Selenium to support your immune system

Selenium to support your immune system

Selenium is an important trace element. It plays a positive role in supporting immune system function by helping fight off bacterial infections and viruses.

Selenium is known as a micronutrient and is required in very small amounts by the body. As a component of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which is a powerful antioxidant, it can help protect the brain, heart, and kidneys against free radicals and environmental toxins.

It maintains the health of male and female reproductive systems, regulates mood, blood pressure and assists with optimal thyroid function as well as cardiovascular health.

There is growing research to suggest that it can help with anti-ageing, by preserving skin elasticity and supporting brain function as we age.

As with zinc and iodine, New Zealand soils have been shown to have low levels of selenium, leading to deficiencies and predisposing us to certain illnesses, especially as we age. Selenium is now often added to foods such as bread in the form of imported selenium-rich wheat as well as added to animal and poultry feed on the farm.

There is growing research to suggest that selenium can help with anti-ageing.
There is growing research to suggest that selenium can help with anti-ageing.

Selenium was only recognised as an essential trace element for human health in 1990. Since then, we have learnt a great deal about its role within the human body, and the benefits it can provide.

The lack of selenium

New Zealand soils have low levels of a number of important minerals, including zinc, iodine and selenium. If these nutrients are not in our soils, they are not in the foods we eat.

In the NZ Nutrition Survey in 2009, the average dietary intake of selenium had improved, and was measured at 67mcg, up from 52mcg from the previous survey. Men and women over 71 years of age, and young women aged between 15-18 years had the lowest selenium intakes.

Essential as we age

Selenium activates the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which help mitigate the effects of ageing by removing environmental toxins from the body.

These toxins, or ‘free radicals’, can lead to inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cataract formation and a higher risk of various cancers.

A selenium-rich diet can also protect against premature ageing of the skin, by preserving the elasticity of arteries and our skin as we get older. It alleviates sun damage and age spots, helping to maintain a youthful appearance to the skin.

In females, research suggests adequate selenium status may reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.

What are free radicals?

Free radicals are often a product of our lifestyle, (such as excessive alcohol or smoking) or exposure to heavy metals and toxins in our environment. This exposure can occur through the water we drink, the foods we eat, or the air we breathe, as well as substances that come into contact with our skin.

These free radicals are molecules that have lost an electron and have become unstable. They go looking for an electron by attacking other cells within our body.

This causes damage to our cell walls and cell tissues, which impairs the function of the cell. This damage can then lead to degenerative diseases such as heart disease, autoimmune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and decreased thyroid function.

The antioxidant glutathione peroxidase attaches to the free radicals, providing the missing electron they need – which can prevent lasting damage to the body.

Woman drinking Skybright Selenium liquid mineral supplement
Our body doesn’t produce selenium, so we must access it through our diet.

Maintaining mineral levels

As our body doesn’t produce selenium, concentrations of the mineral decline with age. Therefore, we must continue to access it through our diet, or look to supplement.

Low levels have been associated with age-related declines in brain function, possibly due to decreases in selenium’s antioxidant activity. More evidence is required to determine whether supplementing with selenium may help prevent or even treat cognitive decline in elderly people, which is a big issue facing this growing segment of the New Zealand population.

How much is needed?

In New Zealand, the recommended daily intake (RDI) for selenium is 60mcg for women and 70mcg for men. However, some nutritionists suggest a much higher RDI of 200mcg, temporarily increasing to 400mcg when fighting a viral infection, inflammation or a known heavy metal build-up.

While supplementing with selenium, other minerals such as iodine (from fish, shellfish) as well as vitamin E (sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts) should also be part of the diet, as these nutrients all work well together to fight infection and inflammation.

Man drink water. In New Zealand, the recommended daily intake (RDI) for selenium is 60mcg for women and 70mcg for men.

In New Zealand, the recommended daily intake (RDI) for selenium is 60mcg for women and 70mcg for men. 

It’s important to remember that like some minerals, excessive selenium can be toxic, especially when supplementing in large quantities. When consuming more than 800-1000mcg (inorganic selenium) per day for long periods, you may experience symptoms of selenium toxicity, such as numbness in the hands and feet, a metallic taste in your mouth and bad breath.

In extreme cases, it can also cause skin rashes, gastrointestinal disturbance, brittleness and loss of fingernails, alopecia, irritability and nervous system abnormalities.

How to get selenium into your diet

It is well known that you can get your daily requirements of selenium from eating just a few brazil nuts. But this obviously depends on the selenium content in the soil in which they grow. The mineral content of the nuts can vary from as little as 10mcg to up to 100mcg in selenium-rich soil.

As with iodine, seafood provides a good source of selenium. Organ meats, poultry, eggs, dairy, cereals and unrefined grains are also good.

Unrefined grains, and Brazil nuts are good sources of dietary Selenium.
Unrefined grains and brazil nuts are good sources of dietary selenium.

Fruits and vegetables such as broccoli can contain selenium but again, only if they are grown in selenium-rich soils, which is often not the case in New Zealand. Soil pH, the amount of organic matter in the soil, geographic location and whether the selenium is in a form that is conducive to plant uptake are all factors.

For those on vegan, gluten-free, ketogenic or low-protein diets, selenium can be even harder to access. Selenium levels are often low if you suffer from malabsorption, diarrhoea or inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS). Eat a whole-food diet where you can and try to limit foods and drinks that are high in sugars, saturated fats, and salt.

For those on vegan, gluten-free, ketogenic or low-protein diets, selenium can be even harder to access.

A hair mineral analysis test or a blood test can provide you with not only information on your current selenium status, but a range of other minerals that may be at low levels, due to diet or pre-existing conditions.

Iodine and selenium for thyroid health

Due to changes in diet and environmental factors, there has been an increase in thyroid disorders.

Both iodine and selenium are required for optimal thyroid function and work well together to support the health of the thyroid gland.

The antioxidant glutathione peroxidase is highly active in the thyroid gland, protecting it from oxidative damage. Low levels of selenium have been associated with reduced thyroid glutathione peroxidase activity and supplementation has in turn been shown to increase glutathione peroxidase activity. This protects the thyroid from excess iodine, and its potentially toxic effects.

Glutathione peroxidase is highly active in the thyroid gland, protecting it from oxidative damage.
Glutathione peroxidase is highly active in the thyroid, protecting it from oxidative damage.

In cases of iodine deficiency, selenium supplementation may too be of value, as deficiencies of selenium and iodine commonly co-exist.

There have been suggestions that selenium be added to table salt along with iodine, but table salt is not recommended as part of a healthy diet.Instead, unrefined sea salt is a better option as it contains many minerals and elements your body needs in trace amounts.

For more information, see our article Are you getting enough iodine?

Vitamin C to aid absorption

Vitamin C, often taken to assist our immune system, is another nutrient that works well with selenium. An intake of 600mg of Vitamin C has been shown to increase dietary selenium by nearly 100 percent.

An intake of 600mg of Vitamin C has been shown to increase dietary selenium by nearly 100%.

Summary

Selenium works with a number of other nutrients, including iodine, vitamin E and vitamin C, to support our immune system and help tackle infections and inflammation.

It is an essential cofactor for glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme and antioxidant that helps protect us from damage caused by a range of pollutants and toxins that can be present in our environment, our food, and the water we drink. Our soils often have low levels of selenium, long with zinc and iodine, especially here in New Zealand.

Taking selenium in liquid form increases bioavailability, enabling effective absorption of the mineral.
Taking selenium in liquid form increases bioavailability, enabling effective absorption of the mineral.

If we are unable to access the required amount of selenium due to diet or other factors, we can look to supplement, by taking just a few drops in a glass of water.

Taking selenium in liquid form increases bioavailability, meaning your body can quickly and effectively absorb the mineral. This can help boost your immune system and support your natural defences when tackling an infection.

It’s best to consult with your health professional before undergoing supplementation. They can also help you with assessing your mineral status through a blood test or by hair mineral analysis.

References:
Coory, David. Stay Healthy by supplying what’s lacking in your diet. 1992
Schauss, Alexander G. Minerals, Trace Elements, & Human Health. Life Sciences Press. 1995
Selenium and iodine supplementation: effect on thyroid function of older New Zealanders. Christine D Thomson,  Jennifer M Campbell,  Jody Miller,  Sheila A Skeaff, Vicki Livingstone. 2009
Fairbain, K. Serious about Selenium. Otago Daily Times. 2018
Medsafe. Selenium, Prescriber Update. 2000
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Selenium. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Updated 2021

Disclaimer:
The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional. 

A to Zinc: A handy guide

A to Zinc

Acne: Zinc is an important component for healthy skin, and in particular for sufferers of acne. It can control the production of oil in the skin and help balance some of the hormones that can lead to acne. Many skin disorders can be attributed to insufficient zinc.

Bioavailability: The bioavailability of zinc from grains and plant foods is lower than that from animal- based foods such as lean red meat and poultry, although many grain and plant-based foods are still good sources of zinc.

Common Cold: Much research has been done around zinc and its capacity to combat the common cold. Although studies examining zinc treatment on cold symptoms has shown varied results over years, it appears to be beneficial under certain circumstances. The Cochrane Report concluded that taking it within 24 hours of developing symptoms and has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms in healthy people by up to a third. It does this by directly inhibiting the rhinovirus binding and replicating and suppressing inflammation.

Depression: Virtually every enzyme reaction in the brain involves zinc, and low levels have been linked to anxiety and depression.

Eyesight: Research has suggested that zinc and antioxidants may delay the progression of age- related macular degeneration and vision loss, possibly by preventing cellular damage in the retina.

Food sources: Lean red meat is an excellent dietary source, and it is also highly bioavailable, meaning your body can absorb it much more readily. Poultry, nuts, seeds, and lentils are other good sources. Green leafy vegetables and fruits contain modest amounts of zinc.

Grains: Wholegrain breads, cereals and other grains contain zinc, but these foods also contain phytates, which can bind zinc and therefore inhibit its absorption. While these plant-based options are good dietary sources, the bioavailability is often lower than animal-based products.

Hair loss: In severe cases zinc deficiency can cause hair loss and a dry flaky scalp.

Immune system: Zinc is needed for the proper functioning of the immune system, and enables protein synthesis and cell growth.

Job: Zinc is often seen as the gatekeeper for your immune system, to ward off bacterial and viral infections like the common cold.

Kids: Zinc supports normal growth and physical development during pregnancy, and this continues through childhood and adolescence.

Low zinc content in our soils: Plants, like our bodies, cannot make minerals. They instead extract them from the soil. Like many other mineral and trace elements, if they are lacking in the soil they will be lacking in the plants we eat or the animals that are grazing the fields and providing our much-need protein. If certain crops aren’t rotated, it can seriously deplete the soils of these minerals, leading to deficiencies in our diet.

Magnesium: Both zinc and magnesium help protect the brain and the eyes from excitotoxin additives that are common in foods today. In New Zealand, deficiency of both of these minerals is common due to soil depletion.

Nutrients: As well as being involved in hundreds of processes within the body, zinc helps us absorb and utilise nutrients from our food.

Oysters: Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food.

RDI for zinc is higher for pregnant and lactating women.

Pregnant women: Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers may require bigger intakes, as there are high foetal requirements for zinc, and lactation can also rapidly deplete mineral stores. For these reasons, the RDI for zinc is higher for pregnant and lactating women, and supplementation is often recommended.

Quote: “Just about all skin disorders improve if you build up your zinc stores.” Dr Robert Atkins

RDI (Recommended Daily Intakes): Common RDIs for zinc are as low as 5mg for a child, 7mg for a teenage girl, 13mg for a teenage boy. For adult woman it is 8mg, increasing to 12 mg when breastfeeding or pregnant, and 14mg for adult males.

Stress: There is evidence that zinc levels decrease following physical stress or injury. It is one of the few minerals lost in the urine following acute or chronic physical stress.

Taste test: There is a simple test you can take to measure your zinc status, which can often be provided by your local health shop. It involves taking a tiny amount of zinc sulphate, dissolving it in water and then tasting as little as a spoonful. This test works because zinc is required for your taste buds to function. If you notice a bitter, astringent taste you are not deficient. If this bitter taste is delayed by more than a few seconds, you need more zinc in your diet. If there is a much longer delay or if you don’t notice the bitterness or it tastes like water, you may have a deficiency and will need to restore your zinc levels.

Ultimate nutrient: Zinc is responsible for hundreds of processes within our brain and our body, and is one of the most important minerals for our health throughout our life. There are more roles in the body for zinc than any other nutrient.

Vegetarians often require as much as 50% more of the RDI for zinc.

Vegetarians: Vegetarians often require as much as 50% more of the RDI for zinc than non-vegetarians. Zinc can be sourced from whole-grain breads, cereals, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes, but these foods also contain phytates, which can bind zinc and therefore inhibit its absorption. While these plant-based options are good dietary sources, the bioavailability is often lower than animal- based products.

Vitamin C: With the help of vitamin C, zinc has been used in research into improving age-related macular degeneration (AMD). After an average follow-up period, supplementation with antioxidants plus zinc (but not antioxidants alone) significantly reduced the risk of developing advanced AMD and reduced visual acuity loss.

Wound healing: Zinc is critical for wound healing, whether it is a small cut, or helping the skin recover from surgical procedures. It also helps prevent scar formation.

EXcessive zinc: A over-large intake of zinc may result in side effects with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Intake of 50 to 150 milligrams per day of supplemental zinc may cause minor intestinal distress occurring within three to 10 hours after ingestion. Single doses of 225 to 450 milligrams of zinc usually cause nausea and induce vomiting.

Yellow fungus growth on toenails: Many skin disorders are related to insufficient zinc, including abdominal stretchmarks after childbirth, split fingernails with white specks, as well as yellow toenails and/or fungus growth.

Zinc: There are more roles for zinc than any other nutrient. It is one of the most important elements for our health yet one of the most deficient in our diet, especially here in New Zealand. This is due to the quality of our soils and the impact of the foods we eat, and the water we drink.

Disclaimer:
The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional. 

Why is Zinc essential?

Why is Zinc essential?

There are more roles for zinc than any other nutrient. It is one of the most important elements for our health, yet one of the most deficient in our diet, especially here in New Zealand.

The chronic lack of zinc in Aotearoa is due to the quality of our soils and the impact of the foods we eat, and the water we drink.

Here’s an overview of the critical roles this mineral plays in our bodies. Also see our handy guide: A to Zinc.

Zinc’s Role

Zinc is involved in hundreds of processes within the body, and it helps us absorb and utilise nutrients from our food.

It plays a role in immune function, helping repel and overcome bacterial and viral infections like the common cold. It assists with growth development, protein and DNA synthesis, and is effective in wound healing.

Zinc is essential for the brain and neurological function as well as the maintenance of vision, taste and smell. It nourishes the scalp and helps maintain strong and healthy gums, hair, skin and nails. It can help avoid hair loss, which can be a symptom that you may be deficient. Zinc can control the production of oil in the skin and help balance some of the hormones that can lead to acne. Many skin disorders can be attributed to insufficient zinc.

Zinc is important to our health and wellbeing throughout our life. It supports normal growth and physical development during pregnancy, and this support continues through childhood and adolescence.

There is almost no part of the body that zinc doesn’t benefit, either inside or out.

It is key to both male and female reproductive health and is vital as we grow older, as it helps maintain bone density and muscle bulk.

However, zinc can be harder to access through diet for both women and men as they age, as the body doesn’t have the ability to store minerals. New Zealand surveys have shown that 52% of middle-aged men aren’t getting enough zinc each day, and that figure increased to 90% for men aged over 70.

Zinc has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms.

Zinc and the Common Cold

Much research has been done around zinc and its capacity to combat the common cold. Although studies examining zinc treatment on cold symptoms have shown varied results over years, it appears to be beneficial under certain circumstances.

The Cochrane Report concluded that taking it within 24 hours of developing symptoms has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms in healthy people by up to a third. It does this by directly inhibiting the rhinovirus binding and replicating and suppressing inflammation.

More research is needed to determine the optimal dosage, formulation and duration of treatment before a recommendation for zinc in the treatment of the common cold can be made.

Some of us need zinc more than others.

Studies have shown that New Zealand men have lowered zinc status, especially as they age. Men require an RDI of 14mg just to prevent deficiency.

Several New Zealand studies have suggested that many adolescent girls aren’t getting enough zinc and this may be affecting their growth and development. This could be due to changing diets, less red meat and seafood being consumed, as well as the prevalence of processed foods, which are often refined and lacking minerals and other nutrients.

New Zealand surveys have shown that 52% of middle-aged men aren’t getting enough zinc each day, and that figure increased to 90% for men aged over 70.
52% of middle-aged men aren’t getting enough zinc, increasing to 90% for men aged over 70.

Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers also require bigger intakes, as there are high foetal requirements for zinc, and lactation can also rapidly deplete mineral stores. Breast milk provides enough zinc (RDI 2mg) for baby for the first six months, but zinc needs to be acquired from food sources as the child grows. Supplementation of zinc has been shown to improve the growth and development of some children who have exhibited a mineral deficiency.

Zinc has limited storage capacity with our body, so a deficiency can develop quickly if we’re not restoring and replenishing.

Diagnosing Deficiency

Blood tests are not a reliable method for detecting zinc deficiency as most of the zinc in our bodies is retained in our cells rather than in our blood. However, there is a simple test you can take to measure your zinc status, which can often be provided by your local health shop.

It involves taking a tiny amount of zinc sulphate, dissolving it in water and then tasting as little as a spoonful. This test works because zinc is required for your taste buds to function.

If you notice a bitter, astringent taste you are not deficient. If this bitter taste is delayed by more than a few seconds, you need more zinc in your diet. If there is a much longer delay or if you don’t notice the bitterness or it tastes like water, you may have a deficiency and will need to restore your zinc levels.

In this case, you may already be experiencing some common symptoms of a low zinc status such as frequent colds or infections, weak sense of smell and taste, hair loss, slow wound healing or skin disorders and inflammation.

You may be advised to supplement with zinc for a period and look to include more zinc-rich foods in your diet, such as lean red meat, dairy, seafood, poultry, or whole-grains, beans and legumes.

Getting Zinc into Your Daily Diet

The best source of zinc is rock oysters, which contain significantly more zinc than red meat and grains but are often not a regular part of our diet. Fats, which contain very little zinc, also tend to dilute zinc from the diet.

Lean red meat is an excellent dietary source, and it is also highly bioavailable, meaning your body can absorb it much more readily. Green leafy vegetables and fruits contain modest sources of zinc.

There is almost no part of the body that zinc doesn’t benefit, either inside or out.

Some animal-free options include whole-grain breads, cereals, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes, but these foods also contain phytates, which can bind zinc and therefore inhibit its absorption. While these plant-based options are good dietary sources, the bioavailability is often lower than animal- based products.

Vegetarians often require as much as 50% more of the RDI for zinc than non-vegetarians.

Note that techniques such as soaking beans and grains in water for several hours can reduce this binding of zinc by phytates and thus increase bioavailability. Vegetarians often require as much as 50% more of the RDI for zinc than non-vegetarians.

Studies from New Zealand nutrition surveys and overseas research suggest most of us are accessing only half of the daily zinc we require from our diet.

Zinc Deficiency Inhibits Absorption

Once you become zinc deficient, it can be very difficult to improve zinc levels purely through food alone, as your body’s absorption often depends on having enough zinc in the first place.

In addition, if you are recovering from an operation, have suffered emotional stress, or been over-exercising, your body will look to use all the available zinc on offer in an effort to heal. Zinc is one the few minerals lost rapidly in the urine after suffering acute psychological stress.

Gastrointestinal surgery and digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease can decrease zinc absorption. Other illnesses associated with zinc deficiency include chronic liver disease, alcoholic cirrhosis, anorexia nervosa, chronic renal disease, diabetes, malignancy and sickle cell disease. Diarrhoea can also lead to excessive loss.

Supplementation may then be required to achieve good zinc status and you will then be able to maximise your zinc from food sources once again.

Summary

While we should be getting our important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food we eat, there are often factors that prevent this from happening.

Soil depletion, the prevalence of processed food and bouts of illness can lead to mineral deficiencies that prevent the nutrients reaching the cells in our body and enabling the hundreds of processes that keep us healthy.

It is important to be aware of some simple things we can do to restore and replenish these minerals, to maintain optimal levels and supplement when needed to avoid larger health problems.

References:
Coory, David. Stay Healthy by supplying what’s lacking in your diet. 1992
Schauss, Alexander G. Minerals, Trace Elements, & Human Health. Life Sciences Press. 1995
Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper,
Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001
Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011
Prasad AS. Zinc deficiency: its characterization and treatment. Met Ions Biol Syst 2004

Disclaimer:
The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional. 

Remineralise: Put back what’s missing

Woman drinking water with Skybright Concentrated Mineral Drops added.

Remineralise – and put back what’s missing from our food.

Over the past few months, many of us have taken the chance to evaluate our lifestyle and our health and wellbeing, especially with regard to strengthening our immune system and enhancing our ability to fight off infections during the winter months.

Getting enough sleep, exercising often and eating a balanced, whole-food diet are all important factors in nurturing our health, for both mind and body. But often we’re lacking important minerals, that are not present in either the foods we eat, or in the water we drink. 

This is due to intensive farming techniques, which strip these minerals from the soil in which our food grows. If the minerals are not in the soils in the first place, they will not be present in the plants and therefore in the food we eat. Many of us drink filtered or bottled water, which removes the essential minerals and trace elements we need, as well as unwanted pathogens and toxins that make it safe for drinking.

These practices can lead to mineral deficiencies, which then lead to common complaints such as fatigue, irregular heartbeat, depression, and sleep issues. This also ultimately compromises our immune system, and makes us vulnerable to infections and illnesses.

Skybright Remineralise: we need to put back the minerals and vitamins that are missing from our food.
Remineralise: we need to put back the minerals and vitamins that are missing from our food.

The importance of minerals.

In today’s modern, fast-paced society, supplying our bodies with the minerals they require is difficult. The lives we lead often put increasing demands on our stores of the nutrients. The harder we push ourselves, the more we need. In times of stress, our body uses more vitamin B, vitamin C and magnesium and zinc in particular.

Minerals such as such as magnesium, potassium, iodine and selenium are the catalysts for all the vitamins and other nutrients your body uses for developing and maintaining good health.

Every second of every day the human body relies on these minerals and other trace elements to conduct and generate billions of tiny electrical impulses. Without these impulses, not a single muscle, including your heart, or your brain would be able to function.

Think of your body like a circuit board. Ionic minerals conduct electricity throughout the body, bringing energy where it needs to go in order for each cell and system to work. Without these minerals, your heart couldn’t beat, your muscles couldn’t contract, your brain couldn’t function and your body couldn’t absorb nutrients.

The human body cannot produce minerals like calcium and magnesium as they cannot be made by living organisms. We have to obtain them from the food we eat, or the water we drink. Obtaining them from water is optimal, as it helps with the bioavailability of these minerals, enabling them to be more effectively absorbed into our system. 

“Soil is the basis of all human life and our only hope for a healthy world… all of life will be healthy or unhealthy according to the fertility of the soil”

Dr. Alexis Carrel, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

New Zealand soils and mineral deficiencies.

As a country, New Zealand is still very young, and it has young soils. Where once they were rich in nutrients, our agriculture and farming over the years has stripped the topsoil of important trace minerals and elements. 

With the use of common fertilisers, there has been an increase in the growth rate of foods and an increase in yields, but we’ve also seen a steady decline in the nutritional value of the foods we eat over the past decades. This has lead to well-known deficiencies in our soils, including selenium, iodine, zinc, chromium and boron. 

Up to 91% of New Zealanders are said to be deficient in iodine, an essential trace element that supports energy production and plays an important role in supporting immune function. The biggest groups at risk are pregnant mothers and people with autoimmune issues. You can get iodine from seaweed or miso soup or by simply adding sea salt to your drinking water or sprinkling it onto your food. 

Selenium levels are also low in New Zealand soils. It’s estimated that many of us are only getting as little as 10-20% of the daily amount we require. Selenium is an antioxidant and also supports immune system function, as well as reproductive health, mood, thyroid function and cardiovascular health. Often supplementation is required but you can get it from eating beef, fish or a few brazil nuts.

Zinc is an important trace mineral, especially in New Zealand due to soil depletions. It’s a a powerful antioxidant, and great for skin, eye and hair health. Seafood is a rich source of zinc, as well as red meat. Studies suggest that supplementing with zinc may have the potential to improve immunity in the elderly, and in healthy individuals with marginal zinc deficiencies, supplementation can enhance the immune response, and may reduce the length of the common cold.

Producers are paid on the weight of their produce rather than how mineral rich the vegetables and fruit are. The processing of foods, such as peeling, extracting, heat-treating and early picking for storage and transportation across the country can further diminish the nutrient value in the foods we eat.

Until we are able to put trace minerals back into the soil through regenerative agriculture and sustainable farming, we must look to other methods to obtain the full spectrum of minerals and trace elements that we need for optimal human health.

Man holding glass of water.
In our efforts to drink ‘pure water’ this filtration eliminates the harmful substances, but also removes the important trace elements and minerals we need every day.

The water we drink.

Water can and should be a significant source of trace minerals and elements that can maintain our health and wellbeing. 

With concerns about the quality of public water supply in some areas of New Zealand, we often resort to drinking bottled water or filtered water, (reverse osmosis, distilled) which can eliminate virtually every mineral the body requires to maintain good health. In our efforts to drink ‘pure water’ this filtration eliminates the harmful substances, but also removes the important trace elements and minerals we need every day. Reverse osmosis water filters can also harbour harmful bacteria if not adequately maintained.

We need to remineralise.

Eating a plant-rich diet, while essential for good health, isn’t enough on it’s own to provide you with all the minerals and nutrients you need, as modern farming has stripped the soils of its mineral content. This has lead to significant deficiencies across the population which are increasing with our modern lifestyles, added to the prevalence of processed and convenience foods, and an ageing population.

Eat organic and seasonal where you can, eat leafy greens with every meal or at least daily. Grow your own if you have the space at home or shop at local farmers markets to ensure freshness as well as supporting the local producers and economy. 

We are all aware of the need to reduce, reuse and recycle, but with regard to nutrition, we need to rebalance, replenish and remineralise. Minerals and trace elements are vital to our everyday health and wellbeing. We need them to strengthen our immune system, stave off infections and feel more energised.

Adding minerals like sea salt or liquid mineral drops which contain more than 70 minerals and trace elements to your drinking water may be the best place to start to feel good and get back into balance. These little changes are easy to implement into your daily routine and can make a big difference to your health.

Disclaimer:
The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional.