Zinc: Serve Yourself an Immune Boosting Breakfast

When asked to list nutrients that are crucial for promoting overall health and well-being, many clients will have protein, antioxidants, and vitamins at the top of their minds.  While these nutrients are undoubtedly significant, it’s important to also recognize the lesser-known minerals that play vital role in promoting overall health. Take zinc for example – it’s naturally found in some foods and many other foods are fortified to include greater levels of the mineral.  Zinc is most commonly known for shorting the duration and severity of the common cold, but many clients don’t understand what the mineral’s significance beyond that.

Zinc plays a viable role in cellular metabolism and is required for the functioning of over 300 enzymes in the body1. It contributes to maintaining immune function by regulating T lymphocytes and possessing antiviral activity; and it’s involved in and necessary for protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division. Zinc has also shown to support normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence2. According to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), most infants, children, and adults in the United States have no problem consuming the recommended amounts of zinc in their regular diet. This is not the case with older adults, however, as the study found that 35 percent to 45 percent of adults 60 years and older have zinc intakes below the recommended dietary allowances3.

The current Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for female adults is 8mg (6.8mg/day for elderly females) and 11mg for adult males (9.4mg/day for elderly males) and 11mg for pregnant women. It is important to consume adequate amounts of zinc daily as the body does not have a specialized storage system1. Zinc is found in most animal sources where red meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc to the American diet. Other quality sources include beans, nuts, certain types of seafood (oysters, crab, and lobster especially), whole grains, fortified cereals, dairy products, and of course, eggs.

When looking to increase zinc levels in your diet, it’s important to pay close attention to which foods you turn to. Although many grain and plant-based foods are good sources of zinc, it is important to note that these foods also contain phytates which bind to zinc and inhibit its absorption. Therefore best bioavailability of zinc comes from animal sources mentioned such as meat, fish, dairy, and eggs! One egg provides 4 percent of the recommended daily value (DV)3. The omelet recipe below will provide zinc from the eggs, ham and spinach.

Spinach, Ham, and Cheese Omelet
2 servings- pair with some fruit and a cup of low-fat milk for a complete meal.


  • 2 EGGS
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • ¼ cup shredded Italian cheese blend (1 oz.)
  • ¼ cup baby spinach
  • ¼ cup finely chopped ham
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Beat eggs and water in small bowl until blended.
  • Heat butter in 7 to 10-inch nonstick omelet pan of skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Tilt pan to coat bottom. Pour in egg mixture should set immediately at edges.
  • Gently push cooked portions from edges toward the center with inverted turner so that uncooked eggs can reach the hot pan surface. CONTINUE cooking, tilting pan and gently moving cooked portions as needed.
  • When top surface of eggs is thickened and no visible liquid egg remains, season with salt and pepper. Place cheese on one side of omelet; top with spinach and ham. Fold omelet in half with turner. With a quick flip of the wrist, turn pan and invert or slide omelet onto plate. Service immediately.

Per serving Calories: 299 Total Fat: 20g; Saturated fat: 9g; Polyunsaturated fat: 2g;  Monounsaturated fat: 5g; Cholesterol: 418mg; Sodium: 642mg; Carbohydrates: 2g; Dietary Fiber: 0g; Protein: 25g; Vitamin A: 1262.3IU; Vitamin D: 91.9IU; Folate: 47.4mcg; Calcium: 264.9mg; Iron: 2.2mg; Choline: 274.2mg; Zinc: 4.415


1)      Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Zinc, 2012. Web. 23 May 2013. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/zinc/NS_patient-zinc.

2)      Chaffee B, King J. Effect of Zinc Supplementation on Pregnancy and Infant Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Pediatric & Perinatal Epidemiology [serial online]. July 2, 2012; 26:118-137. Available from: Consumer Health Complete – EBSCOhost, Ipswich, MA. Accessed May 23, 2013.

3)      Gibson, RS, and JE McKenzie. The Risk of Inadequate Zinc Intake in the United States and New Zealand Adults. 38th ed. Vol. 2: Nutrition Today, 2003. 63-70. Web. 23 May 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12698057.

4)      Brown, KH, KR Wessells, and SY Hess. Zinc bioavailability from zinc-fortified foods. 3rd ed. Vol. 77: International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research, 2007. 174-81. Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA. Web. 23 May 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18214018.

5)      U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2012. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page,http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl