There are many different minerals that are essential to the human diet, but one that deserves a little more attention is zinc. Zinc is important during all stages of life and easily accessible in various foods and supplements. The body doesn’t make zinc on its own, so you need to get it from your daily diet.
Here’s a closer look at why your body needs zinc and how to get the zinc you need naturally.
Immune System Boost
Zinc is one of best nutrients to have for a healthy immune system because the body needs zinc to activate T cells that control and regulate immune responses. Many over-the-counter medications and lozenges are made with zinc to help reduce the severity and duration of colds.
Healing of Wounds
In addition to keeping your body healthy on the inside, zinc can also help your skin by reducing inflammation and healing wounds. People with zinc deficiencies may experience slower skin recovery times after ulcers and burns, for example.
Other Possible Benefits of Zinc
Zinc has been studied for its various potential health benefits and shows promise for many different parts of the body. There are strong connections between zinc and memory because of how neurons in the brain communicate with each other. Zinc has also been tied to the prevention of age-related macular degeneration and vision loss. Zinc may support male fertility, help treat acne, support healthy bones, and help the body fight pneumonia as well.
How Much Zinc Is Enough?
According to the National Institutes of Health, adult men should get 11 mg of zinc and adult women should get 8 mg of zinc per day. However, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should get more like 11-12 mg per day of zinc. Even babies under six months old need zinc – around 2 mg per day.
Zinc deficiencies are very rare but most common among infants, people with gene mutations, people who are addicted to alcohol, and anyone taking a medication that suppresses the immune system. Vegans, breastfeeding moms, and people with gastrointestinal diseases need to pay extra attention to their zinc intake to avoid the deficiency symptoms of diarrhea, thinning hair, low appetite, and slow wound healing.
Foods Rich in Zinc
Fortunately, it’s easy to get the zinc your body needs by eating healthy foods as part of your regular diet. Oysters are the best food source of zinc; however, other types of seafood like crab and lobster, as well as beef and pork chops are also high in zinc.
Plant-based foods that contain good amounts of zinc include lentils, chickpeas, baked beans, pumpkin seeds. If you eat dairy foods, yogurt and cheese are sources of zinc. You can also consider adding more legumes, seeds, and eggs into your diet to get extra zinc in your diet and receive the benefits this important nutrient has to offer.