Zinc

How much do you need daily?

The amount of zinc you need is about:

  • 9.5 milligrams a day for men
  • 7.0 milligrams a day for women
Are we getting enough?

The 2016 National Diet and Nutrition Survey confirmed shortfalls in both sexes and every age group. Teenage girls had the lowest levels, with almost a quarter (22 per cent) falling short. Teenage boys weren’t far behind with 17 per cent having low intakes. Six per cent of working-age adults and men over 65 also had low intakes.

Why do we need it?

Zinc is an important mineral necessary for making new cells and enzymes that enable vital reactions in the body. We also need it for processing carbohydrates, fats and protein from food, wound healing and it can help strengthen the immune system and make us better able to fight infection.

Zinc is also crucial to healthy vision and for male reproductive health as it increases sperm count and sperm motility.

The concentration of zinc in plants varies based on levels of the element in soil. However, the average levels seem to be sufficient and it’s perfectly achievable to have adequate zinc intake from plant foods only.

Taking high doses of zinc reduces the amount of copper the body can absorb, which can lead to anaemia and weakening of the bones. You shouldn’t take more than 25 milligrams of zinc a day in supplements.

Do I need a supplement?

No, a healthy vegan diet containing foods listed below on a daily basis will cover your needs.

The best plant sources

The best plant sources of zinc include tempeh – fermented soya beans, wholemeal spaghetti, tofu, quinoa, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, lentils, couscous, wholegrain rice, cashew nuts, sesame seeds and tahini – sesame seed paste.

Signs of deficiency

skin problems (eg acne, eczema and rashes) hair thinning, weak immune system, slow wound healing, tiredness, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, mental slowness and impaired vision.