Zinc is a crucial mineral and one that we need to build into our diet and can bolster with supplements. It is all too easy to be zinc defficient and we must guard against this. So what actually is zinc, why do we need it and where do we get it from?

Zinc is a mineral and cofactor for several enzymes, is involved in many biochemical pathways. These include both protein synthesis and DNA.

Zinc is essential for growth and assists with the senses by supporting healthy visual function, hearing and taste, as well as immune function and wound healing.

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Zinc has several antioxidant properties and it appears to act as an anti-inflammatory nutrient. It also poses antiviral activity against some viruses.

Daily intake and deficiency

The recommended daily intake for zinc in adult males is 11mg/day and in adult females 8 mg/day.

Tell-tale signs of zinc deficiency include: impaired taste, anorexia, depression, impaired mental function and problems with wound healing.

When supplementing with zinc the typical dose is 25-30 mg 1-3 times per day with meals for 2-3 months. With large doses (such as 50mg 3 times per day), adverse effects can occur like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and a metallic taste in the mouth.

Importance of zinc

Absorption of zinc is important for optimum nutrient status.

Certain types of fiber and phytates (found in soy and other plant foods) as well as dairy can decrease the absorption of zinc.

Certain common medications can affect zinc status, which supports why monitoring for mineral deficiencies may be important. Acid suppressing drugs and aspirin are just two of them while diuretics increase urinary excretion.

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Over-doing the zinc

But, as with many things in life, more is not necessarily better. Taking large amounts of zinc can interfere the absorption of other minerals like copper.

Zinc can also affect the absorption of magnesium, iron, and possibly folic acid. However, vitamin C enhances the absorption of supplemental and dietary sources of zinc.

There are many supplemental forms of zinc but research has found zinc sulfate and zinc oxide are not the preferred forms as they are not as well absorbed or tolerated. Zinc picolinate, zinc citrate and zinc gluconate are a few better-absorbed zinc salts.

Diet for better zinc intake

THere are many good dietary sources of zinc and these include: meat, seafood, whole grains, wheat germ, wheat bran, dairy products, legumes, peanuts, egg yolks, nuts and seeds.

When you are meal and menu planning and focusing on increasing dietary sources of zinc, you can think about adding wheat germ and bran to organic plain yogurt and fruit or scrambled eggs for breakfast, turkey or ham for lunch, fish or shellfish for dinner, and peanuts and other nuts for snacks. This is no-fuss and doesn’t require any culinary skills!

Adding good sources of vitamin C like tomatoes, peppers, or citrus fruits is easily achieved in anybody’s diet and can be a great way to enhance zinc absorption.

Micronutrient testing is one way to test for cellular zinc status. Learn more about micronutrient testing by visiting here.

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