Zinc is a mineral your cells need to fight off bacteria and viruses and make the genetic material, called DNA, that tells your body how to work the way it should. It helps you heal wounds, aids your senses of smell and taste, and is important for infants and children as they grow.
An adult man needs 11 milligrams a day, and an adult woman, 8 mg. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you’ll need more-around 12 mg. Children need 2 to 11 mg depending on their age and gender. Talk to your paediatrician about how much is right for your child.
You might be getting enough but some things can make it hard for your body to use it, including surgery on your stomach or intestines, alcohol abuse, and digestive diseases. People who don’t eat meat or animal products can have a harder time getting enough zinc from food.
When zinc isn’t enough, it can make children grow more slowly and delay puberty in teens. Adults who are low on zinc can have hair loss, diarrhoea, sores on their eyes and skin, and loss of appetite. It also can affect a man’s sexual desire. Talk to your doctor before taking a supplement, though. These issues can be caused by something other than a lack of zinc.
Zinc helps your skin protect you from heat and cold, bacteria, and viruses. Your doctor might prescribe a zinc supplement or ointment to treat certain skin problems, like acne.
Nothing beats oysters for zinc. A serving of 85g has 74mg. That’s five times more than you need per day.
Red, fatty meat is linked to health problems but can deliver zinc. Just keep your portions small and eat plenty of green vegetables on the side. An 85g serving has about 7mg of zinc.
Dark meat chicken has 2.4mg zinc per 85g serving, compared with less than 1 milligram in a skinless chicken breast. Try some pan-roasted chicken thighs with sautéed kale for a healthy, tasty meal.
How about a zinc-rich snack? Cashews have 1.6mg zinc per 28g serving. Keep them at your desk for a healthy treat instead of candy or chips. Just watch your portions. While they’re healthy, cashews are also full of calories and fat.
Some people take more zinc as a supplement by itself or as part of a multivitamin. This can be helpful if you don’t get enough in your diet or you have certain medical conditions, but it’s not always safe. Check with your doctor first.
Too much zinc can cause diarrhoea, stomach cramps, headache, and nausea. And if you take too much for too long, you may have lower levels of copper (another essential nutrient), a weaker immune system, and less high-density cholesterol. You shouldn’t get more than 40 milligrams a day unless your doctor has told you otherwise. Talk to your paediatrician before giving a zinc supplement to your child.
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