, and could be a key ingredient to solving the millennial zinc deficiency dilemma.

Just over third of our average zinc intake comes from meat and meat products overall, and people who consume no red meat can be at much greater risk of a zinc deficiency, as the zinc found in pork, beef and lamb is better absorbed by the body than vegetarian alternatives.

However, meat isn’t the only dietary source of zinc. Legumes like chickpeas, lentils and beans all contain substantial amounts of zinc. In fact, 100 grams of cooked lentils contain around 12% of a man’s daily recommended intake.

However, they also contain phytates. These antinutrients inhibit the absorption of zinc and other minerals, meaning zinc from legumes isn’t as well absorbed as the zinc from animal products.

Despite this, they can be an important source of zinc for people following vegan or vegetarian diets. They are also an excellent source of protein and fibre and can be easily added to soups, stews and salads.

Heating, sprouting, soaking or fermenting plant sources of zinc like legumes can increase this mineral’s bioavailability.

Seeds are also a healthy addition to your diet and can help increase your zinc intake.
However, some seeds are better than others. Three tablespoons (30 grams) of hemp seeds contain 31% and 43% of the recommended daily intake for men and women, respectively. Other seeds containing significant amounts of zinc including squash, pumpkin and sesame seeds. In addition to boosting your zinc intake, seeds contain fibre, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, making them an excellent addition to your diet.

To add hemp, flax, pumpkin or squash seeds into your diet, you can try adding them to salads, soups, yogurts or other foods.

Eating pine nuts, peanuts, cashews and almonds can also boost your intake of zinc. Nuts also contain other healthy nutrients, including healthy fats and fibre, as well as a number of other vitamins and minerals.

If you’re looking for a nut high in zinc, cashews are a good choice. A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving contains 14% of a man’s daily recommended intake.

Further reading:

Diane Cooke
Diane Cooke is a three times award-winning journalist who has worked for UK national/regional newspapers, magazines and websites.

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