Zinc is a type of mineral and is an essential trace element for our bodies. It is a component of more than 300 enzymes in our bodies! It in fact functions in more enzymatic reactions than any other mineral. The human body contains approximately 2-3 grams of zinc, mostly in the skeletal muscles and bones. Zinc is also found in the kidney, pancreas, retina, teeth, hair, skin, liver, blood cells, prostate, and testes.
The health benefits of zinc include proper functioning of the immune and digestive systems, control of diabetes, reduction of stress levels, energy metabolism (who doesn’t need help here?), and an increased rate of healing acne and wounds. It is also helpful in terms of pregnancy, hair care, eczema, weight loss, night blindness, colds, eye care, appetite loss, and many other conditions. For being a “trace” element, it sure is involved in a lot of areas of our health! This is why optimal zinc levels must be attained for ultimate health.
So how much zinc do we need? That depends on age, sex, and if one is pregnant or breast feeding. The following recommended daily allowance (RDA) amounts are minimums, many of us could use a bit more.
- Ages 1-3: 3 mg
- Ages 4-8: 5 mg
- Males, Ages 9-13: 8 mg
- Males, Ages > 14: 11 mg
- Females, Ages 9-13: 8 mg
- Females, Ages 14-18: 9 mg
- Females, Ages > 19: 8 mg
- Pregnant or Breast feeding: 11-12 mg
Food is the best source of nutrients; supplements are not intended to be a food substitute, because they can’t replicate all of the nutrients and benefits of whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Whole foods offer three main benefits over dietary supplements:
- Greater nutrition. Whole foods are complex, containing a variety of the micro-nutrients your body needs — not just one.
- Essential fiber. Whole foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, provide dietary fiber. Most high-fiber foods are also packed with other essential nutrients.
- Protective substances. Whole foods contain other substances important for good health. Fruits and vegetables, for example, contain naturally occurring substances called phytochemicals, which may help protect you against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Many are also good sources of antioxidants — substances that slow down oxidation, a natural process that leads to cell and tissue damage.
Here are some food sources of zinc to add to your food plan.
Oysters are the best source of zinc packing 148 milligrams per a 3-1/2 ounce serving. Now I am challenging myself to eat more fish and seafoods, but it is very unlikely I will be eating oysters. I commend those of you who enjoy them, and now you know what a great source of zinc they are!
Pumpkins seeds are a great source of zinc that most of us are more likely to eat in comparison to oysters. One quarter cup of raw pumpkin seeds contains 2.5 milligrams of zinc. This is about 17% of the RDA. The seeds can be eaten raw, roasted, in the shell or hulled.
Beef, pork, and chicken are not only packed with protein — they also provide a good helping of zinc. For the most nutritious cuts, choose lean meats with any visible fat removed, or skinless poultry. A three-ounce piece of skinless chicken breast contains 0.9 milligrams of zinc which is about 6% of the RDA.
Legumes can be added to your meal plans for additional zinc. Some sources are hummus, chickpeas, lentils, edamame, and black beans. Per quarter cup, hummus provides 7 percent (1.1 mg) of the RDA of zinc, while chickpeas and lentils each pack 4 percent (0.6 mg), and edamame and black beans have 3 percent (0.5 mg).
Quinoa is another good source of zinc. It can be used in many dishes in place of rice in your recipes. It is also a gluten-free grain. Three quarters cup of cooked quinoa contains 2.02 milligrams of zinc.
As you can see, it can be challenging to get enough zinc through diet alone. These are the times that supplementation can be beneficial so here are some tips. It is best to take zinc with food to avoid becoming nauseous. The general dose is 15-20 mg per day for adults. Zinc is best sourced as a true amino acid chelate. As with all supplements, different forms are absorbed in the body more efficiently. Picolinate and glycinate are the forms that are absorbed the best. The type of zinc should be clearly labeled on the bottle to help you pick the right form. Zinc must be in balance with copper and a good ratio is 15 to 1 (zinc to copper).
Remember eating a variety of whole foods is the best way to nourish your body and obtain the nutrients to maintain optimal health. I hope this post has given you some tips for adding zinc-rich foods to your eating plan. If you have a great recipe for oysters, share in the comments, and just maybe I will give it a try!
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.