Zinc is a micronutrient essential to immune support and cell health, and one of the most important nutrients for optimal childhood growth and for fighting inflammation. Says the CDC: “Children need zinc to grow and develop. Zinc is a mineral that is important for immune function, wound healing, and the senses of smell and taste. Foods with zinc are especially important for babies who are fed only breast milk. Levels of zinc in breast milk are high after birth and go down over the first 6 months. After 6 months, it is important to introduce foods with zinc to meet nutritional needs.” Here’s what taking zinc does for your body—and why you should make sure you’re getting the right amount. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Zinc is a major player when it comes to immune support. “The World Health Organization reports that between 17% and 30% of the world population has a zinc deficiency, potentially affecting health outcomes,” says Dr. Heather Today, board-certified allergist, immunologist and functional medicine physician. “Zinc is a trace mineral with crucial effects on the effectiveness of the cells and cytokines of our innate and adaptive immune systems. Zinc aids in fighting viruses, protects us from free radical damage to our cells, and has been shown to shorten the duration of a cold when given as a supplement. Zinc is found at high levels in oysters, beef and crab, and in lower amounts in legumes, tofu, pumpkin seeds, cashews and other nuts and seeds.”
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The recommended daily amount for zinc is 8 mg for women and 11 mg for adult men, but research shows taking slightly more can yield impressive benefits for DNA repair and reducing oxidative stress. “We were pleasantly surprised to see that just a small increase in dietary zinc can have such a significant impact on how metabolism is carried out throughout the body,” says Janet King PhD. “These results present a new strategy for measuring the impact of zinc on health and reinforce the evidence that food-based interventions can improve micronutrient deficiencies worldwide.”
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Zinc is an incredibly effective tool to help protect against sun damage. “Zinc (oxide) is one of the two physical sun filters capable of deflecting UV rays, protecting skin from sun damage such from erythema to premature aging,” says Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN. “Zinc is by nature inert, making it a great sun filter for children, or anyone with extremely sensitive or reactive skins,” says Ee Ting Ng, hop & cotton founder and developer. “Zinc is also antibacterial, astringent, and barrier-protective.”
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Zinc plays a major role in every part of the wound healing process, from blood clotting to scar formation. “Zinc’s role in wound healing is multifactorial, and it is required for collagen and protein synthesis, cell proliferation, and immune function, all of which are essential for tissue regeneration and repair,” says Jennifer Sallit, RD, PhD. “Zinc is required for antibody production and proper functioning of lymphocytes and plays a key role in several steps of the blood clotting process. Zinc stimulates the activity of more than 100 enzymes and, in the proliferative and remodeling phases of wound healing, is necessary for achieving membrane stability and the maturation of collagen.”
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According to the National Institutes of Health, adults should not take more than 40 mg of zinc a day. Side effects of excessive zinc intake include loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, headaches, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. Make sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking zinc supplements as they might interfere with medication.
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