One of the most common chemical elements on earth, zinc is a metallic element that is essential for staying healthy.
Just like iron, zinc can be found in a wide variety of foods, though many people might not be getting their recommended daily amounts from diet alone.
Factors like soil degradation and changing diets mean that many people around the world could benefit from zinc supplements, so read on to learn more about this wonder mineral & best form of zinc supplement…
Zinc (shown as “Zn” on the periodic table) is a metallic element that is slightly brittle at room temperature and used to make brass in historic times. An abundant element, zinc is the 24th most common element in the Earth’s crust, but what it lacks in rarity it more than makes up for in health benefits.
Zinc is a nutrient vital for many bodily functions – from healing wounds to hearing your favourite tunes – and the second most common trace mineral in your body (after iron). However, the human body can’t produce zinc, meaning that you need to maintain your levels by eating mineral-rich foods or taking zinc supplements, which we’ll discuss shortly.
Research shows that zinc is vital in immune function, maintaining blood sugar and for keeping our skin, eyes, and heart healthy, so maintaining a healthy level of zinc is essential. Thankfully, zinc can be found in a wide variety of natural foods, meaning that a balanced diet is the best way for many people to get their daily recommended allowance of zinc.
Zinc is classified as an essential nutrient because your body cannot produce or store it, so you need to consume zinc daily to maintain healthy levels. The recommended daily intake (or RDI) of zinc is 11mg for adult men and 8mg for adult women, though pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to take 11 and 12mg per day respectively.
Fortunately, most people should be able to meet the RDI through a balanced diet alone, which is why we’ve included a list of zinc-rich foods below. Now, we’re not telling you to eat tons of these foods each day, but by adding them to your normal diet, you should be able to eat healthier, more varied meals with delicious ingredients such as:
Meat is an excellent source of nutrients, containing vital proteins, vitamins and minerals such as – you guessed it – zinc. A 3.5-ounce (100g) serving of raw ground beef contains around 4.8mg of zinc, which is about 44% of the recommended daily intake, and other types of meat (such as lamb, pork, and poultry) also contain plenty of zinc.
Shellfish are great sources of zinc, as they are low in calories but dense in nutrients; especially oysters which contain 32mg of zinc for every 6 medium oysters. While oysters are one of the most zinc-rich shellfish out there, other types of shellfish like lobster, crab, shrimp and mussels have plenty of zinc to help you meet your Recommended Daily Allowance.
Legumes (or beans to you and me) are cheap, filling and surprisingly healthy, with 3.5oz of cooked lentils contributing about 12% of your RDI of zinc. If you’re on a vegan or vegetarian diet, then I heartily encourage you to make friends with beans, as they contribute valuable protein and fiber to those avoiding meat.
Nuts like cashews, peanuts and almonds are great sources of zinc, fats, and protein, especially if you’re on a meat-free diet, with a 10z (28g) serving of cashews containing 15% of the zinc RDI. While some types of nuts may be high in fat and salt, their high levels of nutrients and fiber make them a great addition to a balanced diet.
Foods like cheese and milk contain plenty of calcium and vitamins including zinc which contribute to a healthy lifestyle when eaten in moderation. 3.5oz (100g) of cheddar cheese contains around 28% of your zinc RDI, making it one of the easiest ways to increase your zinc consumption.
Eggs, whole grains, seeds, certain vegetables, and dark chocolate also contain notable levels of zinc, though certain foods *cough* chocolate *cough* should only ever be enjoyed in moderation. In short, you should be able to get a safe amount of zinc with a healthy diet, though zinc supplements can help to make up where your diet is lacking.
Zinc is an essential nutrient used in a wide range of bodily functions, meaning that a zinc deficiency can cause long-lasting health issues ranging from hair loss to chronic conditions like diabetes. While it is possible to maintain your zinc levels with a balanced diet, not everyone has this luxury, which is why zinc supplements are useful to enjoy the many benefits of zinc, including:
Studies have shown that zinc supplements help your immune system fight conditions like the common cold quicker than without, by as much as 40%! A review of seven randomised trials with 575 participants found that zinc lozenges helped people recover from the common cold 33% faster on average, meaning that a lozenge a day can help you beat your tickly cough in fewer days.
Because zinc is responsible for transporting sugar from your bloodstream to your tissues, disruption to your zinc levels has been linked to diabetes. Contrastingly, healthy levels of zinc have shown to improve blood sugar control and insulin resistance, which help your body maintain normal blood sugar levels, even in people with diabetes.
Zinc is often used to promote healthy skin and many skincare brands use zinc as an active ingredient, thanks to its effectivity, low costs and low risks of side effects. Zinc sulfate is especially useful for decreasing symptoms of severe acne, though the zinc content in over-the-counter creams and lotions will probably be enough to tackle minor symptoms and breakouts.
Heart disease is a serious problem around the world, accounting for approximately 33% of deaths globally, despite numerous campaigns and initiatives against it. While obesity and a lack of regular exercise are the biggest contributing factors to heart disease, zinc supplements help to decrease cholesterol and blood triglycerides, potentially helping prevent heart disease.
Macular Degeneration is an age-related condition which results in blurred or impaired vision caused by the macula (a small area of the retina in the back of your eyes) deteriorating. While this disease is very common, studies have shown that zinc supplements can slow the progression of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and reduce the risk of it progressing to an advanced stage.
If you’re struggling with any of the conditions mentioned above, then it could be worth asking your doctor if zinc supplements could help you. However, if you’re interested in increasing your zinc levels to maintain a good level of health, it’s important to know which type of zinc is best for your needs.
Just like any other kind of health supplement, you can find zinc in a variety of forms, but the delivery method is far less important than the type of zinc you’re getting. In it’s purest form, zinc is a slightly brittle metal – not the easiest thing to swallow – so it is generally processed into one of the following forms before being sold as a supplement:
As with other kinds of supplements, you can find most of these forms of zinc in various forms to suit your needs, including topical creams, cold lozenges, and pills;
With all the forms of zinc on the market, it may seem impossible to narrow it down to just one form of zinc or delivery method, as it depends on what benefits you’re looking for. That’s why we’ve selected three recommendations to suit various health needs:
This form of zinc has been used as the active ingredient in a wide range of topical skin creams and lotions, especially those aimed at tackling acne, and for good reason. This form of zinc has well-documented benefits for your skin, making it highly effective when used in a topical cream, so make sure to look out for zinc sulfate when shopping for acne creams.
Zinc gluconate is extremely common in over-the-counter cold remedies and has proven effects in helping users recover from illness more quickly. The fact that these supplements are so common and effective makes them perfect for beating colds, as who has the time to travel to specialist retailers or pharmacists when battling the sniffles?
This form of zinc is theorised to be more easily absorbed into your body and has a more palatable taste than other forms of zinc, thanks to the citric acid. These factors mean that it’s easier and more enjoyable to boost your zinc levels with this kind of zinc supplements on a regular basis, helping you to benefit from the many health benefits of healthy zinc levels.
Whatever kind of health benefits you hope to get from zinc, the most important thing to remember is balance: an over-abundance of zinc can be almost as harmful as a zinc deficiency, so we urge you to stay away from high-dose zinc supplements unless recommended by a doctor…
As previously mentioned, the Recommended Daily Intake of zinc is 11mg for adult men and 8mg for adult women, while pregnant and breastfeeding women should take 11 and 12mg a day respectively. However, adults are urged not to consume more than 40mg per day, as exceeding the recommended amounts can result in zinc toxicity which brings a whole host of unpleasant side effects.
The symptoms of zinc toxicity can range from headaches and nausea to impaired taste and smell depending on your zinc levels. Fortunately, it’s nearly impossible to consume toxic amounts of zinc through diet alone, so if you are taking zinc supplements and notice any of the symptoms, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible.
Because zinc is such an abundant element, it’s easy to get your daily allowance through diet, though supplements are great for boosting your immune system or filling in when you can’t get enough zinc through food alone. You should always get expert advice before taking high-dose supplements, though there are plenty of products with lower concentrations that are great for minor ailments such as acne or the common cold.
To learn about other types of supplements and how to boost your health with natural sources of essential nutrients like zinc, why not read one of our other blogs?