When it comes to vitamin deficiencies, most people first think of calcium and maybe vitamin D next. However, calcium and vitamin D aren’t the only vitamins you can be deficient in. Zinc is probably one of the most overlooked, except when it comes to someone who might have a cold or flu and is looking to boost their immune system. Zinc is just as important to your health as calcium and offers so much more than assistance in fighting off seasonal viruses. It’s time to give zinc the credit and glory it deserves.
Did you know that zinc is required for your body to make over 300 different enzymes? These enzymes are specialized proteins that are required for many of the body’s biochemical processes. Without adequate zinc, your body is vulnerable to attacks on its immune system. Additionally, problems with reproduction, poor skin health, and vision impairment are all side effects of zinc deficiency. Everyone needs adequate levels of this critical mineral in order to survive. The brain, heart, liver, muscles, and even our blood depend on zinc for health. Even a minor deficiency can have a wide-reaching health effect.
On average, experts believe that adults need anywhere between 8 to 11 milligrams of zinc on a daily basis. However, there really is no such thing as the “average” person. This means that your needs, compared to my needs, will naturally fluctuate. All of this depends on our age, current health status, and varying stages of life. For example, men tend to need around 11 milligrams a day. Zinc is a vital product for male reproductive health. In one study, men who ate a diet deficient in zinc found that both their sperm quantity and quality was decreased.
Infections, stress, trauma, and the use of steroid medications can deplete zinc in the body, as can condition like Chron’s disease. It can be assumed that acne, either during adolescence or adulthood, is just a factor of life. However, research shows that researchers can induce acne by feeding young men diets that are deficient in zinc. In only 12 days, these men developed acne and skin issues. Acne can be a sign of a zinc deficiency so it may also be reversed by increasing the amount of zinc in your diet.
In another issue involving zinc deficiency, one study found that 15 percent of elderly individuals who had lost their sense of taste was actually zinc deficient.
Plant Sources of Zinc
There are tons of excellent sources of zinc; however, it does require a concentrated effort to get the proper amount in your diet. This is because many people do not consume foods that contain zinc. Here is a list of foods that have the best sources of zinc and the percentage they provide on a daily intake.
- Sesame seeds 25%
- Pumpkin seeds 23%
- Lentils 23%
- Garbanzo beans/ Chickpeas 23%
- Cashews 21%
- Quinoa 18%
In a lesser extent, zinc can be found in shiitake mushrooms, crimini mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, oats, onions, sunflower seeds, other nuts, dark leafy greens, beets, beet greens, carrots, and peas.
Signs You May Have a Zinc Deficiency
There are many signs of zinc deficiency. With that being said, just because you have one or more or none of these symptoms, does not necessarily mean you have a zinc deficiency. Conversely, if you don’t have any of these symptoms, you are still at risk of developing a deficiency. The following list is designed to be a guideline to help you determine whether you might benefit from boosting the amount of zinc in your daily diet.
- Anorexia or low appetite
- Brittle nails
- Growing pains or stunted growth (children and teenagers)
- Difficulty conceiving children
- Frequent flu or colds, or other infections
- Late sexual maturity
- Prostate disorders
- Impotence or low sperm count in men
- Loss of sense of smell or taste
- Poor night vision
- Sleep disturbances
- Slow growing nails or hair
- Stretch marks
- White spots on fingernails
Supplementing with Zinc
If you do choose to supplement with this mineral, zinc gluconate, zinc citrate, zinc orotate tend to be the most absorbable forms. Different nutrition experts have specific preferences, of course. Do not exceed the dosage amounts indicated on the package of the product you select. This is because minerals can build up to toxic levels in the body. Additionally, it competes with copper, which is also imperative to overall health. Keep zinc supplements out of reach of children. Do not take zinc supplements within 2 hours of high fiber foods like bran since fiber can bind zinc and escort it right out of your body.Related: Magnesium Deficiency: 9 Signs & Solutions