Zinc Vitamin Absorption – How Much Do You Need?

For the do-it-yourself dieter, understanding zinc vitamin absorption in regards to your nutrition seems like a daunting task, but it is actually much less complicated than it sounds. Your body has an amazing ability to glean vitamins and minerals for strength, energy, endurance, and survival from the various natural sources you encounter daily. One of its impressive attributes is that it knows to absorb 20%-40% of the zinc in various zinc foods you consume.

How Much Zinc You Need

Adult males need about 11 mg of zinc per day and adult females need about 8 mg of zinc per day. Since your body is not absorbing 100% of the zinc you consume every day, it is important to monitor your zinc food intake and use zinc supplements if you are not consuming enough zinc foods. It is safe and healthy to consume 50 mg or less of zinc per day.

Consuming over 150 mg of zinc per day for an extended period of time (2 months) can be dangerous and result in zinc toxicity. Zinc toxicity actually prohibits your body from benefiting from the other vitamins and minerals you consume which weakens your immune system, raises your cholesterol, and can cause a copper deficiency, among other nasty side effects.   How to Consume More Zinc Foods

Aside from taking supplements, there are a lot of zinc rich foods at your fingertips. Oysters are the most zinc rich food available and other shellfish such as shrimp, crab and lobster are also good sources of zinc. Red meat, lamb, pork and dark meat chicken are a better source of zinc than fish, but fish is still an excellent source of zinc. Animal proteins allow your body to absorb zinc more readily than plant based food. Plant based food that is rich in zinc also contains phytates, which limit your body’s zinc absorption. Taking a fish oil supplement, which contains highly nutritious fish fat, provides your body with zinc and the animal proteins needed to absorb it. Excellent plant based sources of zinc are:

  • pumpkin seeds
  • legumes
  • nuts 
  • beans

How to Absorb the Most Zinc

There are certain elements we consume that aid in our zinc absorption and others that block our zinc absorption. If you are taking a zinc supplement, it is best to not take it near a meal, as the food you are consuming will most likely block your body’s absorption of the beneficial zinc in the supplement. It is mostly the dairy and grains in your meal that are blocking the zinc absorption, specifically the folic acid, phytates, copper and iron.

If you are focusing on more zinc rich foods to boost your zinc consumption and absorption, it is best to consume your zinc foods with one meal and consume your zinc blocking foods with another meal. This gives your body an opportunity to absorb more zinc without blockers. For example, if you have a breakfast rich in whole grains, which contain phytates that block zinc, have a more protein based lunch that promotes zinc absorption.


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