Monday, December 5, 2022

Here’s why you need zinc

Honestly, I had never heard of the hype around taking Zinc supplements right until the pandemic COVID-19. Almost every doctor prescribed a daily dose of tablet Zincovet (zinc) and Celin (vitamin C). Though there is not enough research or evidence to suggest that zinc can prevent coronavirus, zinc does play a very important role in overall health and function.

Humans are definitely more focused on taking vitamin supplements than mineral supplements but it is important to know that minerals are equally important for the body.


So here’s the byword on Zinc.


Did you know — Zinc is a chemical element with the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. Zinc is a slightly brittle metal at room temperature and has a silvery-greyish appearance when oxidation is removed.


Did you know — Nearly a hundred different enzymes in the body depend on zinc. It’s a mineral involved in skin repair and in making DNA, the cells’ blueprint for replication.


Did you know — Zinc supports normal growth and development during gestation, in childhood, and in adolescence.


Did you know — Zinc provides structure by helping to support proteins, such as those found in muscle tissue, and cell membranes.


Did you know — Zinc aids our sense of taste and smell? 

Did you know Zinc is also involved in supporting eye health?

Did you know — Zinc helps heal wounds timely and efficiently?


Did you know— your body naturally produces vitamins (vitamin D and vitamin K) and minerals (calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, iron) to name a few, but the body does not naturally produce the mineral Zinc so you need to outsource it?


Did you know— Zinc activates the enzymes that break down proteins in viruses and bacteria; a deficiency makes us susceptible to infection and associated symptoms.


How are you getting your daily dose of Zinc?

The National Institute of Health puts a daily guideline for zinc supplements as 11mg a day for men and 8mg a day for women for the age group 19-64 years. Though the average norm is 10mg.

Taking too much or too little can be tricky and it is even more confusing to know how much our bodies are really absorbing. Taking zinc in excess can cause a build up in our system resulting in serious side effects.

Most of us get sufficient amounts of zinc in our diet from the food we eat.

It is important to know that in the wide range of foods containing zinc and our portions should be adjusted according to the amounts of zinc present in that particular food. Getting enough of zinc for your body either through food or supplements is important for the many roles it plays in numerous biochemical pathways.

Below is a guide of foods with the levels of zinc they contain, moderate to high. Once you are aware, portion control should play out.


MEAT — There is a huge tug of war that surrounds the consumption of red meat. It definitely is a good source of protein and iron and most importantly a source of zinc that is absorbed readily by the body.

Statically, extra-lean meat provides 59% of RNI (reference nutrient intake) for an adult male and 80% of RNI for an adult woman.

Simply put for every 100gms of grilled lamb chops or lean steak you eat, your body will absorb approximately 3.6mg of zinc.

NOTE: health experts recommend that on an average, 70gms of processed meat per day is more than enough for heart health and cancer risk.


FISH – SHELLFISH — Oily fish such as Tuna, Mackerel, Salmon, Sardines and shellfish such as crab and prawn are good sources of well-absorbed Zinc. 140gms of oily fish provide approximately 46% RNI for adults.

NOTE: make sure fish is well cleaned and well cooked to avoid food poisoning.


MILK-CHEESE — A pint of milk provides 2.3mg of zinc and of cheeses Cheddar rules. Besides being good sources of protein, calcium and iodine, they are a good supplement of natural zinc for vegetarians who are lactose tolerant.


PLANT BASED OPTIONS —For vegetarians and vegans, plant based options are always available. Nuts, seeds, legumes are sources of protein, unsaturated fats and zinc. In the nut family we have roasted cashew nuts (6.5 RNI/100gms) and pine nuts (5.5RNI/100gms), which are high in zinc. Sesame seeds add flavor, crunch and zinc to your food; have them as a dip (Tahini) with carrot, cucumber, celery sticks or a crunchy sprinkle on your salad. All these make a good zinc-boosting snack. Legumes such as peas, beans and lentils contain zinc in small quantities, furthermore they contain phytate’s which reduce the overall amount of zinc absorbed by the body(10RNI/200gms). Go ahead and indulge in peanut butter, hummus, and tofu.

NOTE: watch out for hidden sugars and soaking dried beans overnight before cooking them deactivates the phytate, making zinc absorption higher.


Zinc deficiency occurs when there is reduced dietary intake, increased loss of zinc, inadequate absorption, or increased utilization making the body unable to meet its functional needs.


Some signs and symptoms of Zinc deficiency include —

 Acne — is a skin condition where the hair follicles may be clogged with oil and dead skin cells, resulting in pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, oily skin, and possible scarring. Acne usually affects those areas of the body that have a high number of oil glands such as the chest, back, and face. Some experts have proposed that topical and oral zinc preparations are effective treatments. Zinc deficiency may manifest as acne.

Eczema — also known as dermatitis, is a conditions characterized by skin inflammation. The skin is often red, itchy, and has a visible rash. Eczema can cover an area ranging from a small portion to the entire body. Treatment with antibiotics, antihistamines, moisturizers, and possibly, steroid creams. Zinc deficiency may manifest as eczema.

Xerosis — or Xeroderma, is a term that refers to dry skin, cracked itchy skin or even peeling of the skin. Xeroderma is most commonly seen on the arms, lower legs, scalp, knuckles, hands, abdominal sides, and thighs. Most cases of Xerosis can be easily managed with moisturizers or emollients. Zinc deficiency may manifest as Xerosis.

Alopecia — or hair loss can range from a small area to the entire body. Alopecia can often be seen in individuals with psychological distress, causes include hormonal imbalances, autoimmune disorders, stressful events (psychologically and/or physically), chemotherapy, and Zinc deficiency may manifest as Alopecia.

Oral or mouth ulcers — is a condition where there is an ulcer on the mucous membrane of the oral cavity. Mouth ulcers can cause pain and discomfort and can negatively impact the individual’s quality of life as patients will tend to avoid spicy and acidic foods. Zinc deficiency may manifest as mouth ulcers.

Stomatitis — refers to inflammation of the lips and mouth. Common causes of stomatitis include allergy, nutritional deficiencies (iron, zinc, vitamins B2, B3, B6, B9 and B12), infections, or radiotherapy. Zinc deficiency may manifest as Stomatitis.

Night blindness — is a condition where individuals experience difficulty seeing in dim light. It can be a symptom of malnutrition, injury, and zinc deficiency may manifest as night blindness.

Impaired immune system —This can lead to gastrointestinal, respiratory, and other infections, such as pneumonia, because the levels of cytokines in the body are affected by zinc deficiency.

Diarrhoea — refers to the condition where there are at least three or more loose bowel movements per day, it can last several days and results in dehydration. Diarrhoea is most commonly seen among those with infection in the intestines caused by pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, or parasites. Patients with zinc deficiency have an increased incidence and severity of diarrhoea.

Abnormal cognitive functions — that can be associated with behavioral abnormalities, include lethargy, depression, irritability, anhedonia, Zinc supplementation has also been observed to help improve depression and symptoms of attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

Zinc deficiency has been estimated to affect as many as two billion individuals globally. Zinc plays a vital role for the proper functioning of the skin, brain, central nervous system, immune system, gastrointestinal tract, musculoskeletal system and the reproductive system.

Dwell deep on your diet and get your Zinc on track.  


Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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