Zinc is a trace element. This means that you need very little of this substance for it to be effective and for you to maintain a healthy immune system. A lack of zinc can make a person more vulnerable to disease and illness.
This trace element is responsible for a number of functions in the human body. Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. As stated in the previous paragraph, zinc is needed for the body’s defensive (immune) system to properly work. In addition, the trace element plays a role in:
- Cell division,
- Cell growth,
- Wound healing, and
- The breakdown of carbohydrates.
The senses of smell and taste also need zinc to function properly. The body needs to grow and develop during pregnancy, infancy and childhood. Zinc also enhances the action of insulin and helps stimulate the activity of at least 100 different enzymes.
How much zinc do you need?
At the moment, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for zinc – in the United States – is 8 milligrams (mg) a day for women and 11 mg a day for men.
Although some foods can provide amounts well above the amount of zinc that you need daily, there are no reported cases of zinc poisoning from naturally occurring zinc in food. However, zinc poisoning can occur from dietary supplements, including multivitamins or accidental ingestion of zinc-containing household products.
Here are some of the signs that you need to look out for:
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Stomach Pain and Diarrhoea
- Flu-Like Symptoms
- Low “Good” HDL Cholesterol
- Changes in Your Taste
- Copper Deficiency
- Frequent Infections
What foods provide good sources of zinc?
Some people are at risk of being deficient in zinc. The individuals include young children, teenagers, the elderly and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Below are 10 of the best foods which are rich in zinc.
Red meat is an especially good source of zinc. However, good amounts can be found in all different kinds of meat.
Shellfish is a healthy, low-calorie source of zinc.
Legumes – for example, chickpeas, lentils and beans – all contain substantial amounts of zinc.
Seeds are a healthy addition to your diet. In addition, they can help to increase your zinc intake.
Eating nuts – like pine nuts, peanuts, cashews and almonds – can boost your intake of zinc.
Dairy products – such as cheese and milk – provide a host of nutrients, including zinc.
Eggs contain a moderate amount of zinc. What’s more, they can help you meet your daily RDA target of zinc.
Whole grains – such as wheat, quinoa, rice and oats – contain some zinc.
For the most part, fruits and vegetables are not good sources of zinc. However, some vegetables contain reasonable amounts and can contribute to your daily needs, especially if you don’t eat meat. Potatoes, both regular and sweet varieties, contain approximately 1 mg per large potato. This is 9% of a man’s recommended daily intake (33, 34).
Interestingly enough, dark chocolate contains acceptable amounts of zinc. In fact, a 100-gram (3.5-ounce) bar of 70–85% dark chocolate contains 3.3 mg of zinc, or 30% of a man’s recommended amount (39). Make sure that you watch the calories that you’ll end up taking in with the chocolate!
Want to know more about nutrition and how you can reap the nutritional benefits of food for yourself and others? Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Specialised Nutrition Course will teach you this and so much more!