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The Importance of Zinc

Ever thought about zinc, and wondered what it does for us?

Zinc is an essential mineral found in many of the cells in our bodies. It is the second most abundant trace mineral in the body, after iron.

The body can’t make or store zinc, so we have to consume foods that contain zinc in order to ensure our bodies have enough to work with.

Zinc plays an important role in the immune system, as well as the structure and function of the skin, mucous membranes in the gut, wound healing and our sense of taste and smell.

Zinc is involved in the metabolism of protein, fat, carbohydrates and energy, which means that without enough zinc in our bodies, we are likely to feel fatigued, experience poor digestion, low immunity, and taste/smell changes.  

It is recommended that men should consume 11mg of zinc per day and women should consume 8mg.

Animal/dairy products contain the highest amounts of zinc, so people following plant-based diets can sometimes be at risk of deficiency.

The good news is that zinc is found in a range of animal AND plant-based foods, so simply including some of these sources into your regular diet should give your body the zinc it needs to keep you healthy!

The best sources of Zinc include:

  • Oysters
  • Read meat
  • Sundried tomatoes
  • Cheese (particularity Parmesan)
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Nuts (particularly cashews)
  • Tahini
  • Eggs
  • Vegemite
  • Fortified cereals

If you’re worried that you may not be getting enough zinc in your diet, keep an eye out for the following symptoms of mild zinc deficiency:

  • Diarrhea is the most common symptom of mild zinc deficiency, due to its role in maintaining the gut lining and regulating the bowels
  • Frequently getting sick and general low immunity
  • Dry skin or thinning hair
  • Taste changes
  • Poor wound healing

A simple blood test from your GP can determine if your zinc is low, and addressing the cause of the deficiency is generally as simple as boosting dietary sources or supplementation.

Written By Esther Rijk, Dietitian
Do you want to know more? Contact Esther at