know your zs

Zinc - Know your Z’s

Is zinc the next ‘super’ ingredient? Not only is it an immune booster but is essential in the formation of testosterone.

By Hélène Charlebois, RD

What is it?

Being an essential element in the body for your membranes to form and stay healthy, zinc must be consumed on a regular basis. 

What does it do in my body?

Zinc plays a greater function in the immune system; this is being studied at present. Since it is very important in cell &/or membrane growth, it is important to include it in our daily diets, especially for growing children and pregnant women. It is essential in wound healing, and helps maintain your sense of taste and smell.

It is being researched as an effective testosterone booster. This can benefit men suffering from erectile dysfunction.

What if I don’t get enough zinc on a daily basis?

Since it is important in cell and membrane formation, zinc deficiencies can lead to growth retardation and impaired immune function. A diagnosed zinc deficiency (severe cases) can cause diarrhea, hair loss, delayed sexual maturation, impotence, hypogonadism in males, and eye and skin lesions. 

How much do I need daily?

Age (years)

Males and Females (mg/day)

Pregnancy (mcg/day)

Lactation (mcg/day)

1 to 3

3

N/A

N/A

4 to 8

5

N/A

N/A

9 to 13

8

N/A

N/A

14 to 18

11 for boys, 9 for girls

12

13

19 and over

11 for men, 8 for women 

11

12

Health Canada Dietary Reference Intake, 2010  

Where can I get it? What do I need to eat?

All cuts of chicken & other meats are sources of zinc. Other sources include oysters, legumes and dairy products (like yogurt and cheeses). Skinless chicken legs are an excellent source of zinc containing 25% Daily Values.

Food

Serving Size

Zinc (mg)

Oysters

75 g (2 ½ oz)

55 to 137

Beef

75 g (2 ½ oz)

5 to 9

Wheat germ cereal

30 g (1/4 cup)

5

Pork

75 g (2 ½ oz)

2 to 3

Chicken leg, roasted

1 leg 

2 to 3

Heart of palm

2 hearts

3

Cheese

50 g (1 ½ oz)

1 to 2

Ricotta cheese

125 mL (½ cup)

2

Yogurt, regular or low fat

175 mL (¾ cup)

1 to 2

Nappa cabbage

125 mL (½ cup)

2

Turkey

75g (2 ½ oz)

1-2

Beans

175 mL (¾ cup)

1-2

Lentils

175 mL (¾ cup)

2

Yogurt, plain, low fat

1 cup

2

Raisin bran

175 mL (¾ cup)

1.3

Eat Right Ontario, 2014 (modified with info from Raymond J. et al, 2012)

Should I avoid anything? 

Phytates found in whole grain breads, cereals, legumes and other products can decrease the absorption of zinc. Avoid having more than 40 mg of zinc per day (sources from food + supplements) 

Special Circumstances: 

Vegan vegetarians may not be getting enough. Zinc is found mostly in animal products. 

Vegetarian zinc food sources include:

  • Wheat germ
  • Nuts
  • Dried beans

Pregnancy needs are higher for zinc as it helps support normal growth and development. Digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease, celiac or other digestive syndromes may affect the absorption of zinc.

Recipe ideas 

Chicken Legs with Scrumptious Spicy Sauce

Cashew Chili Stir Fry

Lime Salsa Chicken with yogurt

Recipe Key Ingredients:

  • Oysters, wild game, crab, legumes, nuts, cheeses, yogurts.
  • Sample Meal Plan to Help Boost Your Z”s

Breakfast

  • 175 mL (¾ cup) of bran cereal with added raisins 
  • 250 mL (1 cup) 1% milk
  • 125 mL (½ cup) mangos or berries

Snack 

  • 175 mL (¾ cup) yogurt + wheat germ and shredded almonds 

Lunch

  • Mixed bean salad
    • 175 mL (¾ cup) mixed beans -lentil, kidney and mung beans
    • 60 mL (¼ cup) chopped red onions 
    • 60 mL (¼ cup) red peppers
    • 60 mL (¼ cup) parsley 
    • 30 mL (2 Tbsp) olive oil
    • 15 mL (1 Tbsp) lemon juice 
    • Dash of salt + pepper
    • Serve on a bed of brown rice or Nappa cabbage. Add some shredded chicken to top it off

Snack

  • 60 ml (¼ cup) trail mix (cashews, pecans, raisins, walnuts and peanuts) 
  • 1 small apple

Dinner

  • Mediterranean sandwich
    • 90 g (3 oz) pulled dark meat chicken with oregano  
    • 1 whole wheat pita (medium)
    • 4 sliced cucumbers
    • 4 slices of tomato
    • shredded spinach 
    • 5 pickled turnips
    • 30 mL (2 Tbsp) Greek yogurt mixed with garlic  

References: 

Eat Right Ontario, 2014; www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Nutrients-(vitamins-and-minerals)/-What-you-need-to-know-about-zinc.aspx#.VA0Au16j7-s

Dietitians of Canada, 2012; www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Minerals/Food-Sources-of-Zinc.aspx

National Center for Nutrition and Dietetics, Food guide pyramid for vegetarian meal planning. Chicago, 1997, American Dietetic Association Foundation; American Dietetic Association: Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets, J Am Diet Assoc. 103:748-765, 2003. 

Raymond J. et al, Food and the Nutrition Care Process, 3rd edition 2012, pp: 1164.

Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001.

 

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