Did you know zinc can help clear up skin, strengthen hair, and support your immune system? Samaria Granberry, MS, RDN, LDN, a registered dietitian at HUM, breaks down all the zinc benefits to know.
When you hear the word “zinc,” you might automatically think of the opaque white mineral sunscreen you slather on before hitting the beach. But this mineral does more than just protect your skin from the sun. Taken orally, it can support your overall health in numerous ways. “Zinc has recently come to the forefront of many supplement regimens because of its immune-supporting properties,” says Samaria Grandberry, MS, RDN, LDN. But did you know the powerful mineral boasts many other health benefits as well?
What Is Zinc?
“Zinc is an important mineral for cell growth and division and healthy immune function,” Grandberry says. “It functions as an enzyme of protein products, such as collagen (which is the building block of skin, hair, and nails).”
4 Zinc Benefits to Know
So, what is zinc good for? “In the body, zinc functions as an enzyme in over 300 reactions, which means it helps to ‘move along’ processes in the body,” Grandberry says. “It plays a role in skin strength, lowering inflammation, DNA synthesis, and fighting oxidative stress.” Grandberry breaks down four different health benefits, below.
Aids Immune System Function
“The body requires zinc to develop and activate T-lymphocytes, which are a part of the body’s defense mechanism against illness,” Grandberry says. Some research shows the association between low zinc levels and increased susceptibility to infections. Zinc has also been shown to lessen the duration and severity of certain acute illnesses, like the common cold. So if you feel a cold coming on, taking a zinc supplement could potentially soften the overall blow to your immune system.
Maintains Skin Barrier Integrity
As we age, our skin loses its integrity: it becomes less full, less bright, and less even-toned. But zinc can help since it helps to stabilize skin cell walls as they grow and specialize. “It has been used topically for centuries for conditions like eczema, wounds, dandruff, and as a photoprotective agent,” Grandberry says. Zinc is found in topical skin products such as sunscreens, acne creams, and antifungal shampoos. “Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties make it a promising choice of therapy for many dermatological conditions,” Grandberry adds. But there are benefits to taking zinc for acne orally, too. One study found that oral zinc supplementation was effective in the treatment of acne vulgaris. HUM Nutrition’s Daily Cleanse supplement contains zinc along with other natural detoxifiers to help clear your skin from the inside out.
Supports Thyroid Hormone Levels
The thyroid is an essential endocrine gland, involved in every process in the body. But did you know the metabolism of zinc and thyroid hormones are closely intertwined? “Zinc deficiency may result in decreased thyroid hormone levels,” Grandberry says. “Alterations in thyroid function or deficiencies in zinc can cause similar symptoms to hypothyroidism like fatigue, hair loss, lack of appetite, and skin lesions.”
Boosts Hair Health
“Zinc plays an important role in catalyzing the formation of keratin and collagen, which are building blocks of hair,” Grandberry says “It’s also crucial for DNA replication, such as supporting the rapid turnover of hair cells.” So what exactly does that translate to? Stronger, longer hair. If you’re dealing with hair loss or simply want to give your strands a boost, consider adding a zinc supplement (or a supplement with zinc) into your daily routine. HUM Nutrition’s Hair Sweet Hair contains zinc, along with other nutrients shown to support healthy hair growth.
9 Foods High in Zinc
Despite our bodies not being able to produce zinc naturally, it’s widely available in most foods. “It’s important to note that zinc from whole grains and other plant-based foods are not best absorbed because phytates can interfere with absorption,” Grandberry says. “Phytates are found in grains and cereals and can impair the absorption of zinc if consumed at the same time.” If you’re hoping to fulfill your zinc intake with beans, for example, Grandberry says you should soak them in water for a couple of hours to decrease their phytate amount. However, there are lots of other foods where zinc is readily available. Some of the best zinc foods to eat are:
- Baked Beans
- Zinc-fortified foods
Zinc Deficiency: What to Know
In North America, zinc deficiency is relatively rare. However certain groups may be at more risk: Globally, 17.3 percent of individuals are at risk for zinc deficiency, Granberry says. These groups include vegans, vegetarians, those pregnant and lactating, and those with digestive conditions that may lead to nutrient malabsorption.
Zinc deficiency symptoms include:
- Appetite loss
- Impaired immunity
- Mental impairment
- Poor wound healing
- Hair loss
- Skin lesions
Zinc Supplements 101
Supplementing with zinc can be helpful especially if you’re vegan, vegetarian, pregnant, lactating, or have issues with nutrient absorption. Grandberry says some vegans and vegetarians may require up to 50 percent of the RDA for zinc due to the lower bioavailability of zinc in plant foods.
Looking for a zinc supplement? HUM Nutrition offers a few supplements that can help you increase your daily intake. Read on to see which supplement would best support your health goals:
- Daily Cleanse
If you want to help clear your skin from the inside out, Grandberry recommends adding this supplement to your lineup. As an antioxidant, zinc helps fights acne-causing bacteria alongside other powerful detoxifying agents.
- Hair Sweet Hair
Dreaming of longer, stronger hair? Grandberry suggests taking these gummy supplements daily. Since zinc deficiency can be associated with hair loss, Hair Sweet Hair contains zinc along with other hair-loving ingredients to support healthy hair.
- Boost Sweet Boost
If your immune system could use a boost, these sweet gummies can help. “Zinc, vitamin C, and elderberry make for a dynamic formulation in Boost Sweet Boost to support your body’s natural defenses,” Grandberry says.
- Base Control
Make sure you have all your bases covered with this dynamic multivitamin. “Base Control contains zinc and other vitamins and minerals to supplement your diet,” Grandberry says.
How Much Zinc Should I Take?
If you’re wondering what the ideal zinc daily dose is, Grandberry has the answer. “It’s best not to go over 40 milligrams of zinc per day, so keep that in mind when creating a supplement routine—and don’t forget to account for your food choices,” Grandberry says. “ If you have questions or concerns, reach out to your health provider to ensure you aren’t ingesting too much zinc.
But how much zinc is too much? It’s possible to go overboard with this mineral. If you take too much more than 40 milligrams of zinc, side effects can include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach cramps, and diarrhea, according to the NIH.
“We usually recommend avoiding taking Daily Cleanse, Hair Sweet Hair, and Base Control together, as it’s over the upper limit of zinc,” Grandberry notes.
“Zinc boasts an impressive lineup of benefits—from internal immune support to external hair health,” Grandberry says. “Although clinically low levels of zinc are rare, it’s important to ensure you’re eating foods rich in zinc or supplementing as needed.”