Why You Need Zinc In Your Diet (And Best Food Sources of Zinc)

You already know that minerals like calcium and potassium are vital to your health. But did you also know that zinc is just as important?

If you have a zinc deficiency, you could be at risk of a whole host of health problems. Here’s some information on just why you need to make foods high in zinc a staple of your everyday diet.

An Incredibly Important Mineral

One of the many reasons you need to find good sources of zinc is that the mineral helps fight infections.1 And zinc also provide protection against the damage that oxidation can cause.

For example, oxidation creates free radicals, which are very dangerous molecules. They’re missing an electron and will move through your body looking for a replacement. Free radicals don’t really care where they get that extra electron. So, they usually steal it from other cells. When this happens, that can lead to significant damage to tissues and muscles.

In addition, a zinc deficiency makes it hard for people to be able to effectively fight off respiratory illnesses like colds. And zinc-deficient patients may also find it hard to recuperate from surgical procedures or other injuries.2

You see, when you have a zinc deficiency, it can put your immune system at risk. These are just a few of the other problems that can occur if you have a zinc deficiency.

zinc protects colds

  • Appetite loss
  • Concentration problems
  • Depression
  • Lack of nail and hair growth
  • Night blindness
  • Overall growth problems
  • Smell and taste impairments
  • Wound healing delays3

Do You Have a Zinc Deficiency?

Your body’s actually the most reliable tool when it comes to figuring out if you have a zinc deficiency.

One sign is that you get an upset stomach on a regular basis.4 The reason is that zinc helps your body digest food. If your stomach is giving you problems, it could be due to a lack of zinc.

And if your eyes have a hard time adjusting when you go from a light place to a dark one, you might be surprised to know a zinc deficiency could be the culprit.5 Weight gain and fatigue are other signs you need more of this vital mineral. A zinc deficiency can affect the way the body metabolizes protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

zinc soreness

One sign of a zinc deficiency you might not have thought of concerns exercise. If it’s been a few days since your last workout but your muscles are still sore, you might need more zinc.6 The same holds true if you suffer a bruise and it lasts longer than it should.7

Health Benefits of Zinc

Now, there are several health benefits associated with increasing your zinc intake. And research indicates that zinc plays an important role in helping brain neurons communicate. This, in turn, has an effect on how we learn as well as how we form memories.8

Furthermore, zinc helps maintain the integrity and structure of your skin. When people have a zinc deficiency, they’ll usually be at higher risk for problems such as chronic wounds or skin ulcers. One study showed that zinc could stimulate the healing of leg ulcers by decreasing the growth of harmful bacteria.9 There are even indications that zinc can help slow the progression of vision problems such as age-related macular degeneration.10

So, now that you know all about the health benefits of zinc supplementation, you may be wondering…

Where Can I Find a Good Source of Zinc?

sources of zinc

The amount of the mineral you need each day varies according to gender and age. Children need from 2-8 milligrams a day while men need about 11 mg. Women need about 8 mg, but pregnant women should strive to get around 11 mg each day.11

There are a lot of different foods that are high in zinc. Many of them are on the shelves of your local grocery store. Here are just a few.

Foods Rich in Zinc

Cereal – A staple of breakfast tables across the country, cereal is high in zinc. While whole grain and multi-grain cereals tend to have the highest amounts, they can make zinc absorption difficult for the body. Cereals that have a lot of sugar counteract any zinc benefits you might receive. So, make sure you opt for low sugar cereals.

Dark Chocolate – Wait – something that tastes as fantastic as chocolate can also be good for you? It’s true. Dark chocolate is a great source of zinc.

Fruits – A cup of blackberries contains nearly 1 mg of zinc. Dates and raspberries also contain the mineral.

Meat – Just 100 grams of lean beef will provide you with 12.3 mg of zinc. Lean pork is another good source of zinc, with 100 grams proving about 5 mg. Eating 100 grams of chicken will deliver 2 mg. Meat can also help with zinc absorption, but most types are also high in cholesterol. So don’t go overboard eating meat just because it’s high in zinc. Get your meat in moderation.

Mushrooms – A cup of white mushrooms will provide slightly more than 1 mg of zinc.

nuts high in zinc

Nuts – Almonds, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, and hazelnuts contain zinc. An especially good source of zinc is the cashew. A 100 grams serving delivers 6 mg of zinc!

 

Pumpkin seeds – If you eat as little as 100 grams of raw pumpkin seeds you’ll get a whopping 10.3 mg of zinc! But you have to eat them raw. If you roast them they’ll lose their zinc content.

Shellfish
– Crabs, lobsters, and clams are all really high in zinc. The oyster is also a good source of the mineral. Eating a plate of six oysters will deliver an astounding 80 mg of zinc. Be careful, however. As you’ll see in the following section, too much zinc could be just as harmful as a zinc deficiency.

Vegetables – Many vegetables are high in zinc, including peas, lima beans, and soybeans. Just a cup of soybeans will provide 9 mg of zinc, while the same amount of peas and lima beans provide 2 mg each. Spinach, Brussels sprouts, and green beans are some of the other vegetables that contain zinc healthy amounts of zinc.

Can You Have Too Much Zinc in Your System?

The answer, yes. While there are a lot of benefits associated with getting enough zinc, there are also quite a few problems associated with getting too much. If you get more than 40 mg each day, you could be at risk for some potentially severe side effects.

For example, an overabundance of zinc in the body could lead to serious digestive issues and can also reduce the amount of “good” cholesterol in your blood. It could also weaken the immune system.12

So it’s best to stay on the safe side and talk to your doctor before making major changes to your diet. This should also be the case if you’re thinking of taking a zinc supplement. Play it smart and get medical advice first.

Learn More:

What is the Metabolome? (And Why It’s Essential to Health)

Got Stomach Pain? Maybe Your Diet is to Blame


Sources
1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130207131344.htm
2. http://www.dummies.com/health/nutrition/zinc-the-immune-system-nutrient/
3. https://www.healthline.com/health/zinc-deficiency
4. http://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/signs-youre-not-getting-zinc
5. https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/diet-and-nutrition/zinc
6. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/signs-youre-not-getting-zinc
7. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/signs-youre-not-getting-zinc
8. http://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(11)00646-5
9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2275309
10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11594942?dopt=Abstract
11. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-Consumer/
12. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-Consumer/#h8