You know those infamous white nail flecks and spots? How about split ends and dull, tired looking hair? What is commonly thought to be caused by a lack of calcium could actually be due to a deficiency of a different mineral. Rapidly growing cells such as hair, skin, and nail cells need a constant supply of zinc, and they are often among the first to show symptoms of a zinc deficiency.

Zinc is a less talked about micronutrient than iron, calcium, or magnesium; but it’s just as important for overall health and wellness. So, why do we need it and how do we get enough?

Functions
Not only is zinc essential for your luscious locks, but it has other important structural and signalling roles in each one of our cells, especially cells in the nervous, reproductive, and immune systems. There are over 300 enzymes in our body that need zinc to function properly. Your body needs zinc to produce disease-fighting cells, for example. Also, did you know that loading up on zinc is actually more effective at relieving flu symptoms than increasing your intake of vitamin C?

We often forget that our nutritional status affects our fertility too. Zinc is essential for optimal reproductive health in both males and females. It is needed for all stages of making a baby; from the development of our reproductive organs during puberty, aiding in sperm production in males, to protecting the DNA inside the sperm and eggs.

Additionally, zinc binds with other proteins in our bodies to provide structural support to our cells, thus preventing any free radical damage and acting as a powerful antioxidant. This means stronger, healthier cells that are not susceptible to internal damage.

Requirements

Requirements
Male 11 mg
Female 8 mg
Pregnancy 11 mg
Breastfeeding 12 mg

 Sources
Oysters contain the most zinc per serving than any other food, but for most of us they are not very accessible as an everyday meal (either that or they are just way too slimy for our taste buds). Red meat, poultry, and fish are the largest everyday sources of the mineral. Other good sources are beans, dairy products, and nuts. Wholegrain products also contain a sizable amount of zinc, but its absorption is inhibited because of the large levels of phytic acid in the grains.

How Do I Get Enough?

Food Zinc Content
Almonds (30g) 0.9
Cheddar Cheese (30g) 1
Chicken, Breast (1) 2
Chicken, Dark Meat (200g) 4.8
Chickpeas (½  cup) 1.3
Kidney Beans (½ cup) 0.9
Milk (1 glass) 1
Oysters (100g) 80
Peanuts (30g) 1.2
Salmon (200g) 2.8
Shrimp (200g) 2
Sirloin Beef (200g) 12