After Iron, Zinc is the most abundant trace element in the body. It is an essential mineral our body requires for good health. Zinc is required for the functioning of over 300 enzymes involved in many necessary processes in the body. However, the body doesn’t produce zinc, and that’s why it’s majorly obtained through zinc foods or zinc supplements. In addition, the body system benefits from zinc in numerous ways. Some of these include DNA synthesis, metabolizing nutrients, immune function, cell division, and growing and repairing worn-out tissues.
However, it is essential to know that your body doesn’t store zinc, so you need to consume enough zinc foods to meet the requirements. The National Institute of Health recommends that adults need 11 mg of zinc per day while women need 8mg per day though nursing mothers should consume 14mg per day. The maximum a person can take per day is 40mg. Many zinc foods like meats, seafood, whole grains, beans, and nuts contain adequate zinc that can help you balance your diet.
Why does the body need zinc?
Zinc is an essential nutrient and contributes to the following;
1. Enzyme function: Zinc is a cofactor essential for over 300 enzymes to properly function in the body. In addition, it plays an important role in digestion, metabolism, and nerve health.
2. Helps accelerate wound healing: Zinc plays an important role in immune function, collagen synthesis, and inflammatory responses required to boost healing. Thus, it is often used on patients in hospitals as a treatment for skin injuries.
3.Helps slow the progression of Macular Degeneration: Macular degeneration occurs due to the thinning of the macula and causes loss in the center of the field of vision. It occurs commonly in adults over the age 50 and either reduce or blur vision. Many researchers have shown that zinc may help slow the progression of this age-related disease.
4. Growth and cell division: Zinc is important for cell growth and division. It is essential to some enzymes that influence proliferation and cell division.
5. Decreases inflammation: Recent research has helped identify that zinc effectively reduces inflammation and boosts the immune system. In addition, it improves acne symptoms and reduces the risk of age-related diseases.
It is also essential that you visit your doctor before you take any zinc supplements because it can decrease the effectiveness of some drugs such as antibiotics, Thiazide diuretics(blood pressure drugs), penicillamine, etc. Using oral zinc supplements without a doctor’s prescription can also cause indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.
It is easier to get an adequate amount of zinc from most plant and animal foods because they’re naturally fortified and rich in zinc. Always keep in mind that plant-based zinc foods like whole grains or legumes are usually absorbed less efficiently because of other plant compounds that inhibit absorption.
Oysters are heavily packed with zinc, and they contain most zinc of any other food. A serving of either cooked, fried, or breaded oyster contains 5.5mg. And since the recommended daily intake for adults is 7-11mg, taking one of these will keep you close to your zinc requirement for the day.
Meats are an excellent source of zinc. Red meat, in particular, is a great source, but you can find ample amounts in different kinds of meat. A 100g/3.5 ounce serving of red meat contains about 4.9mg of zinc which is 44% of the recommended daily intake. In addition, meat is also a great source of other important nutrients such as vitamin B, creatine, and iron.
These are healthy and convenient foods that can help boost your intake of zinc and many other beneficial nutrients. Nuts such as cashews, almonds, peanuts, and pine nuts can significantly increase your intake of zinc. In addition, they generally contain other healthy nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats. A 28g (1 ounce) serving contains 15% of RDI.
Legumes like beans, lentils, chickpeas contain adequate amounts of zinc. In fact, 100g of lentils contains 12% of DV. They’re an excellent choice for people following vegan or vegetarian diets and are also an excellent source of fiber and protein. Legumes contain an antinutrient known as phytates which bind and inhibit the absorption of zinc and other materials. However, processing methods such as heating, soaking, or fermenting can help improve its bioavailability.
Eggs are delicious and nutritious foods that contain moderate amounts of zinc required by your body. It has 5% DV for zinc, and it’s loaded with other nutrients and vitamins, including vitamin B, selenium, choline, etc. If you prefer eggs, you can continue consuming them in moderation to meet your daily zinc requirements.