Healthy Articles Archive

Supplement Focus: Zinc

Susannah Lawson is a nutritional therapist and author of 'Optimum Nutrition Before, During and After Pregnancy'

It could help you banish PMS, feel happier and stay sneeze free this coming winter - what's not to like about this essential ingredient?

What is it?
Zinc is an amazing nutrient - after iron, it's the most common mineral in your body, responsible for more than 100 different actions - from supporting fertility and immunity to mood and ageing. Yet many of us don't get enough of it from our diets. Zinc is absorbed via the soil into the foods that we eat, although intensive farming means levels in food today can be depleted.

How do I use it?
Shellfish, red meat, poultry and pumpkin seeds are all rich in zinc, and it is also found in beans (such as lima, pinto and soya), whole grains, greens, mushrooms, and sunflower seeds. For maximum absorption, sources are best eaten with protein, like meat or eggs.

How much do I need?
The recommended daily allowance for zinc is 10mg a day, yet some people only consume half of this, with vegetarians, teenage boys and older people at greatest risk of deficiency. If you suffer with depression, infertility, frequent infections, a poor sense of taste or smell, or have more than two white marks on your fingernails, then these can be signs that you are deficient.

The food of love?
Oysters are the richest food source of zinc, a key player in sex hormone balance in women and sexual function in men.

How can it help me?
Ease painful periods - An American study published in Journal of Medical Hypotheses found that supplementing 30mg of zinc daily for four days prior to their period alleviated painful cramps. Improve mood - a study published in April in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition monitored levels of depression in young women and found they improved after supplementing 7mg of zinc daily for 10 weeks.

Boost immunity - a deficiency in is associated with a higher risk of infection, especially in older people. A study published in 2007 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition assigned either 45mg of daily zinc or a placebo to a group of 50 people aged between 55 and 87. At the end of 12 months, the researchers found that infections in the zinc group were 'significantly lower'.
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