What is zinc?
Zinc is the second most common mineral found in our bodies, after iron. It’s in every cell, from our organs to our bones, tissues and fluids.
Foods high in zinc include:
• legumes including chickpeas
• nuts and seeds
• whole meal bread
• fortified vegan foods
Health benefits of zinc
Zinc is required for the activity of more than 300 enzymes that aid with healthy digestion, nerve function, and metabolism.
Zinc also supports brain health. Compared to other organs in the body, zinc concentration is highest in the brain. A 2017 study, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, concluded that while there are many unknowns, changes in zinc balance in the brain may affect conditions that include age-related cognitive decline, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease
Another of zinc’s major roles is helping the body heal. Zinc is required for cell membrane repair, cell growth, and the maintenance of healthy skin. Zinc-dependent proteins play fundamental roles within cells, including in DNA repair. For these reasons, a zinc deficiency can lead to skin problems and impaired wound healing.
Too little zinc can negatively impact your senses and appetite. According to one recent study, 35% to 45% of adults 60 and older had zinc intakes below the estimated average requirement. One set of side effects tied to zinc deficiency involves diminished taste and smell, plus poor appetite. If you’ve ever lost these senses due to illness, you’re aware of how much they affect the appeal of food. In healthy adults, zinc plays a role in maintaining these functions.
Finally, several studies have shown that zinc deficiency increases oxidative stress, which is essentially an imbalance between the production of cell-damaging free radicals and the body’s ability to counter their harmful effects. Zinc has also been shown to reduce blood markers for inflammation, a known trigger of premature aging and chronic disease.