You’ve probably heard countless times how important it is to get plenty of vitamins and minerals in your diet, but what specific nutrients do you need? What exactly does it mean to get enough nutrients? All vitamins are important for health, from vitamin A in carrots to vitamin C in citrus fruit. Many of these come from the foods you eat. Minerals also play a vital role in your body’s systems, such as iron, potassium and zinc. If you’re not familiar with zinc, you probably wonder what it does and why your body needs it.
Read on to learn more about zinc, where you can get it, and what it does for your body.
What Is Zinc?
Zinc is a type of mineral substance, like copper or magnesium. Many of your body’s cells depend on tiny amounts of zinc to function correctly. This nutrient is known as a trace mineral, meaning that you don’t need a lot of it. That said, you still have to make sure you’re regularly getting some zinc in your diet because it’s an essential mineral for your body.
Where Can You Get Zinc?
There are many foods you can get zinc from naturally. According to the National Institutes of Health, seafood, fish and meat are excellent food sources of zinc. For example, cooked oysters have 28 mg of zinc per serving, which is over 250% of your daily needs. In contrast, beef only has around 4 mg of zinc per serving, or about 30% of the daily recommended value.
What if you can’t eat seafood or you don’t like fish? Don’t worry. There are plenty of other food sources that provide lower amounts of zinc, such as:
- Dairy foods
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Nuts, seeds, lentils and whole grains
- Cooked broccoli
Eating a varied diet can help you get many of the vitamins and minerals you need.
You can also find zinc in some types of zinc gluconate supplement. Zinc is closely involved with the normal functioning of the immune system. Supplements that revolve around supporting immune cells often include vitamins, minerals and other substances with antioxidants. For example, shiitake mushrooms and baker’s yeast can cooperate with zinc to help support normal function.
What Does Zinc Do in the Body?
Zinc plays an important role in numerous bodily functions that are health-friendly. We’ll discuss two briefly.
Proteins are the building blocks of many body tissues, such as muscles and tendons. When the body is growing, it needs adequate levels of zinc to keep up with the demand. Health professionals may offer recommendations to help you get enough zinc if you’re pregnant, for example.
How Much Zinc Do You Need
There are some recommended daily values and limits for zinc consumption, but the exact amount of zinc you need will vary based on many factors. Some of these factors can change the amount of zinc needed, including pregnancy, breastfeeding, overall age and injuries. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations when it comes to zinc intake.
Getting adequate zinc is essential, but you don’t want to go overboard. Exaggerating with trace minerals isn’t a good idea. You want the right amount, not too much and not too little.
If you normally follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, you should carefully review your diet to make sure you’re getting enough zinc. It’s possible to get enough zinc without animal food sources, but it’s more challenging. If you need assistance, you can always ask your doctor or a certified dietitian for recommendations.