What it is
Zinc is an essential mineral.
What it does
Zinc is a cofactor for hundreds of enzymes. Those enzymes are involved in things like protein and DNA metabolism, immune function, wound healing, and cellular signaling. Zinc also affects your sense of taste.
The recommended intake for zinc is 11mg per day for men and 8mg per day for women who aren’t pregnant or lactating. Pregnancy and lactation can increase intake requirements for zinc.
The safe upper limit for zinc intake is 40mg per day.
Likelihood of tracking completeness: Very low
Zinc is not a nutrient that food manufacturers are required to disclose on nutrition labels. The vast majority of food and beverage manufacturers do not voluntarily list zinc content on nutrition labels, so most branded products in the MacroFactor database lack information on zinc. So, if you’d like to accurately track your zinc intake, you’ll need to make a point of mostly tracking “common foods,” which come from research-grade databases that have full nutrient reporting.
For more on when you can track using branded foods versus common foods when you’re trying to accurately monitor your intake of particular nutrients, you should check out this article.
Likelihood of insufficient intake: Low
Most people in developed countries consume adequate amounts of zinc, though insufficient zinc intake is more common in older adults and vegans.
For more on nutrients with a greater likelihood of insufficient or excessive intake, you should check out this article.
Signs of deficiency
Since zinc affects so many different tissues, the effects of zinc deficiencies are wide-ranging and nonspecific. A zinc deficiency could impact skin, bone, reproductive, immune, nervous system, or digestive health. A common sign of a zinc deficiency is a decrease in the acuity of your senses of taste and smell.
Shellfish, mushrooms, liver, dried seaweed (nori), beef, endive, alfalfa sprouts, green leafy vegetables (like spinach), asparagus, whole grain products (particularly the bran), and some seeds are good sources of zinc.
Of note, plant sources of zinc often contain compounds (oxalates) that hinder the absorption of zinc (along with iron, magnesium, and calcium). Mushrooms are typically low in oxalates, though, making them a great vegan source of zinc.
If you’d like to learn more about micronutrients generally, there’s a five-part series on the MacroFactor website you might enjoy.