Like Hippocrates, I’m going to “make food my medicine,” by amping up a store of zinc-rich treasures in my diet to kick any blossoming cold viruses under the bus.
Keep in mind, zinc levels have to be kept in a delicate balance like Baby Bear’s porridge — too little will cause deficiency problems, while too much will allow damaging free radicals to run rampant.
The recommended daily dosage for adult males is 11 milligrams, slightly less for women (8 milligrams), but more if you are pregnant or breast-feeding (12 milligrams). While vegetarians should consume higher amounts since plant-based zinc is not absorbed as well by the body as animal-based ones.
Best zinc sources can be found in these foods:
1. Pomegranate heads the fruit list, followed avocados, and blackberries. Toss these ruby gems in green salads, smoothies, or stews and sauces to top wild-caught fish or chicken.
2. Soybeans are rife with zinc (9 milligrams in one cup), along with limas, chickpeas, kidneys, green beans and peas. Roasted soybeans (organic, please) make a great portable snack, while other forms of soy, especially tofu and tempeh dial up salads, stir fries, egg and grain dishes.
3. Sprinkle toasted or raw wheat germ on both savories and sweets. This small, edible part of the wheat kernel has a concentrated load of vitamins and minerals to bolster the immune, digestive and cardiovascular systems, along with an anti-aging bonus.
4. Turn over a new leaf with spinach, endive and Swiss chard in warm wilted salads, Italian wedding soups, smoothies and pastas.
5. Beef it up, so long as it’s organic and grass-fed, or lean, immune boosting lamb as a hearty ragu over egg noodles, a herb encrusted rack, or stewed with assorted root vegetables.
6. Go nutty with cashews packed with almost 8 mg of zinc in a single cup, or pine nuts, pecans, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts to bake, snack, toss, grind or blend in assorted dishes. Pumpkin, sesame, chia and flaxseeds also give a hearty dose of protein and zinc.
7. Food of the Gods, super dark chocolate with cocoa content of 70 percent or greater is not only an antioxidant-rich mood elevator, but has an impressive amount of zinc (6 mg per cup). Indulge in raw, baked, melted, shaved, blended or drizzled chocolate on everything but your shoes.
8. Go wild for mushrooms, especially white button, morel, crimini, Portobello, oyster and shiitake for their meaty texture, rich flavor profile, versatility and immune boosting store of zinc.
9. The world is your oyster with these high-octane bivalves containing the greatest amount of the mineral of all food sources on the planet. Six oysters are packed with 33 mg of zinc. While oysterphiles love eating them raw in the half shell, it’s safest to broil, bake or toss these sea treasures in a cioppino or fish chowder.
10. Crab and lobster, the gold standard of seafood, are also zinc powerhouses, so indulge in crab cakes, lobster bisques and rolls, crustacean cocktails, and this delightful Tuscan bread salad called panzanella (recipe provided), even more divine when tossed with succulent chunks of lobster and crab.
•••• Recipe: Seafood Panzanella Salad
1 crusty baguette (cut in chunks)
1 1/2 cups cooked
Chopped lobster meat (tail and claws) and crab (shells removed)
4 Persian cucumbers (sliced in coins)
2 sweet red peppers (sliced in rings)
2 cups cherry tomatoes (halved)
1/2 red onion (thinly sliced)
2 tablespoons olive or walnut oil
1 handful basil (chopped)
• For the dressing: 1/2 cup olive or walnut oil, 1 tablespoon white balsamic or red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 garlic clove (minced), 1/3 teaspoon honey
• Method: Whisk dressing ingredients in glass bowl and set aside. Heat oil (2 tablespoons) on medium in large skillet. Add bread chunks, sprinkle with salt, toast until golden. Combine bread chunks and remaining salad ingredients in large salad bowl. Toss with dressing, and let sit for one hour. Top with chopped basil. Serves 4.
— Catharine Kaufman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org