It is a micronutrient with a key role in multiple functions of the body.
Zinc is an essential trace element, present mainly in animal products, although it is also found in some of plant origin. Like the rest of minerals (iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus) it belongs to the group of micronutrients, that is to say that the we need less than the macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins).
“Minerals are essential nutrients, which means that the body cannot make them and, therefore, we must ingest them “, points out Eva Rodríguez, nutritionist at HM Delfos. The expert indicates that the minerals that must be supplied in the diet are divided into two groups:” On the one hand, macroelements, such as calcium, phosphorus , magnesium, sodium and potassium, and on the other the microelements, those that are required in smaller quantities, such as copper, manganese, fluorine, selenium and zinc “.
According to the dietitian-nutritionist of Nutricionistas Barcelona, Marta Abardia, “zinc acts in multiple functions of the organism, such as taste and smell, where it has a protective function of the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth. It is also essential for proper growth and development, from fetus to adulthood, and also helps in the proper functioning of the immune system “.
For his part, Rodríguez recalls that this mineral “has a specific role in more than 300 enzymes, which participate in all the important biochemical reactions of the human body, it is absorbed in the small intestine and is excreted through the feces.” The nutritionist also points out that zinc is involved in cardiorespiratory function, in the regulation of blood pressure and in the correct neurological and behavioral development. “Its storage capacity in the body is very limited, so it is necessary to take a sufficient dose in the daily diet”, concludes Rodríguez.
The recommended daily amount of zinc is, according to Abardia, “15 mg a day for men and about 12 mg for women. In pregnant women the dose would be 15 to 19 mg daily.” Despite the fact that, according to Rodríguez, “in developed countries it is rare for there to be a zinc deficiency, it has been estimated that one third of the world’s population lives in countries identified as having a high risk of zinc deficiency.” The nutritionist recalls that “the nutritional deficiency of zinc can affect growth and development and immune and cognitive functions, in addition to causing night blindness, alopecia, diarrhea, skeletal disorders and growth retardation.”
The following foods stand out for their high zinc content.
Abardia recalls that “in a balanced diet you already get enough zinc, so the amount of red meat consumed should not be increased to achieve adequate levels”.
In this sense, the nutritionist recommends eat red meat at most twice a week. “The international consensus recommendation on red meat remains the same: limit its consumption and avoid processed meat,” he says. (NdE: the Dietary Guidelines for the Argentine Population advise up to three times a week).
As with minerals such as iron, zinc from foods of animal origin is better absorbed than that of plant origin. Eggs, which in addition to zinc contain proteins of high biological value – which means that they have all the essential amino acids -, although they do not present an extraordinary contribution of zinc (1.3 mg / 100 g compared to 4.8 mg / 100 g of raw red meat), this is very well absorbed. The egg also has a very interesting nutritional profile and, in addition to zinc, it contains other minerals such as phosphorus, selenium, iron and iodine.
At 17 mg / 100 g, wheat germ is one of the star products in our pantry in terms of its zinc content. “It should be noted that food processing is one of the causes of zinc loss, especially refining, which can cause a cereal to reduce its content of this mineral by up to 80%,” explains Rodríguez. “An example of this is that some unrefined breakfast cereals can contain up to 7 mg of zinc, while other refined wheat barely provide 1.5 mg.”
Prawns, prawns, crab, spider crab, lobster, contain between 5 and 6 mg of zinc per 100 g, an amount similar to that of red meat. Rodríguez recalls that “in general, fruits, vegetables, fats, fish and sweets are foods poor in zinc, in addition to the fact that this is usually less bioavailable in vegetables, since they contain fiber and phytic acid, which bind to zinc and they hinder its absorption. ” This does not mean under any circumstances that we should reduce the intake of vegetables and increase the consumption of products of animal origin, since, insists Rodríguez, “in general, if a varied and complete diet is followed, the requirements are covered without problem.”
Adding a handful of pumpkin seeds to salads is synonymous with health, since in addition to zinc (it is one of the star foods, with 7.2 mg / 100 g compared to the 5 mg found in most nuts) also contain omega 3, vitamin A, magnesium, calcium and tryptophan, an amino acid that favors the production of serotonin.
They are the queens of zinc, with 59.2 mg / 100 g of product, according to data extracted from BEDCA (Spanish Database of Food Composition). The fact that they have been considered the natural aphrodisiac par excellence is due precisely to their very high contribution of zinc, much higher than that of other foods.
“Zinc is involved in fetal development and growth, in cell growth and sexual maturation,” says Rodríguez, who warns that a deficiency of this mineral can cause, among other things, “alterations in growth and sexual development “in addition to poor wound healing and vision problems. It is precisely this link between zinc and sexual development that has fueled the myth that oysters are aphrodisiac, despite the fact that so far there are no conclusive scientific studies to confirm this relationship.
The vanguard. Laura Conde