Z is for Zinc

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By: Olivia Morgan RDN, LDN & Juliana Dewsnap, Dietetic Intern

Zinc is a mineral which plays an important role in hundreds of body functions. Though you may not be familiar with all of it’s different roles, we are here to highlight a few things you should know about zinc, and how you can ensure you are getting enough in your diet. Here are 3 things to know about zinc!

  1. Zinc is required for immune function, and there has been a lot of research concerning the link between zinc intake and the common cold (also known as rhinovirus). The results of this research have indicated that zinc CAN be helpful in some cases. Researchers have found that adding zinc to lozenges can be beneficial for reducing length of cold symptoms (such as nasal discharge and coughing). Other than the ties to the common cold, even a slight zinc deficiency can result in decreased immune function and increased susceptibility to disease!

  2. Zinc is needed for growth and development. Pregnant and breastfeeding women have increased zinc requirements and since there is no storage form of zinc, individuals need to ensure they are eating enough zinc rich foods each day!

  3. Zinc is required for a sense of taste and smell!

If you eat a well-rounded diet, you likely get enough zinc. Zinc deficiency is fairly uncommon in the United States, affecting only about 3% of Americans.  People may take an oral supplement to treat a common cold, compensate for losses and decreased absorption with diarrhea, or to accelerate wound healing. However, it’s important to speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian before taking any supplement. Taking zinc supplements might change the effectiveness of other medications and cause copper deficiency- these two minerals compete for absorption! Women need about 8 mg daily, while men need closer to 11 mg.

Zinc from vegetarian sources is not as easy to absorb, so if you are a vegetarian or vegan, you may need to eat more of these zinc-rich foods to reach the recommended daily intake.

Good sources of Zinc:

  • Shellfish

  • Meat

  • Beans

  • Eggs

  • Whole Grains

  • Nuts

  • Oatmeal

  • Yogurt

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