Without zinc, the body can’t grow, develop, or function properly. It’s estimated that more than one hundred different enzymes in the body require zinc in order to function.
Zinc absorption increases during times of growth, sexual development and pregnancy. High non-heme iron intakes can inhibit zinc absorption. Also, the phytates and fiber found in whole grains and beans inhibit absorption. However, dietary protein enhances zinc absorption, especially animal based proteins.
The RDA for zinc for adult men and women aged 19 years and older are 11 mg/day and 8 mg/day. Good food sources are red meats, some seafood, whole grains, and enriched grains and cereals. Zinc deficiency is a concern for people eating a vegetarian or vegan diet because zinc is more absorbable in animal based foods.
Source: Thompson, Janice, Melinda Manore, and Linda A. Vaughan. The Science of Nutrition. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2011. Print.