Zinc, a trace element naturally found in foods such as nuts and beef, helps with numerous health functions, including immune system maintenance and wound healing. Whether you're getting all of your zinc through dietary sources or are taking a zinc-enhanced supplement, ensure optimal zinc absorption by knowing how this mineral interacts with other substances.
Eat eggs, meat and seafood. The zinc in such foods is more bioavailable, meaning your body can more readily absorb and use it due to animal proteins improving zinc absorption. In contrast, zinc-rich vegetarian foods, such as whole grains, are high in phytates, which reduce zinc absorption.
Take your zinc supplement with a meal or snack if you're getting the majority of your zinc through supplements instead of whole foods. Taking trace elements, such as zinc and iron, with food increases your body's ability to absorb and use them.
Avoid calcium-rich foods and supplements when taking zinc or eating zinc-rich foods. Calcium supplements taken in conjunction with zinc inhibits zinc absorption. Meanwhile, a study in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that consuming milk and similar high-calcium dairy products similarly reduced zinc absorption rates.
Review your medications with your doctor. Diuretic medications based on thiazide boost zinc loss through your urine by up to 60 percent. Meanwhile, various common antibiotics, such as tetracycline, also inhibit zinc absorption.
Things You'll Need
Not all zinc supplements are made alike. When it comes to absorption rates, zinc picolinate might be the best.
Stay away from supplements made from zinc sulfate. While they're generally the cheapest, zinc sulfate is the least readily absorbed form of supplemental zinc and is also much more likely to cause gastrointestinal distress.
- National Institutes of Health's MedlinePlus: Zinc
- Linus Pauling Institute; "Zinc"; Jane Higdon and Victoria Drake; 2008
- Colorado State University: Absorption of Minerals and Metals
- National Institutes of Health's MedlinePlus: Iron
- "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; "High Dietary Calcium Intakes Reduce Zinc Absorption"; R.J. Wood and J.J. Zheng; 1997
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Zinc
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Zinc