It’s Important For Several Functions In The Body, But What Is Zinc And How Do We Get Enough?
By Lucy Gornall, Health Journalist of the Year (HFMA) and personal trainer specialising in pre and post-natal fitness
If you’re wondering exactly what is zinc, then you’ve come to the right place. This essential trace mineral is important for many biological functions within the body, and actually plays a role in over 200 enzymes in the body.
From helping to support the functioning of our immune system, to contributing to normal fertility and reproduction, zinc really does play a key role in staying healthy.
How Much Zinc Do We Need?
In the UK, The Department of Health and Social Care recommend men aged 19 to 64 years old get 9.5 milligrams (mg) of zinc a day whilst women get 7mg a day.
However, some experts believe that there are times when higher levels of zinc are beneficial.
The UK’s Department of Health also advises that the intake of zinc should not exceed 25mg per day, unless otherwise advised by a doctor.
Why Do We Need Zinc?
Zinc contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress. This oxidative stress occurs when cells are exposed to an excess of free radicals. Free radicals are produced when we are exposed in excess to factors such as cigarette smoke, pollution and sunlight.
Zinc also contributes to normal fertility and reproduction in men and women and also plays a role in the process of cell division. It is an important mineral for the male reproductive system as it protects cells from oxidative stress. Semen contains 100 times more zinc than is found in blood and each male ejaculate contains around 0.5mg of zinc. Zinc also contributes to the maintenance of normal testosterone levels in the blood, too.
Another benefit of zinc is that it contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system.
Added to this, zinc helps to process the carbohydrate, fat and protein in food.
Finally, we need enough zinc as it contributes to the maintenance of normal vision and cognitive function, plus it contributes to the maintenance of normal skin, hair, nails and bones.
The Best Zinc Foods
Now we know what zinc is and what it does for our body, we need to ensure we’re getting enough. There are several foods that provide zinc, such as the ones below. It’s worth noting however that the foods highest in zinc are animal-based foods, so vegetarians and vegans may benefit from taking a supplement.
- Oysters, 6 - 52mg
- Beef steak, 100g - 11mg
- Hemp seeds, 28g - 3mg
- Lentils per cup - 3mg
- Squash and pumpkin seeds, 28g - 2mg
- Pine nuts, 28g - 2mg
- Pork chop, 100g - 2mg
- Chicken leg, 100g -2mg
- Firm tofu, 100g - 2mg
- Lean pork chops, 100g - 2mg
- Spinach, per cup cooked - 1.4mg
- Oatmeal, 100g - 1mg
- Low fat yoghurt, 100g - 1mg
- Brazil nuts, 28g - 1mg
- Avocado, one whole - 1.3mg
- Shiitake mushrooms, 100g - 1mg
- Raspberries, per cup - 0.5mg
- Blackberries, 100g - 0.5mg
- Broccoli, 100g - 0.5mg
- Apricots, 100g - 0.2mg
Our Best Zinc Supplements
You may want to safeguard your intake of zinc with a supplement.
Vitabiotics Ultra Zinc contains 15mg of zinc, as well as 100μg of copper. Both of these contribute to the normal function of the immune system.
For extra immune support, Vitabiotics Immunace Extra Protection is optimised to help maintain immune function. It provides 28 nutrients including 15mg of zinc. It also contains 25µg of vitamin D3 and selenium which also support the normal function of the immune system. It also provides vitamin A, vitamin C, Lycopene Extract and Resveratrol.
For nourishment where beauty begins - on the inside - Perfectil Original is a triple active supplement for skin, hair and nails, and it contains 20 micronutrients, as well as 15mg of zinc, which contributes to normal skin, hair and nails.
Men who are looking for extra support when it comes to fertility and reproduction may benefit from Wellman Conception, which includes 15mg of zinc. It also provides vitamin B12, vitamin D and 400µg of folic acid (vitamin B9) as well as selenium, Ginseng, Co-Q10, Inositol and Peruvian Maca.
Women who are hoping to conceive may benefit from taking Pregnacare Conception, which also contains 15mg of zinc. It also includes 400µg of folic acid, as recommended by the Department of Health for women who are trying to conceive. Supplemental folic acid intake increases maternal folate status. Low maternal folate status is a risk factor in the development of neural tube defects in the developing foetus. Pregnacare Conception also provides vitamin B12, iron, magnesium and 20µg of vitamin D3. All of these have a role in the process of cell division.
For men and women trying to conceive, Pregnacare Him and Her Conception is a specialist dual-pack containing Wellman Conception tablets for him as well as the Pregnacare Conception tablets for her. It’s recommended that a Pregnacare Him and Her Conception tablet be taken daily, three months before trying to conceive.
For vision support, Visionace Max offers the maximum nutritional support in our vision range. It’s a 3-in-1 source of essential nutrients and contains 15mg of zinc, which contributes to normal vision, as well as all the other nutrients found to be helpful in the Age-Related Eye studies. It contains Beta Carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and copper and important Omega-3 DHA fatty acids.
Vitabiotics also provides supplements especially tailored towards bone health. Osteocare Plus offers the original Osteocare formula, containing 10mg of zinc plus calcium, selenium and magnesium, as well as added Soy Isoflavones and Omega-3 capsules. It also provides 35µg of vitamin D3. Zinc, vitamin D and calcium contributes to the maintenance of normal bones.
The Original Osteocare formula is available in a chewable tablet for those who have difficulty with swallowing tablets, as well as a liquid formula too, suitable for children and teens. A daily intake of 10ml of Osteocare Original Liquid, provides 6mg of zinc.
For children aged 4 to 12 years, Wellkid Calcium Liquid provides 3mg of zinc per 10ml. It contains calcium and vitamin D too, needed for the normal growth and development of bone in children.