Zinc is a master-mineral of good health but many of us don’t get enough each day. Zinc deficiency is one of the world’s most prevalent micro-nutrient deficiencies[i], according to a report published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism.
People of all ages may be at risk of deficiency including infants, toddlers, and the elderly. Vegetarians and vegans also need to work extra hard to ensure they get enough zinc in their diet.
Diets low in zinc-rich foods (such as those avoiding red meat and seafood), combined with lower zinc levels in soils and reliance on highly processed foods, may lead to a zinc deficiency.
Zinc is an essential mineral that is involved in overall health including the function of structural proteins, hormone production and secretion and antioxidant protection. The immune, digestive and reproductive system, the skin, and connective tissues all require adequate zinc to keep working efficiently.
Unfortunately, the body has no long-term storage system for zinc so we need regular dietary intake to sustain all of these functions.
Unfortunately zinc deficiency isn’t always obvious. Some of the key signs of zinc deficiency include:
As it is not stored for long periods in the body, we need a daily supply of quality zinc from our diet or from supplements.
Major food sources of zinc include:
If you don’t eat animal products, soaking and sprouting legumes and nuts or choosing plant-based foods that have been fermented (e.g. choosing sourdough bread, which has undergone a fermentation process) also helps your body absorb zinc.
With soils in Australia's major agricultural food growing regions showing extensive zinc depletion, thus decreasing the zinc content of many foods, you may want to consider supplementation.
Your healthcare professional may consider testing your levels of zinc. There are many tests options available today, including taste tests, blood tests, hair tests, urine tests and measuring certain enzymes. Ask your health professional about testing your zinc levels or whether supplementation is right for you. Vitamin and mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.
References available on request