Le zinc et ses bienfaits : un minéral indispensable - Epycure

NUTRITION Zinc and its benefits: an essential mineral


4min reading time

Zinc is a trace element present in trace amounts in the body and yet essential for many vital functions. Zinc must be supplied to the body daily because unlike other minerals such as iron, the body cannot store it.

In the general population, recommended dietary intakes of zinc range from 8 to 11 mg/day. They are a little higher in pregnant and breastfeeding women: 11-13 mg/day. Zinc deficiencies are quite common today due to mineral depletion from soils and nutrient losses caused by food processing. Furthermore, the consumption of tobacco,

Coffee, tea, alcohol, as well as chronic stress are likely to deplete our zinc reserves. The main symptoms of a zinc deficiency are:

  • Vulnerability to infections
  • Deterioration in the quality of skin, hair and nails,
  • Difficulty healing
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Fertility disorders
  • Insulin resistance and its consequent weight gain

As you will have understood, zinc is involved in a multitude of functions in the body and is part of numerous enzyme systems. In this article, we tell you more about its main benefits and the main food sources of this essential mineral .

Its main benefits

It participates in the absorption and digestion of nutrients

Zinc contributes to the synthesis of proteins from amino acids provided by the diet . It is also involved in the breakdown of carbohydrates, which are one of the main sources of energy for the body. A correct zinc intake can therefore facilitate tissue repair and wound healing and reduce the risk of chronic fatigue or lack of energy.

It regulates the immune system

Zinc is essential for the synthesis and proper functioning of immune cells (T lymphocytes in particular), which is why it is important to regularly consume a sufficient quantity of this mineral in your diet.

It is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant

Zinc helps fight oxidative stress and reduce the risk of developing chronic and degenerative diseases. In particular, it has the ability to promote healthy cell division, prevent the mutation of cancer cells and delay the growth of tumors. It also helps reduce the overall level of inflammation.

It prevents diabetes and weight gain

Zinc is essential for balancing most hormones, including insulin, the main hormone involved in regulating blood sugar levels. Zinc binds to insulin so that it is adequately stored in the pancreas and released when glucose enters the bloodstream. It therefore helps reduce the risk of diabetes. Furthermore, it allows good use of digestive enzymes which are necessary so that glucose is used as fuel for the body, instead of being stored in the liver, muscles, or in the form of fat.

It balances hormones and supports fertility

Zinc is necessary for the production of estrogen and progesterone in women, and for the production of sperm and testosterone in men. In this way, it supports reproductive function. Furthermore, too high or too low levels of estrogen can lead to menstrual problems, mood swings, early menopause, infertility and even increase the risk of certain cancers.

It contributes to skin health and promotes wound healing

Zinc participates in the production and repair of tissues, particularly collagen and fibrous tissues. Zinc also supports the activity of immune cells that fight the inflammation characteristic of skin diseases such as acne or psoriasis.

It contributes to cardiovascular health

Zinc is necessary for maintaining healthy cells in the cardiovascular system, while reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. It contributes to the good health of blood vessels and promotes good circulation, which makes it a natural remedy against hypertension and cholesterol due to blocked or damaged arteries.

It promotes eye health

A high zinc intake may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of visual impairment in older adults, and slow associated vision loss.

The best food sources of zinc

Foods of animal origin are the most effective sources of zinc , in particular:

  • Oysters
  • Calf's liver
  • Beef
  • Eggs
  • Duck liver

Certain plant foods such as shiitake mushrooms, oilseeds (pumpkin seeds in particular), legumes, and whole grains are also good sources of zinc , but they also contain anti-nutrients, such as phytates, which can bind to the mineral, thus reducing its absorption. This explains why plant-based zinc is less bioavailable and why vegetarians are more likely to be deficient. To get around the problem, make sure to always soak them for at least 8 hours before cooking and consuming them.

Should we take zinc cures?

The use of zinc food supplements, in the form of 1-month courses, can be adapted to people with a deficiency, vegetarians and vegans who tend to absorb a smaller quantity. Be careful, however, of the contraindications and possible side effects: zinc should not be taken on an empty stomach at the risk of causing some digestive problems such as nausea or vomiting, and should not be taken at the same time as supplementation with iron, which would inhibit its effect.


Solène Senejko

Ingénieure Alimentation & Santé