Zinc – are you getting enough in your diet?

With the average western diet as it is it’s not surprising that people are deficient in vitamins and minerals. A diet of beige ultra-procesed foods may provide lots of energy in the form of sugar and carbs but little in the way of micronutrients such as zinc.

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Daily adult requirements for zinc are 7mg for women and 9.5mg for men but this varies with age, plus pregnant/lactating women need more.

You find more than 1mg of it in a serving of each of the following:

  • Shellfish (oysters have over 20mg but who eats those more than once in a blue moon!)
  • Meat and poultry
  • Lentils
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Tinned sardines
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Oats
  • Greek yoghurt

I analysed a day from our Nutrition for Everyone plan where breakfast was Phytoats, lunch was salad with hummus and an orange, dinner was prawn and tomato spaghetti. The pic below shows the typical mineral content for that day – all good but Nuush your not a standard diet!

Zinc deficiency symptoms

What does zinc do?

A lot!

  1. It’s involved in cell division – hence poor growth in children can be zinc-deficiency-related and hence poor wound healing is another sign of deficiency.
  2. It helps to keep the wall of every one of your trazillions of cells nice and stable. You know a cell is like a little bubble and the membrane of the bubble needs to be flexible but stable.
  3. It helps to kill off rogue cells.
  4. It’s involved in neurological stuff, hence its role in prevention of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Deficiency implicated in the development of Multiple Sclerosis. Also depression – deficiency can be a factor there.
  5. It helps to make healthy sperm! It’s been found that less fertile males have less zinc. A large amount of zinc is found in semen (no it’s not going on the plans 😳). On that note, it’s also involved in libido; low libido can be a sign of deficiency.
  6. It plays a role in sense of taste and smell. Hence loss of those things can be due to a deficiency.
  7. Lots is found in the eye – it helps with seeing in the dark. It’s not just carrots that do that 😀.
  8. It helps to slow signs of ageing.
  9. It supports the work of insulin, so it helps with blood sugar control. It’s implicated as a factor in type 2 diabetes. (you know that’s my pet subject)
  10. More than 300 enzymes in your body rely on it. Enzymes are go-between things that help with stuff like breaking down food (and so much more).

Signs of zinc deficiency

  • Diarrhoea
  • Frequent infections
  • Hair loss
  • Mood issues, including depression
  • Poor appetite
  • Problems with the sense of taste and smell
  • Skin sores, acne, spots and other skin issue
  • Slow growth in children
  • Slow wound healing
  • Trouble seeing in the dark
  • Weight issues

Once again, vegan diets can put people at high risk of deficiency, not only because of their lack of animal foods but because of the high intake of grains, beans and pulses which can inhibit absorption because they contain phytic acid which kind of binds up the zinc (one reason I ask clients to eat beans and pulses but not more than once a day).

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Thank you for reading this article. Please note that while we share a lot of awesome information and research you should be aware our articles are strictly for informational purposes and do not constitute medical advice intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.

Cover photo by Elle Hughes.