Why Do We Need Zinc? (8 Zinc-Rich Foods)

Why do we need zinc? What does zinc do? And how much zinc do I need? – are just some of the most asked questions between people all around the world. In the article, we are talking about zinc and all you need to know about it.

Zinc (Zn) is a trace mineral that has its place to group 12 of the periodic table. This mineral is responsible for numerous different functions in our bodies. As an essential element, zinc has great biological importance for animals and plants. This trace mineral is found in approximately 100 enzymes, and after iron, zinc is the 2nd most common transition metal in our bodies. This means that it plays a significant role in making new cells and in healthy metabolism.

Why Do We Need Zinc

Only a little intake of zinc is needed to reap the benefits. Presently, the “Recommended Dietary Allowance” (RDA) of zinc in the U.S. is 1 :

  • 11 mg per day for men, and
  • 8 mg per day for women

Zinc deficiency makes a person more susceptible to illness and disease. It has been reported that having a low level of zinc is responsible for more than 800 000 childhood deaths all over the world each year 2 .

Here are the reasons why do we need zinc:

Zinc is distributed through the brain, eyes, muscles, and kidneys, and in men, the prostate gland. It’s involved in cell division, assisting in creating new cells, and support enzymes working properly.

It’s thought to play a vital role in brain function, aiding to keep the brain alert and receptive to learning. Furthermore, it’s thought to prevent accumulation of heavy metals in the brain, helping to prevent cell degeneration, and decreasing the risk of conditions as Alzheimer’s. 3 

This crucial mineral plays an essential role in male prostate health. This is because the prostate cells need zinc in order to work properly, needing around 10 times more zinc than some other cells in the body. It’s important for the right balance of the male hormone testosterone. 4 

A large amount of this mineral is stored in the eyes, where it works along with Vitamin A to safeguard the health of the retina, assisting the eyes to sense light, and decreasing the risk of many age-related eye conditions, like macular degeneration.

Natural Sources of Zinc

A well-balanced diet should deliver you with all the zinc you need through the day. Adult women require 4 to 7 mg daily, while the average adult man needs 5.5 to 9.5mg per day, though it’s thought that up to 25 mg may be taken without any side-effects. The best way to take zinc is naturally, through food – but you can also find zinc in supplement form. Foods high in zinc include shellfish, meat, and dairy foods.

Food source Zinc content (micrograms, mcg)
Wheat Germ, 100 g Oyster, 100g 16.7
Oyster, 100 g 78.6
Cashew nuts, 100 g 5.6
Pumpkin seeds, 100g 10.3
Beef, 100 g 12.3
Mussels, 100g 2.6
Eggs, 2 1.3
Ricotta cheese, 125 ml 1.8

Source: avogel.co.uk 5 

Zinc Deficiency

The majority of zinc is deposited inside cells, which actually means that blood analysis to measure zinc levels is notoriously inaccurate. Primarily, zinc deficiency has few symptoms and it can result in reduced immune function, and reduced growth, eye and skin lesions.

However, severe zinc deficiency is rare and in general, only appears in those who have a genetic condition that prevents zinc from being successfully absorbed – but mild zinc deficiency is a common occurrence. Deficiency is usually treated through increasing the zinc intake in the diet, or with supplements under the supervision of GP.

Too much zinc

Taking too much zinc is more probable to happen by taking excess amounts of zinc supplements than it’s through diet. At the outset, high doses of zinc can cause loss of appetite, nausea, and stomach pain.

Though taking an excessive amount of zinc supplements over a longer period of time could result in chest pain, shortness of breath, and dizziness. As excess amount of zinc reduces the ability of the body to absorb iron and copper, consuming too much zinc could lead to a weakening of the bones and copper deficiency.



Zinc is an important trace mineral required by our bodies for keeping a healthy immune system, maintaining a sense of smell, triggering enzymes, building proteins, and building DNA. This mineral also helps the cells in the body communicate by working as a neurotransmitter.

A zinc deficiency can lead to impotence, stunted growth, diarrhea, skin and eye lesions, hair loss, depressed immunity, and impaired appetite. On the other hand, consuming too much zinc could lead to vomiting, nausea, headaches, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps in the short term, and can disrupt absorption of iron and copper in the long term.

If you think you have a zinc deficiency, or you think you consume too much zinc – you should visit your doctor.

Animal food is a better source of zinc than plant food. The current daily value (DV) for this mineral is approximately 15 mg. The element is naturally found in a number of different foods, but it is also available as a dietary supplement.

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