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The Importance of Zinc for Optimal Health

Oysters, high in zinc which is a micronutrient.

Zinc is a vital trace mineral essential for maintaining optimal human health. With over 300 enzymes and hormones relying on it, zinc plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, such as skin health, bone strength, and brain function. The importance of zinc for optimal health varies in each stage of life. From childhood to pregnancy, zinc becomes even more critical during periods of rapid growth.

Today, we will delve into the daily requirements for zinc, its absorbable form, causes of deficiency, and signs of insufficiency.

Daily Requirement of Zinc

The daily requirement of zinc varies depending on age, according to the National Institute of Health. On average, babies need approximately 2 mg/day, children 3-5 mg/day, teenagers and adults 9-11 mg/day, and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers 11-13 mg/day. For specific guidance based your needs and goals, always consult with your healthcare provider.

Best Food Sources of Zinc

Zinc is readily available in various foods, and some sources are particularly efficient. Oysters top the list, containing approximately 8-9 milligrams of zinc per ounce—close to the daily requirement for adults. Other rich sources include pasture-raised beef, chicken, lamb, wild-caught fish, and crustaceans like crab and lobster.

  1. Oysters

  2. Pasture-raised beef

  3. Chicken

  4. Lamb

  5. Wild-caught fish

  6. Crustaceans

Plant-Based Options

  1. Nuts and seeds

  2. Shiitake mushrooms

  3. Spinach

  4. Asparagus

  5. Quinoa

  6. Oats

While nuts, seeds, Shiitake mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, quinoa, and oats are also good sources, plant-based foods containing phytic acid may hinder zinc absorption.

Enhancing Zinc Absorption and Addressing Deficiencies

Phytic acid, an anti-nutrient found in some plant-based sources, binds to minerals like zinc, iron, and calcium, inhibiting their absorption. Soaking and sprouting seeds, grains, legumes, and nuts before consumption can help reduce phytic acid content. Additionally, consuming animal proteins alongside phytate-rich foods enhances zinc absorption.

Unfortunately, zinc deficiencies are prevalent among populations relying heavily on grains, cereals, and processed foods. Deficiency may result in various physiological signs, affecting the skin, gastrointestinal system, central nervous system, immune system, skeletal system, and reproductive system. Symptoms may include frequent infections, hair loss, poor appetite, reduced taste or smell, skin sores, slow growth rate, night vision difficulties, and delayed wound healing.

Zinc and Your Hormones

Two crucial points to note about zinc are its interaction with birth control pills and its relationship with copper. Birth control pills can inhibit zinc absorption, making it essential for women using such contraceptives to include zinc-rich foods in their diet. Furthermore, excessive zinc intake, either through diet or supplementation, can negatively impact copper status. Therefore, it is advisable to focus on food sources rich in both zinc and copper.

Zinc is a critical mineral that should be incorporated into our daily diets for optimal health. Choosing high-quality, nutrient-dense whole foods containing a variety of macro and micronutrients is crucial for ensuring a balanced and well-absorbed zinc intake. By understanding the importance of zinc, daily requirements, and best food sources, you can optimize your health and prevent potential deficiencies.

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“Zinc.” The Nutrition Source, 20 Oct. 2020,

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Brown, Kenneth H., et al. “The Importance of Zinc in Human Nutrition and Estimation of the Global Prevalence of Zinc Deficiency.” Food and Nutrition Bulletin, vol. 22, no. 2, 2001, pp. 113–125., doi:10.1177/156482650102200201.

The World’s Healthiest Foods.



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