Zinc just doesn’t come up in daily conversation. Unless there are issues, we rarely think about what it is, how we use it or what would happen if we don’t get enough in our system. However, zinc is also necessary for a healthy body to function properly.
In the past ten years, we’ve seen an increase of over the counter cold-fighting products that include zinc. This is because there is a strong correlation between adequate levels of zinc and the body’s ability to fight viruses.
What is it?
Zinc is a mineral. That means it’s a naturally occurring solid material. It is present in humans, plants and animals. In fact, the average human body contains about 2 to 3 grams of zinc throughout–the organs, the cells, the muscle tissue and the bones.
Why do we need zinc?
Zinc is useful for so many bodily functions and in fact, one scientist has stated that “zinc is such a critical element in human health that even a small deficiency is a disaster.” It is essential for healthy growth, body development, the healthy function of the endocrine system, and is required for the synthesis of protein and a healthy immune system.
Zinc is especially useful for pregnant women and growing children as it is required for the proper development of cells. It has also been linked to the body’s ability to smell and taste properly.
The average recommended daily allowance of zinc is rather low – 8mg per day for women and 11mg per day for men. Although it’s important to eat enough zinc, it’s also important not to take too much. Daily values of more than 40mg of zinc per day can cause nausea, headaches, cramps, and even lower a person’s immunity level.
Signs of deficiency
A major deficiency of zinc has been linked to over 800,000 deaths per year, most of which occur in third-world countries. Zinc deficiency is rare in developed countries, although it may occur as a result of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer or liver disease.
Signs of deficiency include hair loss, diarrhea, wounds that won’t heal, stunted growth, infertility, lack of appetite, anemia, macular degeneration or an altered sense of taste and smell. Even a minor deficiency of zinc over a period of time can lead to foot fungus, canker sores, and increased levels of acne.
Luckily, anyone deficient in zinc can easily reverse the symptoms of deficiency within a very short period of time by changing dietary habits or taking a zinc supplement.
Foods high in Zinc
Oysters are really the only zinc super-food. In fact only two oysters provide the recommended daily allowance! For those that don’t like or don’t eat oysters, many foods contain smaller amounts of zinc. Other food sources of zinc include: beef, wheat germ, spinach, quinoa, squash seeds, garlic, pumpkin seeds and lentils. If you eat a properly balanced diet, you should be getting an adequate amount of zinc throughout the course of a day.