The importance of zinc doesn’t just extend to its well-known role in supporting our immune system. Zinc is one of the most vital micronutrients essential to so many daily functions in our body and our overall health and wellbeing. Without zinc, we can’t survive, let alone thrive.
Benefits of Zinc
Did you know more than 85% of our total body zinc is found in skeletal muscle and bone? Not only that, but zinc is needed for proper protein synthesis, cardiovascular health, and release of hormones such as testosterone, IGF-1 and growth hormone in both men and women. Zinc is therefore needed for optimal physical performance, recovery, energy, muscle growth and body composition.
Our hormones need zinc to function. Libido and fertility are affected by zinc. Our thyroid which controls metabolism requires zinc. Zinc affects our insulin sensitivity. We need zinc to taste and smell. Our immune system needs zinc to fight off colds and flu. Zinc also drives the formation of collagen, which keeps our skin, hair and nails healthy, and can help with the management of acne. It is really quite a list!
Too much or too little zinc?
Zinc deficiencies are becoming more common, particularly as our intake of grains has increased, and as many people don’t consume enough seafood. Grains (such as brown rice, oats, and wheat) and legumes (such as soy, chickpeas and beans) contain an anti-nutrient called phytic acid, which binds to zinc and inhibits absorption. You can soak grains and legumes overnight before cooking or eating, which releases phytase, an enzyme that breaks down the phytic acid, reducing or eliminating it. Sprouting or fermenting also has this effect. Recipes such as soaked overnight oats, Bircher muesli, sourdough bread (which is fermented), or sprouted breads are a great way to incorporate this into your diet.
Like everything in our body, zinc needs to be present in the right ratios so supplementing with too high doses of zinc isn’t helpful either. Too much zinc can lead to copper deficiency, which can cause fatigue, affect cholesterol levels, and possibly weaken antioxidant systems and the immune system. It’s best to check with your healthcare practitioner to complete a zinc test before supplementing. Alternatively, there are several great food sources to get your daily dose.
How much zinc do I need?
The Australian guidelines suggest a recommended daily intake of 14mg per day for adult men, and 8mg per day for adult women. The upper level intake from food and supplements is 40mg per day for both adult men and women.
How do I get my daily dose of zinc?