Taken in minimal quantities, it guarantees the well-being of the whole organism: we are talking about zinc. What is it used for, and in which foods is it found? Although the body needs very little to function well, zinc is one of the most important mineral salts for our well-being, which cannot be missing from the elements to be taken with food. Its daily requirement in men and women is minimal, just 15 milligrams in the former and 8-12 milligrams in the latter. Yet, guaranteeing these values is essential for the correct functioning of numerous hormones and vital processes.
Zinc is a trace element involved in numerous organic processes, from growth to sexual functions. It is present in many foods. Therefore, it is difficult to develop a deficiency of this mineral, especially considering that the daily amount required by the body is minimal. Still, it’s good to know that of all the zinc in food, only 20% is absorbed by human organs, mainly muscles, bones, skin and hair. So let’s see what zinc is specifically used for, its properties, what causes a possible zinc deficiency and which foods to consume to satisfy the daily requirement.
What Is Zinc Used For? Properties And Benefits For The Body
Given its innumerable properties, zinc contributes to the well-being of the body not only when taken orally with food and supplements but also used as an ingredient in pharmaceutical preparations for topical use. Zinc has anti-inflammatory, antidepressant and antioxidant properties. It is, therefore, useful in the fight against free radicals and indicated in treating flu states. It also improves cognitive functions and regulates mood.
Mainly, however, zinc is essential for the metabolism of nutrients and for the proper functioning of hormones, especially those of the thyroid, developmental and sexual ones. This mineral is, in fact, very important for the correct development of the fetus during pregnancy and subsequent growth, as it is also involved in the health of the skin, nails and teeth. Zinc is also responsible for the proper functioning of our immune system, the defense of cells from oxidative stress and the maintenance of good eyesight.
Finally, it is good to know that this element is involved in the processes that allow reproduction and, in general, in fertility since it is revealed to influence ovulation in women and keeps testosterone levels constant in men. It is no coincidence that any zinc deficiencies can affect sperm production, particularly the number of sperm produced, leading to infertility. Therefore, considering the properties and benefits this mineral produces in the body, it is advisable to ensure that the required quantities are taken through the diet. By its nature, zinc is present in many foods that should be part of a healthy and complete diet. So let’s find out which foods are richest in zinc.
Foods Rich In Zinc
Meat, eggs and fish are undoubtedly the richest in zinc, as are most foods of animal origin, including milk. Among vegetable foods, on the other hand, the mineral is contained in greater quantities in cereals, in particular in wheat, legumes, dried fruit and oilseeds (above all, sunflower and pumpkin seeds ). Compared to animal products, the amount of zinc in foods of plant origin is more limited because its availability depends on the concentration of the mineral in the soil and because some of these contain phytates and fibers (particularly cereals, vegetables and fruit ), which limit absorption.
Consequently, it is advisable to combine the consumption of these foods with fermented foods to increase the bioavailability of zinc. With a correct and balanced diet, it is relatively easy to reach the zinc requirement required by the body. Consequently, any excesses or deficiencies are generally due to malfunctioning of the mechanisms responsible for its absorption. Let’s see the symptoms of zinc deficiency or excess and what these conditions entail.
Zinc Deficiency Or Excess
People with diabetes, alcoholism, or kidney and liver disorders are likely to develop a zinc deficiency. However, this condition can also occur in healthy subjects who frequently use diuretics. One of the first symptoms of zinc deficiency, which can be perceived as a warning sign, is loss of appetite followed by tiredness and irritability, loss of taste and smell, weakness of nails and hair, and development of skin rashes.
When a pregnant woman manifests this condition, the consequences can affect the unborn child’s development, slowing down its growth and causing dwarfism. Furthermore, when the deficiency is very strong, it can lead to severe hypogonadism or a malfunction of the ovaries and testicles, which results in infertility. On the contrary, the effects that an excess of zinc can cause in the body, usually caused by abusing supplements, should not be underestimated either.
Taking zinc in large quantities, far exceeding those recommended, can lead to symptoms such as nausea, anemia, fatigue and dizziness. In the long run, it could affect the correct metabolism of iron and copper, damaging red and white blood cells and leading to consequences. Not only, therefore, a weakening of the immune system, but also a reduction in good cholesterol. An effect that would directly affect the functioning of the heart and pancreas.