Zinc is a nutrient found in your body that properly helps both the function of your immune system and metabolism function. In fact, there are many benefits to taking zinc. For example, it is an essential aid in wound healing and impacts your sense of smell and taste.
What Is Zinc?
Zinc is found in many foods, and with a heart-healthy diet, your body usually gets enough of it. Some people, however, take zinc capsules if experiencing a deficiency. Zinc is found in many foods but can be taken as a medicinal tablet form or topical ointment.
Generally, we recommend injecting 8-11 mg of zinc a day. Zinc is an incredible mineral that is required for the functions of over 300 enzymes, helping the function of many important processes of your body.
Zinc helps metabolize nutrients while also maintaining your immune system and repairing your body tissues. But, because your body doesn’t store zinc, you need to consume enough every day to make sure you’re meeting daily dosage requirements. In addition, certain factors may cause you to need an increased dosage, especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Younger children and women who are breastfeeding or pregnant may be more at risk for having a zinc deficiency. But most of the time, eating a well-balanced, zinc-filled, heart-healthy diet will give you the proper amount of nutrients your body needs.
Zinc is vital for everyone and has multiple benefits to our bodies, but what are its effects on children?
Is Zinc Good For Kids?
Zinc is absolutely vital for the growth and development of your organs and brain. It helps the immune system not only function properly but become stronger. A deficiency in zinc is associated with stunted growth, increased colds, sickness, infection, memory problems, learning impairment, and shorter attention spans.
Zinc has positive effects on children. In fact, small amounts are even found in breastmilk. In addition, zinc can support growth in kids who suffer from decreased growth or underweight.
For some, taking zinc tablets on an empty stomach may cause nausea or dizziness. A well-balanced, heart-healthy diet is the best way to get zinc.
Foods Rich in Zinc
In this case, remember to take them at mealtimes in conjunction with your food. As with anything, be transparent with your doctor about what amount of zinc you consume and how it affects you.
Foods high In zinc include:
- Meat. Meat, and specifically red meat, is a great source of zinc. Zinc can also be found in other meats such as beef, lamb, and pork.
- Shellfish. Shellfish are a healthy, low-calorie option for getting more zinc, oysters particularly, as they contain high amounts of zinc.
- Legumes. Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and beans, all contain high amounts of zinc. These legumes also contain phytates, inhibiting the process of zinc absorption.
- Seeds. Seeds are a great way to get extra zinc, but not all seeds have equal zinc amounts. Hemp, flax, pumpkin, or squash are the best seeds to help add zinc to your diet.
- Nuts. Peanuts, cashews, and almonds may all boost your levels of zinc.
- Dairy. Dairy such as cheese and milk contain bioavailable zinc, meaning that zinc in dairy products such as milk and cheese are more easily absorbed by your body.
- Eggs. Eggs contain trace amounts of zinc and are an easy way to incorporate more zinc into your diet.
- Whole Grains. Wheat, quinoa, rice, and oats all contain zinc, but similarly to legumes, they also contain phytate which inhibits zinc absorption.
- Vegetables. Potatoes, green beans, and kale contain moderate zinc levels, but in general, fruits and vegetables don’t contain much zinc.
- Dark Chocolate. Probably the most exciting thing on this list is dark chocolate, which contains zinc. However, to really get enough zinc to make a difference from this food would take about 600 calories’ worth, so, it’s best to consume in moderation many zinc-containing foods.
Recommended Zinc Dosages
For maximum absorption, zinc supplements are most effective when taken at least a few hours before or after meals. It’s important to know that these supplements may cause an upset stomach and nausea.
Zinc can be applied topically, in a form called zinc oxide. A zinc topical made with cream, ointment, or paste is applied to the skin and soothes diaper rash and sunburns. Oral zinc supplements might benefit those with low levels of zinc if you are not getting enough zinc in your natural diet.
Zinc is good for everyone, but the correct dosages vary. When trying to increase your zinc intake, I recommend looking for all the zinc percentages on the food and supplement packaging to ensure you are staying within the recommended dosage amount.
Zinc dosages are different in different age ranges and patients, so make sure you listen to your doctor's instructions and carefully read the label. The amount of zinc you take is determined by a few things. The strength of the medicine, the number of doses you take each day, and the amount of time between doses.
Oral dosages consist of capsules, lozenges, tablets, and extended-release tablets.
Here are the recommended dosages in the US for zinc:
- Adult and teenage males—15 milligrams (mg) per day.
- Adult and teenage females—12 mg per day.
- Pregnant females—15 mg per day
- Breast-feeding females—16 to 19 mg per day.
- Children 4 to 10 years of age—10 mg per day.
- Children birth to three years of age—5 to 10 mg per day
Side Effects of Zinc
- Zinc deficiency. Those who have lower levels of zinc appear to benefit most from zinc supplements, but this kind of deficiency isn't common in the U.S.
- Sickness. New studies suggest that if zinc lozenges or syrup is taken within 24 hours, your cold symptoms will lessen. In addition, the zinc supplement can help shorten the length of colds.
- Wound healing. Those with skin ulcers may be soothed by zinc supplements.
- Diarrhea and Nausea. Zinc supplements can reduce symptoms of diarrhea in children with low zinc levels. This is not typically a problem with children who are receiving adequate levels of zinc within their natural diet.
- Age-related macular degeneration. Zinc could slow down the progression of the eye disease known as macular degeneration, this is not a common eye disease in children and generally occurs as you get older.
If you take zinc when you’re sick, or feel early signs of an early cold, it can help shorten the length of the cold. Zinc does have some downsides that you should be aware of.
These side effects don’t happen in everyone, but taking an oral zinc supplement may cause a few adverse reactions in some people, such as:
- Copper deficiency (if Zinc is used long term, it could cause a copper deficiency, but this is unlikely. Those with low copper levels could experience neurological issues like numbness and weakness in the arms and legs)
How Much Zinc Should You Take?
40 mg of zinc a day is the highest amount of zinc that adults should take per day, while I recommend no more than 4 mg of zinc a day for infants. It’s also important to note what reactions mixing zinc with other types of medication might cause.
- Antibiotics. Taking oral zinc in conjunction with antibiotics such as quinolone or tetracycline can interfere with the body's ability to fight bacteria. Alternating the times that you take zinc and antibiotics will help minimize the potential negative effects.
- Penicillamine. Using oral zinc with the rheumatoid arthritis drug penicillamine (Cuprimine, Depen) can reduce the drug's ability to ease arthritis symptoms. Taking zinc at least two hours before or after taking the drug might minimize this effect.
- Thiazide diuretics. Blood pressure drugs, or thiazide diuretics, increase the amount of zinc lost in the urine.
Zinc has countless benefits to your overall health, no matter what age you are. However, the amount that can benefit your changes depending on how old you are. Zinc can help strengthen your immune system and fight colds, as well as increasing growth in children.