What is Zinc? Do You Have a Deficiency?

Zinc is an important trace mineral that helps our bodies fight infections. It also helps create the proteins needed to build strong muscles, tissues, blood, and bones.

How does someone develop a deficiency?

Small amounts of zinc are excreted through the feces, urine, hair, skin, sweat, semen and during menstruation. If insufficient amounts of zinc-containing foods are consumed in the diet, then these small amounts of zinc loss can slowly add up to a zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiencies can also be caused by liver and pancreatic disorders, chronic alcoholism, diabetes mellitus, and absorption disorders.

How much zinc do I need?

  • Children 0-6 months – 2 mg/day
  • Children 7-12 months – 3 mg/day
  • Children 1-3 years old – 3 mg/day
  • Children 4-8 years old – 5 mg/day
  • Children 9-13 years old – 8 mg/day
  • Teenage and adult males - 11 mg/day
  • Teenage and adult females - 9 mg/day
  • Pregnant and lactating women: 11-13 mg/day

What are the signs of a zinc deficiency?

  • Altered/loss of taste and smell
  • Anorexia (lack or loss of appetite)
  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Impaired memory
  • Poor night vision
  • White spotting of nails
  • Prostate issues
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Decreased immunity
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive hair loss
  • Unintentional muscle movement
  • Poor wound healing
  • Slurred speech
  • Some forms of dermatitis

How can someone increase their zinc levels?

Studies show that despite differences in zinc intake, vegetarians have similar serum zinc concentrations to, and no greater risk of zinc deficiency than, non-vegetarians. Good sources of plant-based sources of zinc for both vegetarians or non-vegetarians include legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and beans which all contain substantial amounts of zinc. In fact, cooked lentils (100 grams) contain around 12% of the DV for zinc. Other good sources of plant-based zinc are green peas, tofu, tempeh, nuts and seeds (always avoid roasted or highly heated nuts/seeds). Even nutritious vegetables such as cooked mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, kale, and garlic contain small amounts of zinc, as well as other critical vitamins and minerals. For example, one cup of mushrooms and kale both contain 2% of the daily value of zinc.

Zinc supplements are also available as liquid or in capsule form. Avoid tablets which typically contain too many unwanted excipients. It may be time for you to incorporate a high quality zinc supplement into your diet.