Zinc Sources and Functions

Zinc sources

Zinc Sources and Functions

All of the nutrient minerals work together to keep you healthy and feeling good. Here is a summary of the role of zinc, a trace mineral, in your good health.

What it does Growth and development; neurological, reproductive and immune function
Daily needs [Infants: 2-3 mg][Children: 3-11 mg] [Men: 11 mg] [Women: 8 mg] [Pregnancy: 11-12 mg][Lactation: 12-13 mg]
Not enough Loss of appetite; hair loss; skin and eye problems; susceptibility to illness Severe: Dwarfism
Too Much May cause deficiency of copper and iron; lowered immunity; poor appetite; nausea; vomiting
Foods Protein foods, fortified foods

*The lower value is for infants up to 6 mos., higher value is for infants up to a year old.
† The first value is for children 1-3 with the amount increasing until age 18.

So many functions

Zinc is part of so many functions in the body that it is difficult to name them all, and those are just the ones we know about. Although it is a trace element, meaning you don’t need a large amount, zinc is involved in major processes throughout your body, including, but not limited to, the following:

(1) Production of hemoglobin that carries oxygen to your body.

(2) Part of DNA and RNA, the genetic material that makes you what you are.

(3) Antioxidant function that helps rid you of free radicals

(4) Liver functions, including the release of Vitamin A and metabolism of alcohol

(5) Part of the structure of your cell membranes

(6) Reproductive health, including sperm production and fetal health

(7) Healing and immune function is responsible for the recent interest in this mineral.

(8) Learning ability and performance in school

(9) How your food tastes

(10) Insulin production

(11) Blood clotting

(12) Nervous system function

Interesting Fact for Zinc Sources and Functions: There are almost 100 enzymes of every type in your body that have zinc as part of their structure.

Protein-Zinc connection

Foods high in protein are the best sources of zinc. These include the following:

Meat… Seafood… Yogurt… Cheese… Eggs… Sunflower seeds… Pinto beans… Cashews… Almonds… Peanut butter… Garbanzo beans… Whole grains…

Some foods, such as cereals, are fortified with zinc, but this form is less available for absorption due to the presence of binders that keep some of the zinc from being absorbed.

Fun Fact for Zinc Sources and Functions: The yeast in bread actually aids zinc absorption, so that more zinc is available from the grains in yeast breads than from unleavened breads made with the same grains.


As with most nutrient minerals, zinc deficiency is not common in developed countries and is generally associated with poverty and inadequate nutrition or with a genetic disorder that affects zinc absorption.

Children are particularly vulnerable to deficiency, since their rapid growth and development requires a steady supply of zinc.

Older adults and strict vegetarians are also susceptible to zinc deficiency.

Severe zinc deprivation can lead to a disorder known as dwarfism, where the individual fails to reach normal height and physical maturation.

Fun Fact for Zinc Sources and Functions: Your body has the amazing ability to reuse the zinc that it gets from the foods you eat. This happens when some of the zinc you eat goes to the pancreas where it becomes part of digestive enzymes that are released into your stomach during digestion. The zinc is then reabsorbed and makes a full circle back to the pancreas, where it can start the cycle all over again.


Zinc can be toxic in high doses,so be aware of the dosage if you take a supplement. Prolonged zinc toxicity can lead to copper and iron deficiency and to heart problems.

Interesting Fact for Zinc Sources and Functions: There is some evidence that taking zinc will prevent or lessen the severity of the common cold and other viral infections. Dissolving a 15 mg lozenge in your mouth twice a day may help fight the virus and lessen the misery.

Interaction with Medications

Zinc supplements can interact with medication and certain medications can affect zinc absorption. Consult with your doctor and pharmacist if you take medications to find out the possible interactions and nutritional concerns.

Upper Level for Zinc Sources and Functions

The upper intake level for adults for zinc that has been established is 40 mg per day.

Click here to go from Healthy-Eating-Minerals-16 page to Minerals page.