Zinc is essential for proper wound healing, sexual health and fertility and immunity. You only need minimal amounts to stay healthy. Fall short, however, and you may be at risk of developing various health conditions.
Zinc is a trace mineral, meaning that you only need small quantities of it to stay healthy. Men need slightly more zinc than women to ensure healthy reproduction. Adult men aged over 19 need around 11mg per day, while adult women need around 9mg per day.
Around 85% of the zinc you consume through diet is present in your muscles and bones. 11% in your skin and liver, and the remaining 4% in the rest of your tissues.
Zinc plays a key role in regulating many of your body’s function from seemingly simple things like maintaining your sense of taste to more complex tasks like keeping your hormones balanced. It is important for the synthesis of DNA, tissue repair and growth, and crucial for:
- your reproductive health
- regulating the viscosity of your blood
- the maintenance of your body tissues
- detoxification of chemicals
- maintaining your immune function
- regulating insulin activity
- maintaining your thyroid function
- maintaining your sight and smell
The consequences of zinc deficiency
Zinc is crucial to your well-being since it is present in all tissues of your body. Falling short of it can have mild to severe consequences. Unfortunately, due to soil depletion and food processing, zinc deficiencies are now very common. If you have a marginal to moderate deficiency, you could suffer from:
- loss of sense of taste and/or smell
- poor appetite
- slow nail and hair growth
- frequent infections and impaired immunity
- enhanced oxidative stress
- increased production of inflammatory molecules
- delayed wound healing
- reduced thyroid function
- skin disorders including eczema, acne or psoriasis
- reduced reproductive capacity
- mental lethargy
- Alzheimer’s disease
Plant-based/vegan sources of Zinc
Wholegrains such as whole wheat, rye, quinoa, and oats, as well as legumes including beans and lentils are rich in zinc. However, the phytic acid present in whole grains and legumes reduces the amount of zinc you absorb from them.
You remove most of the phytic acid from them by soaking them in water or sprouting them before cooking. Note that the zinc in grains is found mainly within the germ and bran. When these layers are removed during processing, around 80% of the zinc is lost. If you eating refined grains more often than whole grains, you may not be getting enough zinc in your diet.
Nuts and seeds are also good sources of zinc. Peanuts, pecans, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and sesame seeds contain good levels of zinc.
- Nutritional yeast (3.2mg per 2 tbsp)
- Hemp seeds (3.0mg per 30g)
- Peanuts (3.0mg per ¼ cup)
- Brazil nuts (2.2mg per ½ cup)
- Pumpkin seeds (2.0mg per 30g)
- Cacao powder (1.9mg per 30g)
- Calcium-set tofu (1.6mg per 30g)
- Tahini (1.5mg per 1 tbsp)
- Chickpeas (1.3mg per ½ cup)
- Cacao powder (1.9mg per 30g)
- Cooked quinoa (1.6mg per 150g)
- Oats (1.6mg per 50g)