What is it? Zinc is a trace mineral, which means we need very small amounts of it to stay healthy.

Why do we need it? Zinc is crucial to a healthy immune system, both as a defender against invading pathogens and as a healer of wounds. As an antioxidant, zinc protects the body from free radical damage. The mineral also helps our bodies to metabolize carbohydrates and supports our senses of vision, smell, and taste.

How much do we need? A person's daily needs for zinc are designated in milligrams (mg) and will depend on age and gender:

  • 0 to 6 months of age: 2 mg
  • 7 to 12 months of age: 3 mg
  • 1 to 3 years of age: 3 mg
  • 4 to 8 years of age: 5 mg
  • 9 to 13 years of age: 8 mg
  • 14 to 18 years of age: 9 mg
  • 19 years of age and older: 8 mg
  • 14 years of age and older: 11 mg

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding may need to get more zinc each day.

Where is it found? Note: The zinc in plant products will not be as available to the body as the zinc in higher-protein animal products.

Meats and other animal products

  • calf's liver
  • dark meat chicken
  • lamb
  • pork

Grains, seeds, legumes

  • miso
  • peanuts and peanut butter
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sesame seeds

Vegetables and fruits

  • cremini mushrooms
  • spinach
  • summer squash

Amy Toffelmire