Nutrient to Know: Zinc

You may have heard of this trace mineral but do you know how important it is to your health? Get the facts about zinc.

You may have heard of this trace mineral but do you know how important it is to your health? Get the facts about zinc.

What is it?

Zinc is plentiful in foods like oysters, beef, pork and chicken, but it can also be found in nuts, yogurt and beans.

Zinc supplements are often taken to boost immunity and fight symptoms of the common cold. While there’s a small amount of research to support that zinc lozenges might decrease the duration of a cold, their effectiveness is not well established.

Why is it good for you?

The body relies on zinc to assist with energy production, growth and immunity so just about every cell in your body requires some. Not getting enough of this mineral can lead to depressed immune function, decreased appetite and poor growth. Weight loss, hair loss and altered sense of taste are some of the symptoms associated with severe deficiencies. On the flip side, getting too much can be harmful too, leading to nausea and vomiting, headaches and a decrease in “good” HDL cholesterol.

Where can you find it?

The daily recommendation for healthy adults is 15 milligrams of zinc. Get your daily dose from these foods:

6 oysters = 77 milligrams = 513%
3 ounces crab meat (cooked) = 43 milligrams = 287%
¾ cup fortified breakfast cereal = 3.8 milligrams* = 25%
3 ounces pork tenderloin (cooked) = 2.5 milligrams = 17%
1 cup low fat yogurt = 1.6 milligrams = 11%
1 ounce almonds = 1.0 milligram = 7%
*Fortification amounts in cereal may vary – check labels

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Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »

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