Zinc belongs to the group called micronutrients, elements required by the body in small quantities, but necessary for its normal functioning. Concentrations of zinc are found in bones, teeth, skin, liver, muscles, white blood cells and testicles.
Main roles of zinc:
* More than 200 proteins in our body contains zinc, which explains its role in the process of growth and development, fertility stimulation and digestion of food.
* Zinc also helps during common cold symptoms because blocks enzymes of rhinovirus, one of most common infective virus that causes upper respiratory tract infections.
* Thanks to its antioxidant effects protects skin and muscles from premature aging.
* Helps wound healing, diaper rash and other skin issues.
* Zinc is a cadmium antagonist. Cadmium is found mostly in cigarettes, but also in food, water or in the air, and is known that cause cancer of lungs, prostate and kidneys. If you take enough zinc, you’ll protect your body from exposure to cadmium, otherwise the body will absorb cadmium and use it in place of zinc.
* Has important role in helping body to absorb vitamin A, protects your eyes from macular degeneration and night blindness.
* For men taking zinc is important for prevention of benign hypertrophy of prostate and for higher production of sperm, which explains the impact that zinc has on men’s fertility.
* Some researches showed that zinc deficiency affects our memory and learning because it’s important for neurons communication.
Foods that contain zinc:
You should know that zinc is better absorbed from:
– animal foods: especially red meat (beef, lamb, pork, the liver from all of these meats is very high in zinc), then chicken and turkey.
– sea food: the best source are oysters, crabs, lobster, eastern, octopus, scallops, shrimps etc.
– plant foods: spinach, beans, legumes, grains ( wheat germ, cereals especially oats) .
– nuts and seeds: excellent source of zinc are pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, peanuts, chia seeds, pecans and almonds.
– dairy products: yogurt, milk, cheese and ricotta cheese.
– soya products (particularly tofu cheese).
Generally, vegetable and fruits contain very small amount of zinc, so vegetarians and vegans should pay attention of zinc deficiency symptoms and they are:
– Weak immunity which leads to chronic fatigue syndrome.
– Skin issues like: rash, acne, dermatitis, eczema, wounds that heals very slowly, very dry and itching skin.
– Bad digestion including diarrhea.
– Low concentration, bad memory, nervousness and anxiety.
– Hair thinning and loosing more hair than usual (alopecia).
– Dry nails, nail discoloration, white spots on the nails.
– Low libido and sleeping problems.
– Lost of appetite, weight and depression.
– Vision problems, especially during night.
– Hormonal imbalance.
– Lost of smell and taste.
Everyone have different symptoms, but if you notice some of these, consult your doctor immediately. Zinc is needed in right amounts for proper absorption of all nutrients, so next find out how much zinc your body needs.
Recommended intake of zinc:
This depends on the age and sex, but we’ll start with babies:
– Up to 12 months, babies need 2-3 mg of zinc daily and those who are breastfeed get the necessary amount of zinc through breast milk, others must take zinc supplements especially if they have some of the zinc deficiency symptoms: diarrhoea, dermatitis, slow cognitive development and often respiratory infections.
– Children from 1-3 years need 3 mg per day.
– Children from 4-8 years need 5 mg per day.
– Men from 9-13 years, 8 mg daily.
– Men from 14+ need 11 mg.
– Women from 9-13 years need 8 mg per day.
– Women 14+ need 9 mg per day.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding have increased need for zinc, 11-13 mg daily, only because the absorption of zinc during these periods is much higher.
Zinc deficiency is rare in developed countries, but some conditions like malnutrition, malabsorption of food, chronic disease of kidneys and liver, diabetes, anaemia or cancer may lead to deficiency of this mineral. Also, ironically some high phytate foods like: grains, nuts, beans or certain legumes can reduce the absorption of zinc. To much caffeine and alcohol affects the absorption to!
However, zinc overdose can be toxic so try to keep your body in balance with the right amount of this precious mineral!