Zinc has such an important healing and development role in the body.

It metabolises nutrients, maintains your immune system, nervous system and reproductive functions, and grows and repairs body tissues. An essential mineral for human life, it’s required for the function of more than 300 enzymes. (1,2)

Zinc can help with:

  • Digestion
  • Healing colds, cold sores and infection
  • Acne, eczema, or psoriasis
  • Muscle repair
  • Memory
  • Sense of smell
  • Sexual dysfunction (impotency)
  • Hair growth
  • Brittle nails

Zinc and athletic performance

There is evidence (3) that several immune parameters are suppressed during prolonged periods of intense exercise training. When the immune system is suppressed it increases the chance of illness and injury.

So if you’re training daily, or preparing or recovering from a big race you’re body will be in need of repair and zinc will play a crucial role in helping you recover quickly and keeping you strong and healthy.

How much zinc do I need?

Your body doesn’t store zinc so it’s important that you’re getting your requirements daily and that you’re absorbing it well.

It’s recommended that men eat 11 mg of zinc per day, while women need 8 mg. However, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you’ll need 11 mg per day (2).

There are also health complications associated with taking too much zinc. The upper limit of zinc in adults in 40mg (2).

The 10 top foods high in zinc

  1. Shellfish (Oysters, crab and lobster)
  2. Meat (Red meat, chicken and pork)
  3. Legumes (Lentils, chickpeas and beans)
  4. Soy products (Tofu, tempeh and green soybeans)
  5. Seeds (Hemp, flax and pumpkin seeds)
  6. Nuts (Almonds, cashews and peanuts)
  7. Dairy (Yoghurt, cheese and milk)
  8. Eggs
  9. Whole grains (Wheat, quinoa, rice and oats)
  10. Some vegetables (Mushrooms and green beans)

Example meal plan:

Breakfast

½ cup of oatmeal with milk, flax and pumpkin seeds, and fresh berries

Lunch

Mexican bean wrap with salad and cheese

Dinner

Grilled chicken, quinoa and green vegetables

Snacks

  • Handful of almonds
  • Boiled egg
  • Protein smoothie

What if I’m vegetarian or vegan/plant-based?

Zinc is not found in abundance in plant foods. Additionally, phytates (which are found in grains, legumes, seeds and nuts) can reduce our body’s ability to absorb minerals such as zinc. If you’re not eating animal products, you may want to consider taking a zinc supplement to ensure you’re not deficient. Learn more about Zinc and plant-based eating.

How do I know if I’m zinc deficient?

Zinc is distributed in trace amounts among the cells in your body, making it difficult to detect zinc deficiency through a simple blood test. But a doctor may be able to administer other diagnostic tests.

Look for signs such as poor/slow wound healing, diarrhoea, brittle hair and nails, lack of mental alertness.

Do you want to learn more about nutrition and refuelling a healthy body?

Download my FREE ebook ‘Refuel’. It has a 7-day meal plan and recipes to help feed your tired and hungry body.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11115789
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinc#Biological_role
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11050533