Discover the Power of Zinc

This blog introduces the power of zinc and gives you a quick guide to how much you need and what foods contain a rich source of this essential mineral.

Zinc is an essential nutrient people need for optimal health.

The body requires zinc for many jobs, like:

  • Making proteins and DNA — the genetic material in all cells.
  • Supporting growth and development during pregnancy, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.
  • Supporting the immune system to help fight off invading bacteria and viruses.
  • Helping wounds heal.
  • Required for a good sense of taste and smell.
  • Your body doesn’t produce zinc naturally, so you must get it through food or supplements.

How much zinc do we need?

As we age, the body’s ability to absorb zinc changes, so the amount of zinc we need each day depends on our age. The range in the right side, developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, can help your find your recommended dietary allowance (RDA).

Most people who consume a varied diet rich in whole foods get adequate zinc intake in their diet. However, zinc is available in most multivitamins and as a stand-alone supplement.

Excess zinc intake and toxicity may cause reduced immunity and other severe complications. Talk to your doctor or dietitian if you think you may have a zinc deficiency and to discuss whether you may need to take a zinc supplement.

Life StageRDA
Birth to 6 months2mg
Infants 7-12 months3mg
Children 1-3 years3mg
Children 4-8 years5mg
Children 9-13 years8mg
Teens 14-18 years (boys)11mg
Teens 14-18 years (girls)9mg
Adults (men)11mg
Adults (women)8mg
Pregnant women11mg
Breastfeeding women12mg

*Vegetarians and vegans may require 50% more of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for zinc than meat-eaters.

What happens if we don’t get enough zinc?

Zinc deficiency is rare in people with varied diets in the modern world, but it can still occur in:

  • People with rare genetic mutations.
  • Breastfeeding infants whose mothers don’t have enough zinc.
  • People with alcohol dependency whose diets tend to lack quality because of the addiction.

Zinc deficiency causes:

  • Slow growth in infants and children,
  • Hair loss,
  • Diarrhoea,
  • Eye and skin sores,
  • And the loss of appetite.

Low zinc also affects the body’s ability to heal wounds properly, taste food, alertness, delayed sexual development, and impotence in men.

What foods are best for zinc?

Red meat, poultry, and eggs deliver most of the zinc in the western diet. But, seafood like sardines, oysters, crab, and lobster also contain good sources of zinc, with oysters having more zinc per serving than all food available.

But not all zinc comes from animal and sea-based foods. A wide variety of foods contain good sources of zinc, including beans, nuts, whole grains, like:

  • Chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, etc.
  • Pumpkin seeds, cashews, hemp seeds, etc.
  • Oats, quinoa, brown rice, etc.

However, phytates — antioxidant compounds — in whole-grain bread, cereals, legumes, and other plant foods, bind to zinc and inhibit absorption. That means the bioavailability of zinc from grains and plant-based foods is lower than in animal-based foods.

Quick Tip: To reduce zinc binding by phytates and increase bioavailability, soak beans, grains, and seeds in water for several hours. Then rinse and leave sitting until sprouts have formed.

The Upshot

Zinc is a vital nutrient required for growth, immune function, wound healing, and DNA synthesis. Maintain a varied diet rich in whole foods to boost immune health, reduce your risk of age-related diseases, and speed-up wound healing.

We have a couple spaces left on our next retreat, 24-26th March at the House of Bread in the Cotswolds. Our retreats hlp you to focus on your whole health, in body, spirit and soul. As well as ministry, worship and exercise our retreats include interactive nutrition workshopsm and all the meals are designed to give you some new, healthy eating ideas. We’d love to have you join us, you can find out more and book here.


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