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Nutrition

This Is Why Zinc Is So Important

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You may have heard that zinc is good for you, and maybe you even look for it in your daily supplements—but do you really know what it does, or how your body uses it? Here’s the deal with zinc and why it’s so important to get enough of it.

What It Is

You don’t need a ton of zinc, but it’s important to consume it as part of your regular healthy diet because zinc is a mineral that your body doesn’t store in excess. Exactly how much zinc you need every day depends on your age and life stage, but generally, women need less of it than men (although pregnant and breastfeeding women need more).

Why You Need It

In general, zinc is important for your overall health because it helps support the immune system, and your body also needs zinc to make proteins and DNA. It aids with several other biological reactions, like blood clotting and thyroid function, and it plays an important role in maintaining vision. It’s also needed for you to be able to taste and smell properly

How to Get It

Looking to get enough zinc? Take another look at your diet: Oysters and other seafood, as well as red meat and poultry, are good sources, and there’s also zinc in beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products. You can also get zinc through dietary supplements like Emergen-C Immune+, which is an excellent source of zinc, in addition to a host of other nutrients, to support your health. 

But keep in mind that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Having too-high levels of zinc may lead to issues like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It’s important to always consult your doctor before taking a zinc (or any other) supplement.

There are some groups of people who are likelier than others to have trouble getting enough zinc. Vegetarians may have a harder time of it since they don’t eat meat, which is a rich source of the mineral. And while there is zinc in beans and grains, the zinc in those foods can’t always be fully absorbed. So vegetarians might need more zinc than meat eaters—as much as 50 percent more than the recommended amount. 

On the off chance that you have full-blown zinc deficiency, which is rare in the U.S., keep an eye out for symptoms like decreased ability to taste food, weight loss, hair loss, eye and skin sores, and lower alertness. These can also be signs of other conditions, so if you start seeing these symptoms, talk to your doctor, who can help figure out if you have a deficiency or another problem, and get you on track to feeling better. 

Find other great health and wellness stories at MarthaStewart.com/Strive.