Your Guide To Zinc: Why We Need It + Food Sources

Your Guide To Zinc: Why We Need It + Food Sources

While the amount of zinc we need may be small in quantity, this mineral is fundamental to our wellbeing. Zinc plays a crucial role in numerous vital chemical reactions, ranging from cell growth to protein building and immune system support.

In this blog post, you will learn:

👉🏼 What is zinc + what role does it play in the body?

👉🏼 What are the best food sources of zinc?

👉🏼 How much zinc should you consume each day?

👉🏼 What can help improve zinc absorption – and which minerals decrease zinc absorption?

👉🏼 Who is at risk of zinc deficiency?

👉🏼 When should you consider zinc supplementation?

👉🏼 What are the different types of zinc supplements – and which one is right for you, if any?


Are you worried about nutritional deficiencies? Are you looking to optimise your diet and transform your health? Head to Consultations to see how I can help you start your journey to the healthiest version of yourself today!


What is Zinc?

Zinc is an essential trace mineral, responsible for many of the body’s normal functions and systems, including:

  • the immune system
  • protein building
  • repairing damaged tissues
  • thyroid function
  • senses of taste and smell
  • helping our skin protect us from the heat and cold

Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood and adolescence.


What are the best food sources of Zinc?

The richest dietary sources of zinc are meat, fish and seafood, particularly  oysters, with one oyster containing around 6mg of zinc alone!  Other good sources of zinc include eggs and dairy, followed by beans, nuts and legumes. 


How much Zinc should you consume each day?

Our bodies only need very small amounts of Zinc. The UK recommended daily allowance (RDA) for zine is 11mg a day for an adult male and 8mg a day for an adult female (for pregnant or breastfeeding woman the RDA is around 12mg).


What can help improve Zinc absorption – and which minerals decrease zinc absorption?

The ability of our bodies to absorb zinc – known as the bioavailability – from beans, nuts and legumes, is lower than other dietary sources such as meat and seafood. This is due to the presence of a form of phosphorus called phytate. For this reason, consuming a combination of animal and plant-based sources of zinc is ideal to maximise zinc absorption. 

It’s important to note that several studies have shown that high iron concentrations can negatively affect zinc absorption in adults when given as supplements and ingested at the same time. However, when iron and zinc are given in food form as part of a meal, this effect has not been observed.


Who is at risk of Zinc deficiency?

Most people get enough zinc from their diets naturally, but some conditions affecting the gut that may hinder the absorption of nutrients (such as Crohn’s and colitis) or malnutrition could result in a zinc deficiency. 

Other lifestyle factors can cause potential zinc deficiencies too. Drinking too much alcohol can cause problems with absorbing zinc, and women who are pregnant and breastfeeding can be more at risk of low zinc, because of the nutritional demands of their baby.


Should You Consider A Zinc Supplement?

Theoretically, you can get all the zinc you need from a healthy, balanced diet. However if you don’t think you’re getting all the zinc you need in your diet (if you don’t regularly consume the food sources listed above), then you can try taking zinc supplements, provided you don’t take more than the RDA. A zinc excess can be dangerous as it can affect the levels of other minerals in your body, such as iron – so if you are thinking of taking a zinc supplement, it’s worth speaking to a nutritionist or health professional who can offer you personalised advice, as everyone is so different.


What Should You Look For In A Zinc Supplement?

Zinc supplements are often used to help treat and prevent zinc deficiency (usually determined by a blood test carried out by a doctor). They are widely available but it’s important to be aware that there are various forms of Zinc which can affect your health in distinct ways.

Here are a few types you might find on the market:

  • Zinc gluconate. As one of the most common over-the-counter forms, zinc gluconate is often used in cold remedies like lozenges and nasal sprays.
  • Zinc acetate. Like zinc gluconate, zinc acetate is often added to cold lozenges to reduce symptoms and speed up recovery.
  • Zinc sulfate. In addition to helping prevent zinc deficiency, zinc sulfate has been shown to support skin health and reduce the severity of acne.
  • Zinc orotate. This form is bound to a compound known as orotic acid. It’s one of the most common types of zinc supplements on the market.

It’s important to note that nasal sprays containing zinc have been linked to loss of smell in some studies – this is just one example of why seeking personalised advice is so important and why it’s not always safe or advisable to grab the first supplement you see on the shelf.


Everyone’s nutritional requirements will be different, which is why I take a personalised approach with all of my 1:1 clients and tailor each nutrition plan (and supplement recommendation) to their unique needs and goals.


This is just a small insight into the types of things I discuss with my 1:1 clients. If you’re looking to optimise your nutrition, transform your health and elevate your quality of life, please get in contact via Consultations or book a FREE 15-minute call and let’s chat about how I can help.  


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Check out my other nutrition-related blog posts below: