When it comes to commanding the metabolic processes responsible for the growth and maintenance of everyday bodily functions, zinc would probably be a general in the ranks of your personal health army. Without zinc, the formation of protein would falter, leading to inefficient wound healing and blood formation. Zinc assists your immune system, and plays a role in the storage and release of insulin. It also aids in the overall function and progress of all tissues.
What is Zinc?
Zinc is an essential mineral that is present in almost every cell in the human body. Since it is a part of so many enzymes, it is much needed to complete numerous metabolic processes . Without zinc, your sense of taste and smell would be compromised. DNA synthesis also relies on zinc. Most importantly, zinc is needed to ensure the normal growth and development patterns of children, adolescents, and pregnancy .
There are two ways to increase the amount of zinc in your body. The first is to consume foods that possess a high level of the mineral. The second and most easy approach is to add a dietary supplement to your daily regimen. Most often, the best results are received when an individual chooses to focus on their diet, as well as incorporate a daily dietary supplement.
In regards to eating, preparing, and cooking foods with high amounts of zinc, you should seek out protein-rich selections, such as lean meats. Beef, shellfish, and other red meats will also satisfy this requirement. When looking for foods that offer the highest zinc content, oysters contain the most zinc per serving than any other food . Additional items to keep in mind when increasing the amount of zinc in your diet include dry beans, nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, whole grains, and breakfast cereals like Wheaties.
When cooking foods, you should also keep in mind that zinc is easily lost through a variety of preparation methods. Two ways to retain zinc in food is to cook meals in the lowest amount of water possible, as well as within the shortest possible timeframe.
How Much Do I Need?
When looking to satisfy the needs of your body, in terms of getting the necessary minerals and vitamins, no one food item or group will supply you with the wide-range of nutrients you require. According to the recommended daily allowances (RDA) set by nutritionists and the government, choosing a dietary supplement should be based upon the amount of nutrients you receive from your daily food intake.
Reading the nutritional information supplied on packaging will alert you to the amounts of zinc you receive from each food item. Below you will find recommendations regarding daily zinc intakes:
a) Infants (0-6 months): 2 mg
b) Children (7months-3 years): 3 mg
c) Children (4-8 years): 5 mg
d) Children (9-13 years): 8 mg
e) Teenagers (14-18 years): Males: 11 mg; Females: 9 mg
f) Adults (19+): Males: 11 mg; Females: (8 mg; Pregnant: 11 mg; Lactating: 12 mg)
Why Take Zinc Dietary Supplements?
When individuals are not getting enough zinc through the foods they eat, taking a zinc supplement is needed. Continuing to deny your body of the necessary daily amount of zinc will lead to a variety of short-term and long-term problems. Sometimes, you might be consuming enough zinc, but something within your body is preventing proper absorption of the mineral. All of these instances can lead to a zinc deficiency that must be corrected to allow metabolic processes in the body to properly function.
Signs of Zinc Deficiency
Hair loss; diarrhea; a stunting of growth; impotence; eye and skin sores, and appetite loss are all signs of zinc deficiency . In adolescents, delayed sexual maturation may also occur. For some, weight loss, a delayed healing of wounds, slow thinking patterns, and disrupted sense of taste might be experienced. Although these are all signs of zinc deficiency, they are also tied to other medical conditions. This means the only way to make sure you are suffering from a lack of zinc is to pay a visit to your doctor.
There are also medical factors and behavior patterns that contribute to a zinc deficiency. They include:
a) Inadequate Caloric Intake:
When an individual is not consuming enough calorie-, protein-, or zinc-rich foods, a deficiency may occur. Anorexia, bulimia, or engaging in radical diets may also contribute to decreased absorption of the mineral.
Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol will drain your body and prevent proper absorption of much-needed minerals and vitamins, including zinc. Increased loss of zinc is also seen through excessive urination, which often comes with excessive drinking. Also, often alcoholics do not consume the proper foods needed to receive an acceptable amount of zinc in their diet.
c) Digestive Problems:
When a problem in the digestive system occurs, proper digestion cannot take place to extract and administer adequate amounts of minerals and vitamins throughout the body. Diarrhea is a main culprit regarding loss of zinc. Additional digestive issues that increase the chances of zinc deficiency include Crohn’s disease, short bowel syndrome, and gastrointestinal surgery. Zinc supplements are often the best course of action for this type of deficiency.
When following vegetarian eating habits, an individual will need as much as 50% more zinc than non-vegetarians. This is because protein-rich meats are not included in a vegetarian diet. A dietary supplement is needed to compensate for this deficit.
e) Pregnancy and Breastfeeding:
New mothers should take zinc supplements to restore excessively depleted zinc levels due to breastfeeding. During lactation, there is a higher demand of zinc; therefore it is important to incorporate additional sources of zinc in a daily diet. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should know that a zinc deficiency in their fetuses and babies will stunt normal growth processes and functions. Brain development may also become stunted while in utero, as well as during their first years . Sometimes, zinc supplements added to formula may help babies with a zinc deficiency.