Zinc is one of the buzziest minerals at the moment, as people prioritize immune health and overall wellness. The trace element is vital for optimal human health and supports many of the body’s processes. Plus, its immune boosting potential is unparalleled. Below, nutrition experts explain everything you need to know about Zinc.
Meet the Expert
- Serena Poon is a celebrity chef, nutritionist, reiki master and founder of Culinary Alchemy techniques and Just Add Water.
- Lisa Richards is a Nutritionist and author of The Candida Diet.
Why Is Consuming Zinc Important?
Richards underscores the importance of this essential nutrient to overall health. "The body requires zinc for both cellular health and immune function," she says. "Therefore, a deficiency of this mineral can lead to poor immune health, poor wound healing, unexpected weight loss, loss of smell and taste, and gastrointestinal distresses like diarrhea." She also notes that zinc has had a proven role as an anti-inflammatory. "Zinc's anti-inflammatory property directly impacts overall well-being by reducing oxidative stress. This damage occurs at the cellular level in the body and is connected with chronic diseases including heart disease and obesity. It is thought that zinc may also be connected to improvements in cognitive function and reduces the occurrence of age-related macular degeneration."
Richards also likes zinc for its complexion boosting properties. "Zinc has been used to treat acne and reduce inflammation internally and externally. Decreasing inflammation can benefit the skin by reducing the severity of acne if it does persist." Talk about a powerful mineral!
The catch: "Zinc supports health in many ways, but our bodies do not create this trace element, so we must consume zinc from other sources," says Poon.
How Much Zinc Do You Actually Need?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) the recommended daily values for zinc consumption are 11 mg for males and 8 mg for females. Poon points out, "the recommendations are much lower for children. There are special considerations for pregnant or lactating women, speak with your doctor or nutritionist to determine the right amount of zinc for you."
How to Consume Zinc Safely
When adding an essential mineral to your diet, you also have to consider absorption rates. Zinc absorption is affected by many factors. "First, protein supports zinc absorption, so it is a good idea to eat zinc along with this macronutrient," explains Poon. She goes on to say that zinc absorption can also be inhibited by phytates, a compound present in many legumes, nuts and seeds. "It can be helpful to soak or sprout or cook these foods to support better absorption. Eating garlic and onion with your zinc containing plant foods can increase their absorption. If you are a vegetarian, you may want to speak with your provider about increasing your zinc consumption."
Additionally, be aware of how zinc pairs with other foods or supplements, as this will affect absorption rates. "Iron will reduce the amount of zinc that is absorbed," explains Richards. "It is best to time those two supplements separately, especially if you are trying to ensure adequate zinc intake."
Diet is an ideal way to meet zinc requirements, as many foods rich in zinc happen to be amazing for overall wellness. Plus, it's better to meet your daily recommended doses of zinc through diet because supplements can prove tricky. "There are known contraindications for zinc supplements," explains Poon. "Additionally, zinc can be toxic if consumed in too large of doses."
She makes the following recommendation if you have to take zinc in supplement form. "Zinc picolinate, zinc citrate, zinc acetate, zinc glycerate, and zinc monomethionine are considered the most easy to absorb." And, of course, consider the source of your supplement—making sure it comes from a trusted source. Poon suggests checking with a doctor before starting supplements, especially if you have a health condition.
To increase your zinc intake, our experts recommend you can incorporate the following 10 foods into your diet. Ahead, find serving suggestions for zinc-rich foods to eat daily.
3 medium oysters contain about 21.7mg of zinc.
2 ounces of pumpkin seeds contain about 4.2 mg of zinc.
2 ounces of cashews contain about 3.4mg of zinc.
½ cup of baked beans contains about 1.75 mg of zinc.
1 ounce of chocolate contains about .9mg of zinc.
1 serving of fortified oats includes about 1mg of zinc.
3 ounces of cooked beef contains about 6.7 mg of zinc.
3 ounces of cooked crab contains about 3.6 mg of zinc.
½ cup of chickpeas contains about 1.25 mg of zinc.
1 ounce of chicken liver contains about 1.1 mg of zinc.