Zinc is a vital trace mineral required by the human body to perform numerous important functions such as maintaining defence mechanism and regulating DNA synthesis.
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Zinc was first discovered as a metallic element in the 1800s, but in the next century, the fact that it has a central role in human physiology as well was unravelled, by many researchers and scientists in the West.
Zinc, although needed only in very minute amounts by the human body, is very essential for fundamental metabolic activities as well as ensuring normal growth and development. Moreover, zinc is the second most abundant trace mineral in the body after iron, being present in practically every single cell in the system. Also Read: Iron: Functions, Food Sources, Supplements, Deficiency and Toxicity
The World Health Organisation enlists zinc as part of the micronutrient mixture in its List Of Essential Medicines, due to the indispensable functions mediated by zinc in the human body.
Zinc is necessary for carrying out many primary functions in the body such as:
- Bolstering immunity
- Enhancing nervous system function, brain activity, memory and concentration
- Lowering inflammation in certain conditions in the body like acne
- Accelerating wound healing process, in instances of tissue injury
- Preventing chronic diseases in old age, like diabetes, heart disease and age-related macular degeneration, by fostering healthy ageing process
- Preserving a normal sense of taste and smell
- Promoting optimal cell growth, division as well as DNA and protein synthesis
Since zinc cannot be synthesized in the body, it must be obtained as part of the diet. And nature has bestowed upon us countless foods that are rich in zinc. Also Check Out: 5 Foods Incredibly High In Zinc That You Should Include In Your Diet-Infographic
Some of the food sources that offer profuse amounts of the trace mineral zinc include:
- Legumes such as channa, kidney beans, chickpeas
- Nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds
- Dairy products including milk, cheese and yoghurt
- Whole grains like quinoa, oats
- Vegetables including mushrooms, peas and greens like spinach, kale
A deficiency in the quantity of zinc being consumed as part of diet causes many symptoms of discomfort and hampers the functioning of the immune system. Zinc deficiency invariably results in sudden weight loss, opens sores and wounds that do not heal, decreased appetite, diarrhoea and lowered sense of smell and taste.
Excessive intake of zinc through food can result in dangerous levels of the metallic substance accumulating in the body. This causes grave complications such as abdominal cramps, high blood cholesterol levels and severe headaches that affect normal brain functions. Hence, it is advised to consume only the recommended daily intake of zinc and not ingest surplus amounts, in order to steer clear of its toxic effects.