When you think about zinc, you probably imagine blistering summer days and a thick layer of zinc oxide protecting your nose. But zinc is more than just an extra-strength sunscreen. It's an essential element of your diet, needed for proper cell division and immune function.
While most children and adults get enough zinc through diet alone, vegetarians and adults over age 60 are at risk for zinc deficiency, says Emily Ho, PhD, director of the Moore Family Center For Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition, and Preventative Health at Oregon State University.
That's because both populations eat diets high in plant-based foods. Not only are there lower amounts of zinc in these foods as compared to animal proteins, but whole grains and legumes also contain phytates that bind zinc and make it harder for your body to absorb, says Ananda Prasad, MD, PhD, distinguished professor at the department of oncology at Wayne State University.
While both Ho and Prasad say zinc deficiency is difficult to detect, there are some symptoms that point to it. Here, 6 to look out for.
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