Zinc is a mineral that is important for our immune systems, and it also helps infants, children and adolescents grow and develop. But the most exciting and most arguably important role of zinc – it helps the function of taste!
Where can you find zinc? It’s found in the foods we eat and it can be sold as a supplement. Sometimes, it can be found in skincare products like sunscreen in the form of zinc oxide.
Zinc is good for you – but can you have too much of it? We go over the best ways to get the right amount of zinc for your body.
What are some sources of zinc?
Clara Di Vincenzo, RD, LD, a registered dietitian for the Digestive Health Institute at UT Health Austin, says zinc is associated with improved immunity, and can be found in these foods:
- Fortified cereals
- Pumpkin seeds
- Shrimp, turkey and pork
- Kidney beans
In general, Di Vincenzo cautions against the use of supplements. “Food is our primary source of fuel,” she emphasizes. “More often than not we can find the nutrients we need in foods themselves rather than supplementation,” she adds.
How much zinc do we need per day?
According to the NIH, adult females need about 8 mg of zinc per day and adult males need about 11 mg of zinc per day. The numbers are different for infants, children and adolescents:
- Birth to 6 months need about 2 mg
- Infants 7–12 months need about 3 mg
- Children 1–3 years need about 3 mg
- Children 4–8 years need about 5 mg
- Children 9–13 years need about 8 mg
- Teen males 14–18 years need about 11 mg
- Teen females 14–18 years need about 9 mg
For reference, a fortified breakfast cereal generally has about 2.8 mg of zinc, while pumpkin seeds have about 2.2. Several good sources of zinc are required to get to the goal zinc range.
How much zinc is too much?
It is possible to consume a toxic amount of zinc. We can generally tolerate high amounts of zinc consumed either through diet or supplements. However, about 40 mg should be the cutoff for adults.
According to GoodRx, the maximum amount of zinc one can consume depends on age and gender:
- Birth to 6 months old, the maximum is 4 mg
- For infants 7 to 12 months old, the maximum is 5 mg
- For children 1 to 3 years old, the maximum is 7 mg
- For children 4 to 8 years old, the maximum is 12 mg
- For children 9 to 13 years old, the maximum is 23 mg
- For teens 14 to 18 years old, the maximum is 34 mg
- For adults 19 years and older, the maximum is 40 mg
Some symptoms of zinc toxicity include:
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
The best way to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need within a healthy range is to eat a well-balanced diet, and if you’re considering a supplement, you should talk to your doctor.
The next time you’re chowing down on one of your favorites – you can thank zinc for helping you taste all the goodness!
Read more about vitamins, minerals and supplements here:
More on vitamins:Many people take daily vitamins. What they should know first.
Supplements:What are dietary supplements and how can they lead to better health?
New study:Are common multivitamins worth the money? New study explores the benefits, harms.
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