What is Zinc, and is it healthy?

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What is Zinc?

Zinc is an essential mineral that our body needs a small amount of every day to stay healthy.

Zinc can be found in a variety of foods and is added to the processing of other foods such as some breakfast cereals. It is also available as a dietary supplement.

What does it do for the immune system?

Zinc boosts our immune defence. Zinc plays a vital role in kick-starting our immune defence and in fighting off infection when a cold or flu takes hold.

What else does it do for the body?

Zinc is found in every cell of the body so is important to health in many ways including its role in wound healing, in growth and development during childhood, adolescence and pregnancy, and in our sense of taste and smell.

What foods contain high levels of zinc?
  • Seafood including fish
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Nuts (Cashews, peanuts, almonds)
  • Beans (chickpeas, baked beans) and lentils
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Oats
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Dairy products
Why is it important people have adequate zinc?

Zinc is vital to good health – not eating enough can cause a wide range of health problems including:

  • Constant illness (due to a weakened immune system)
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hair loss
  • Skin sores
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhoea
  • Poor growth and development
  • Mental fatigue

Low zinc intake is not uncommon in Australia. To make sure you are eating enough it’s important to follow a well-balanced diet with plenty of whole foods. Women, the elderly people and people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet seem to be more at risk of zinc deficiency.

How much is enough?

Women 19+ years

RDI 8mg/day (let me know if you want to do it for men too)

8mg/day is the average daily dietary amount that is sufficient to meet the zinc requirements of nearly all (97-98%) of healthy women aged 19 or over.

Note: women who are pregnant or breastfeeding require more than 8mg/day.

What would this RDI look like in a day worth of food?


Porridge with banana and sunflower seeds

(½ oats, 1cup reduced fat milk, ½ banana, topped with 1Tbsp sunflower seeds)

(Quantity of Zinc: milk 1mg, oats 3mg, seeds 0.2mg, banana 0.1mg)

Morning Tea

Tub of yoghurt topped with strawberries

(zinc: yoghurt 1mg)


Cheese and salad wholemeal wrap

(zinc: 40g cheese 1mg; wrap 0.4mg)

Afternoon Tea

2 x kiwi fruit

(zinc: kiwi fruit 0.2mg)


Chicken stir-fry with brown rice

150g raw chicken, ½ cup cooked brown rice)

(zinc: chicken 3.5mg, rice 0.6mg)

Total Zinc


*foods may vary in zinc content so this is an estimate

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