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Zinc’s Role in the Immune System

Zinc is an essential mineral for a healthy immune system. Zinc deficiency has been linked with higher risks of infection. While zinc won’t “cure” a cold, some studies suggest it may reduce symptoms and duration of the illness.

You might have heard about using zinc lozenges to help decrease the duration of a cold. Zinc, one of the essential minerals that we must get from food or supplements, plays several important roles in health. It’s involved in…

Protein synthesis
Cell division
Growth and development
A normal sense of taste and smell
Immune function
Zinc is also a crucial component of over 100 enzymes.

Gatekeeper for our Immune Systems

Zinc is often called the gatekeeper of our immune systems because the optimum function of almost all immune cells rely on zinc as an essential component. Zinc plays a role in our body’s immune defense against viruses and pathogens, and it also helps protect our bodies against an overactive immune system that might be implicated in chronic inflammation, allergies, or autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and age-related macular degeneration.

A Few Zinc Tips:

Plan to choose a variety of foods each day that are good sources of zinc to meet your daily needs. Foods that contain zinc are also excellent sources of other important nutrients. Here’s a sample menu…

  • Breakfast with 1 cup oatmeal, 1 cup milk, and 1 ounce of almonds
  • Lunch with a sandwich with 2 slices whole grain bread, 1 ounce Swiss cheese, and 2 ounces sliced turkey plus a salad
  • Dinner with 3 ounces roast beef, ½ cup green peas, and 1 small potato
  • All this meet the zinc needs for most adults.

If you’re not able to meet your zinc needs through food, consider a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement that contains zinc, but only after discussing using a supplement with your physician.

Is it Possible to Consume Too Much Zinc?

Consistently taking in more zinc than needed from food and/or supplements is known to lead to toxicity.

The tolerable upper intake level for zinc is:

  • 4mg age 0-6 months
  • 5mg age 7-12 months
  • 7mg 1-3 years
  • 12mg 4-8 years
  • 23mg 9-13 years
  • 34mg 14-18 years
  • 34mg for pregnancy and lactation
  • 40mg for anyone age 19 years or older

Check out the list below to find how much zinc you DO need each day…

  • Age 7 months to 3 years: 3mg for males and females
  • Age 4-8 years: 5mg for males and females
  • Age 9-13 years: 8mg for males and females
  • Age 14-18 years: 11mg for males, 9 mg for females
  • Age 19+: 11mg for males, 8mg for females
  • During pregnancy: 11mg
  • While lactating: 12mg

DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The information is for informational purposes and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any illness. Consult a physician before taking any action.

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