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Zinc - The Missing Mineral

Our bodies need Zinc for various functions and because the body is unable to produce Zinc on its own it is therefore important to include foods in our diet that contain this crucial mineral.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for zinc is about 11 milligrams per day for an adult man and 8 milligrams for an adult woman. Obviously, a lactating or a pregnant woman requires a little more than the stipulated quantity, about 11 milligrams per day. About 5 milligrams per day is the RDA of zinc for 4-8 year old children and 8 mg for 9-13 year old children. The RDA of zinc per day for infants is about 3 mg.

Foods Rich in Zinc

Whole grains  - the best sources of zinc.

Zinc from meat is four times more bio-available than zinc in grain foods.

Pecan, cashew and pine nuts in the daily diet should contain adequate amounts of zinc.

About 4-5 mg zinc (about 25-30 % of RDA) is obtained from 100 gm of lean pork pieces.

About 3 mg of zinc can be obtained from 100 gm of nuts or dried fruits.

Fresh fruits, potatoes, pumpkin seeds are common resources containing zinc.

Milk, cheese and yogurt (250 ml of yogurt provides 15 percent of RDA) are also zinc rich foods.

100 gm chicken can give you about 2 mg of zinc with one medium-sized chicken leg catering to about 15-20 % of RDA of zinc.

The non vegetarian foods containing zinc include calf's liver, lamb, shrimp and fish while vegetarian items like spinach, crimini mushrooms, thyme, basil, yeast, asparagus, miso, maple syrup, peas, broccoli, mustard greens and sesame seeds are good sources of zinc.

100 gm of red meat contains 5.2 mg of zinc and so you can include beef in the diet, which can fulfil about 30 - 60 % of the daily zinc requirement.

Shellfish (100gm contain 20 mg of zinc) and egg yolk (100 gm contain about 1.5 mg zinc) are the common foods containing zinc.

Oysters are one of the zinc rich foods, with 148 mg per 3.5 ounce serving or 100 gm of oysters offering about 25 mg zinc. As an example, six medium-sized oysters in the diet can fulfil the daily requirement of zinc


Why is Zinc important

Zinc helps in the production of about 100 types of enzymes in the body.

It is required for various enzymatic and biochemical reactions during the process of metabolism.

Zinc strengthens the immune system.

Zinc maintains our senses of smell and taste.

Zinc is imperative for DNA synthesis.

Zinc supplements are prescribed to care for those having recent burn injuries.

Zinc helps address Crohn's disease and Wilson's disease as it bars copper absorption.

Persons with high level of alcohol consumption are suggested to take zinc supplements.

Treatment with zinc is beneficial for Alzheimer's disease as it is observed that the levels of zinc in Alzheimer's patients are much lower than normal and zinc deficiency can destroy nerve cells.

Zinc deficiency in children can cause dwarfism or abnormal growth along with mental and psychological problems.

Zinc deficiency can lead to anorexia, slow wound healing, skin disorders, night blindness, hypogonadism, skin problems, weight loss, diarrhoea, joint and hip pain, hair loss and emotional instability. So proper zinc intake is advised when symptoms of zinc deficiency are noticed.



Overdosing on Zinc

The body absorbs only 15%-40% of the zinc, no matter how much zinc is consumed. The dietary fibers and phytic acid in the brain prevent excessive absorption of this mineral, especially when it comes from some non-meat food source. But an increased intake of vitamins C, E and B6 along with minerals like magnesium helps enhance zinc absorption in the body. In the milling and cooking processes, zinc is often lost, resulting in low consumption of the mineral. But, too much of zinc is harmful to our body. Zinc supplements should be carefully taken, under the guidance of a physician. If the intake of zinc exceeds 50 milligrams, it can lead to serious disorders like overload on liver, altered iron function, reduction of HDL (good cholesterol) and reduced immune function, leading to various complications.