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The Power of Zinc in Your Diet

Deanna Lynn Sletten

Zinc is vital for every part of your body and is necessary for a wide variety of functions. The mineral zinc is important for cell growth, a healthy immune system, normal growth development in children and resistance to infection, as well as many other benefits for the body. But men, women and children differ in their needs for zinc and taking too much zinc can have diverse effects on your body. Understanding the power of zinc in your diet can help you work toward a healthier body.

Benefits of Zinc

Zinc is essential for the growth of healthy cells which in turn can help the immune system stay strong. White cells, which are important for fighting off infections, are known to increase when the body has a healthy amount of zinc added to the diet. This helps you get sick less and heal faster when wounded. Zinc is necessary for the proper growth of hair, nails and skin along with the growth of muscle. Zinc is also important for liver function, insulin activity, maintaining the sexual functions for both men and women and in controlling the oil glands. Zinc also works along with important enzymes in the body for the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids.

It is important for pregnant women to absorb the proper amount of zinc for the healthy development of the fetus and for young children to have zinc for proper growth and sexual development. Men need one-third more zinc in their diet than women do because their semen contains 100 times more zinc than blood so it is necessary for an active, healthy sex life.

Research has found that increasing zinc in the diet has helped with treatment for acne, ulcers, sickle cell anemia, HIV, high cholesterol, herpes, ADHD and rheumatoid arthritis. Many people also find that by taking zinc at the onset of a cold it can decrease the length of the cold by up to fifty percent. While all of these findings have been studied they are yet inconclusive.

Zinc Deficiency

Lack of zinc in the diet over time can result in hair loss, appetite loss, eye and skin lesions, slow growth, fatigue, diarrhea, allergies, low immune system, delayed healing and impotence. Women who are breastfeeding should increase their zinc intake, as directed by their doctor, because it depletes faster in their system due to lactation. Babies over the age of 7 months who are still breastfeeding should eat foods that contain zinc because human milk does not contain enough zinc for their growing needs. Also, vegetarians should increase their intake of zinc because their diet lacks the foods, such as meat and dairy products, that contain adequate amounts of zinc.

Diarrhea causes loss of zinc in the body. People with digestive disorders, such as consistent diarrhea, Crohn's disease, sprue, or have had recent gastrointestinal surgery may need added zinc in their diet. Check with your doctor before taking zinc supplements.

Sources of Zinc

Zinc can be found in many food sources as well as in supplement form. Some foods that contain zinc are oysters, red meat, poultry, whole grain foods, beans, cashews and pecans, flounder, sole, fortified cereals, milk and yogurt. Oysters have the highest amount of zinc at 6 mg each and red meat runs second at 7.4 mg per every 3 ounces. Unfortunately, up to 80% of zinc can be lost in the cooking process of meats, whole wheat breads, beans, etc., so you may find you need a supplement to get the complete amount of zinc necessary.

If you take a zinc supplement it is important not to go over the recommended allowance unless otherwise instructed by your doctor. The average amount for women is 8 mg per day while men should have 14 mg per day. Taking too much zinc may be counterproductive and potentially have side effects. Zinc is a powerful mineral full of many health benefits. By eating a varied diet that includes zinc your body can benefit from all that zinc has to offer.

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Also see Ionophores - Boost Your Immunity with Zinc and Quercetin