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Zinc is a trace mineral (meaning its concentration is low) that’s essential for the proper functioning of several important body systems and processes. Zinc aids in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, metabolism, digestion, growth during pregnancy and more. It is also required in over 300 enzymatic reactions, and it is necessary for the body to properly taste and smell. (Read more about the benefits of zinc.)
As an essential nutrient, zinc cannot be produced or stored by the body. It must be obtained through food or supplements.
Infants up to six months of age need 2 mg of zinc daily, which they obtain from breastmilk or infant formula. The RDA (recommended daily amount) increases with age, as children aged 9-13 require 8 mg daily and teenagers between 9-11 mg. Adult men and women need 11 and 8 mg per day respectively. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need 11-13 mg.
Zinc is found in many foods. Beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains are some plant-based foods high in zinc. These also include pantry staples like oats, quinoa, green peas, chickpeas, cashews, pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds. Animal sources include oysters, red meat, roast beef, crab meat and chicken. Dairy products, like yogurt and kefir, and fortified cereals also provide zinc.
Should you take a zinc supplement? If you have a hard time obtaining zinc from your diet, your doctor may recommend supplementation to prevent zinc deficiency. It is important to know that zinc is a mineral often included in multivitamins, so if you take one daily, you may already be getting enough.
Zinc is also available in stand-alone supplements. You can shop many different zinc vitamin forms, from zinc tablets and capsules to zinc lozenges and gummies.
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There are many types of zinc found in supplements. Zinc gluconate is the most common form found in over-the-counter products. Zinc citrate is made with citric acid. Nasal sprays and cold lozenges often feature a form called zinc acetate. You’ll find zinc oxide in sunscreens and other skin care products. Zinc sulfate is sometimes used in eye drops.
It’s important to note that a high intake of zinc may hinder the absorption of copper. Similarly, iron supplements may hinder the absorption of zinc.
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