In our ever-growing fitness and nutrition ambitions, we hear about a lot of vitamins, minerals, supplements, and foods which can be hard to remember over a span of months or years.
We read about micronutrients and see them on the nutritional label of the foods or supplements we take and assume they are good for us, but understanding why every ingredient will benefit you is always important as well.
It can be as simple as knowing that beta-carotene helps your eye health or that vitamin C helps your immune system. Understanding all the various benefits of these micronutrients instead of just one, as well as how much you need a day for optimal health, and the best ways to get enough is even better!
In this article we will be talking about an essential mineral that has a surprising amount of health benefits. Zinc doesn’t get much attention or praise, but is vital for hundreds of processes in the body and can do almost everything from helping lessen the symptoms of the common cold to fighting diabetes and possibly boosting natural testosterone.
Read on to find out more about potential benefits, how much you need to stay healthy, and what the best sources are.
Zinc Deficiency And Benefits
While it is quite rare in developed countries, a deficiency in zinc can lead to some nasty and severe side effects. For example, hair loss, loss of appetite, stunted growth in youths, diarrhea, impaired immune function, lessened ability to heal wounds, and more.
As you can see, not only will a healthy amount of zinc daily be beneficial for you, but not getting enough of this vital vitamin could be very detrimental to your general health.
As for the actual benefits, let’s begin with immunity. After taking zinc daily for a few months, your body will actually become more resistant to illness and decrease mucus and congestion if you do catch a bug.
This happens because zinc is vital in the activation of T cells (T lymphocytes), which control your immune health and are responsible for eradicating cancerous and otherwise infected cells. As an added bonus, zinc is an antioxidant that can help prevent the creation of free radicals in your body and causing any number of problems.
Next, we have zinc’s ability to help treat wounds naturally and improve overall skin health. This metal is very important for lowering inflammation which comes along with health issues such as eczema, psoriasis, and other irritated skin conditions.
When applied topically, zinc has been shown to lessen the amount of acne an individual suffers from, as well as helping to prevent ultraviolet rays from the sun from damaging your skin (which can help prevent wrinkles on the face). When zinc is consumed in adequate amounts it can speed up the healing of cuts and wounds, as well as have antibacterial effects to prevent infections.
Another benefit of zinc supplementation is a possible increase in testosterone in men. Although this benefit might be limited to individuals who have a lower testosterone level due to a zinc deficiency. Studies have shown that in these men, their testosterone levels did return to healthy levels once they began taking a daily zinc supplement, but no research supports zinc increasing the levels of testosterone in men with an already healthy level.
Zinc is important for sperm quality and health, which can sometimes be confused with improved testosterone levels, as increasing sperm quality will increase fertility. Women also need zinc to improve the quality of their eggs and ensure a healthy pregnancy.
While there are numerous other benefits of zinc that would take a while to write about in detail, a few smaller benefits that are worth mentioning include:
- increasing retina health and preventing cataracts/age-related macular degeneration (AMD) as zinc is important for proper protein synthesis which builds muscle
- lowering blood sugar levels which can help diabetics
- helping to prevent pattern baldness
- lessening liver damage from chronic prescription/alcohol abuse
I encourage you to read more on this great mineral for additional benefits, but it’s also important that we touch on how much zinc you need to consume each day and the best ways to reach your recommended daily needs.
How Much Zinc Do I Need? And What Foods Contain Zinc?
Luckily we do not need a large amount of zinc to stay healthy and reap the benefits. For adult men and pregnant/breastfeeding women, the daily recommended intake is 11 mg, while for all other women it is 8 mg.
Some of the top foods that contain zinc are luckily quite diverse and should fit into most diets. They include:
- Three ounces of oysters: 14 mg of zinc (over 100% of your daily needs),
- Three ounces of lean, grass-fed beef: 7 mg (over 60%-90% of your daily needs),
- ½ cup of baked beans: 6 mg
- Three ounces of lamb: 5 mg
- Three ounces of Lobster/Crab: 4-5 mg
- One ounce of cashews/pecans/peanuts: 1-2 mg
These are just a few great sources of zinc in foods, but you can also find this mineral in dairy products, chickpeas, seeds (i.e. hemp or pumpkin), wheat/oats, wild rice, peas, potatoes, and (my favorite) dark chocolate.
If you don’t eat any of these foods and are afraid you will fall short of your daily goals, more than likely any multivitamin you are taking (or should be taking) will contain between 50% and 150% of your daily recommendation (just be sure to check the ingredients label).
If you don’t want to take a daily multi vit, there are supplements that contain zinc and a few other ingredients, usually magnesium and B6 (informally called ZMA) that you can take instead.
However you choose to consume your zinc, make sure you are getting enough!
Take Home Message
Hopefully, you were able to learn a thing or two about zinc that you didn’t before. Again, your knowledge of every vitamin and mineral you consume doesn’t have to be this in depth, but it never hurt anybody to know too much information, especially in regards to how we stay healthy and live long lives.
As for now, since you know about all the amazing benefits of this mineral as well as how much you need and where to find it, you have no excuse to not get enough on a daily basis and use it to its full potential!