- George Elder
Do you have family members that are very picky eaters? Maybe they claim that they are full after only a few mouthfuls of food, or maybe they are unwilling to try anything new. How annoying is it when they look at a new food option and say they don’t like it, despite never tasting it or even smelling the food.
This is a problem that seems to be getting more common. When my children were small, they ate the same food as their parents. There were no special meals being prepared for dinner. There were some foods they didn’t like, such as mushrooms, but the occurrence of this was quite low. Today it seems more and more parents are preparing fully separate meals for the parents and the children.
The level of sweetness in food is getting higher and higher, with many foods children are willing to eat having added sugar. Syrups, added sugar, sweet cereals, seem to be common. Many families seem to be experiencing this problem of picky eaters only willing to eat sweet food as they offer their children new dietary options.
Unfortunately, some parents believe that their children will naturally seek out healthy or sufficient nutrition, but Kelly Dorfman MS, LND, in her book “Cure your child with food” describes treating hundreds of picky-eating-children with serious nutritional deficiencies, manifesting in growth, health, psychological and behavioral problems that are very serious for their ongoing development.
A possible cause of picky eating could be zinc deficiency. Zinc is critical for taste and when a person’s zinc level is low, food can lose its taste, or even taste bad. Your children may be experiencing tastes that are very different to how the food tastes to you. It could be that masking the taste in sweetness is the only way that the food tastes OK for them.
Kelly Dorfman states that children with a mild zinc deficiency are often picky eaters and with a zinc supplement, the excessive numbers of foods with “off” smells and “yucky” flavors can be reduced to normal levels.
Why does this picky eating problem seem to be getting worse?
A major contributor to this is the very high levels of corn and wheat-based foods in the diet today. Tortilla’s, bread, bagels, cereals, doughnuts all have high levels of phytic acid or Phytates. Phytic acid is a chelation agent that binds to iron and zinc molecules in your food and prevents your body from being able to absorb these. Some of the processes we use to prepare foods can minimize this impact, but unfortunately only soaking and sprouting can reduce phytic acid and this is not often done.
Another contributing factor is the reduced levels of zinc in today’s food compared to historical levels. By 1972, zinc deficiency was reported as the most common plant micronutrient deficiency in the United States and now it is estimated that nearly one-half of the soils in the world are low in available zinc. The consequences include low production of grain and other products if soil is not amended with zinc.
This from Dr. Libby Weaver: A hundred years ago, zinc was abundant in many soils. Nowadays, most soils in the world are zinc deficient, except for soils predominantly from biodynamic farms. This means that, where once fruit and vegetables, and even grain-based foods such as breads and cereals, provided us with a small, steady top-up of zinc, the zinc levels in many of the foods we eat today are inadequate to avoid deficiency
A move towards a greater level of plant-based diets is also making the zinc deficiency in diet problem worse, because meat, dairy, eggs and seafoods are where a high level of zinc is sourced from in the diet. The highest levels of zinc are in oysters and high levels are found in lean red meat.
The graph above shows the levels of zinc in blood (in plasma) with 3 different meals illustrates the considerable impact on zinc absorption levels from consuming phytic acid containing food in the same meal as the zinc source.
So, what are the problems associated with a low zinc level?
Humans have no ability to store zinc, which means that we must get a steady supply of zinc from the food we eat daily. Low levels of zinc have been associated with:
- stunted growth
- low immunity,
- increased susceptibility to inflammation,
- poor healing,
- Dry skin
- Thin and sparse hair
- Poor condition nails
- Loss of appetite
This from Wikipedia: Cognitive functions, such as learning and hedonic tone, are impaired with zinc deficiency. Moderate and more severe zinc deficiencies are associated with behavioral abnormalities, such as irritability, lethargy, and depression. Low plasma zinc levels have been alleged to be associated with many psychological disorders. Schizophrenia has been linked to decreased brain zinc levels. Evidence suggests that zinc deficiency could play a role in depression.
Zinc can have a very important impact on our ability to deal with viruses in the body such as COVID19. According to nutrition and health expert Mary Ruddick, zinc will attract viruses within your body and transport them out. It could be useful to compare the impact of COVID19 in specific areas with the levels of zinc in local soil and therefore in the food being eaten.
How can you increase your zinc levels?
Including plenty of seafood, red meat, liver, lamb, dairy, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, shiitake mushrooms and egg yolks in your diet is a very simple solution. Although there is zinc on legumes and grains, the addition of phytic acid from the grains and legumes could mean that very little of the included zinc is bioavailable to your body. To preserve the zinc and iron in grains, you could choose meals where these were sprouted or soaked overnight before being included in the meal.
“Take Back Your Health” Learn how your diet impacts your health, both good and bad, so that you can use food as medicine.