Zinc is thought by many nutritionists to be the most important mineral supplement because it is commonly deficient in the diet, it is one of the key nutrients that aids the immune system.
What Is Zinc?
It is an essential trace element that your body requires for different cellular processes, such as dividing cells, making proteins and DNA, healing wounds, and activating enzymes.
Your body uses it to support healthy and clear skin, brain and eye health, and the immune system. It also plays a role in testosterone production and male sexual health.
Your body can’t store zinc, so you have to get enough daily. According to the United States Office of Dietary Supplements, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for most adult men and women is 8 mg. When pregnant, the daily requirement increases to 12 mg
Essential to human growth, zinc is key to proper T cell and natural killer cell function and proper lymphocyte activity; it may be directly involved in antibody production to help you fight infection. Zinc is essential to many enzyme systems and for normal functioning of the immune system.
- Functions in a multitude of enzymes — for alcohol and amino acid metabolism, protein digestion, and energy production, as well as in immune function and in the body’s fight against damaging free radicals.
- Used by men to support good prostate and reproductive health.
- Used to support optimum immune function. Zinc lozenges are famous, with some good clinical studies to their credit, for helping your immune system fight off colds and sore throats and recover from injury, illness, or surgery.
- May protect you against the toxic effects of chemical exposures.
Adequate amounts of zinc are not always easy to get from your foods. This nutrient is as important for good plant health as it is for human health. Zinc, like most other minerals, needs to be abundant in healthy soil for plants to absorb it and for your food to supply you with an ample amount.
It’s possible to get zinc from both food and supplement sources, but not everyone eats a well-balanced diet. Remember, your body does not store this mineral, so you must continue consuming it every day.
Best High-Zinc Plant-Based Foods
- Dark chocolate
- Nuts: cashews, pine nuts, almonds
- Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, peas, beans
- Oysters and other shellfish
- Seeds: pumpkin, sesame, watermelon
Normal supplementation is about 15–30 mg daily in men and 10–20 mg in women; you can use more zinc temporarily, to correct deficiency. Remember to take copper (2–3 mg) and manganese (5–10 mg), if you increase your zinc intake. During an illness or infection, the body also diverts zinc from the blood to organs, so taking more during these times ensures that the whole body keeps enough in circulation.
Some common symptoms of zinc deficiency include loss of appetite, impaired senses of smell and taste, growth retardation, delayed wound healing, depression, impaired concentration, nervousness, night blindness, and slowed nail and hair growth.
When you feel poorly, it can force you to miss school, work, or other activities. The good news is that zinc may help you kick the sniffles and aches to the curb — before they begin.