In the health and wellness world, it's common knowledge that zinc is a non-negotiable nutrient for men, but we rarely hear about the importance of zinc (or the benefits of zinc) for women.

It makes up less than 0.05% of total body weight but is present in all cell types, and after iron, is the second most prevalent trace mineral in the body; this should give some sign of its importance [1, 2].

And while it's probably not the first answer if you ask someone—what are the best supplements for women? Zinc should most definitely be on your radar.

But if you feel you’re not getting your dose of zinc per day, the best multivitamin for women has you covered by including this nutrient in its list of essential vitamins and minerals.

Continue reading as we delve deeper into the top 6 benefits of zinc for women.

1. It Boosts Your Immune System

Along with things like vitamin D, one of the key benefits of zinc is that it plays a critical role in immune function (if you're interested, see our Benefits of Vitamin D for Women article).

When the weather turns cold, and you feel the sniffles coming on, it's a good sign that you should probably start taking zinc, because a deficiency has been linked to increased susceptibility to a variety of pathogens.

Here's why your immune system needs adequate zinc [3]:
  1. Zinc is involved in the normal development of cells mediating the non-specific immune response, including neutrophils and natural killer (NK) cells
  2. It affects the development of acquired immunity through its control of T and B lymphocytes, cytokine production, and antibody production, especially IgG
  3. It regulates the action of macrophages, which are responsible for destroying pathogens
  4. Zinc plays a significant role in wound healing

So, if you're looking for a potent immune booster to prevent you from getting the common cold, take a zinc supplement or add in some zinc-rich foods!

2. It's An Antioxidant

Oxidative stress is a major underlying factor contributing to the development of several inflammatory diseases, including atherosclerosis, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and neurodegeneration, not to mention one of the biggest contributors to premature aging.

Oxidative damage happens when the body's cellular antioxidant system can't keep up with the number of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) floating around the body.

But it's important to remember that free radicals don't just come from external sources (pollutants, UV radiation, smoking, alcohol, drugs). They are also produced endogenously as a by-product of many biochemical reactions.

Along with copper and selenium, the zinc benefits for women include playing a vital role in mitigating the damage caused by free radicals.

It does so by increasing levels of certain antioxidant compounds, including glutathione, catalase, and heme-oxygenase [4].

So, the development of fine lines and wrinkles or the pain in your joints that won't seem to go away could be put to a screeching halt by getting your zinc levels up to snuff.

3. It Enhances Cognitive Health and Mood

Your brain is the control center for your entire body, so ensuring it gets the nutrients it needs is critical.

Whether you struggle with brain fog, memory issues, mood disturbances, fatigue, or virtually any other symptom, zinc can help!

Not only does zinc exhibit neuroprotective effects, but it also has an essential role in modulating the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which plays a role in hormone balance and mood.

Why? Because zinc is prevalent in glutamatergic neurons found throughout the limbic system; this is the hippocampus, hypothalamus, and amygdala, which are the centers responsible for emotion, memory, and learning [5].

What's more, research shows that the highest concentrations of zinc are found in the hippocampus, the area specifically responsible for memory and learning [6].

But it's not just memory and learning that zinc plays a role in. If you struggle with any mood imbalances, which, let's face it, we all do at some point; it may be because of a zinc deficiency.

Chronic stress causes elevated cortisol levels and has been linked to hyperactivity of the HPA axis, which has a role in mood regulation.

However, because of its role as a cofactor to stabilize the vesicular storage of neurotransmitters like glutamate, as well as its role in reducing cortisol levels, it can improve symptoms of various mood disorders [5].

4. It Maintains the Health of Your GI Tract

When it comes to digestive health, the reality is that most people struggle with some digestive disorder that causes things like gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and the like on a daily basis.

And the surprising thing is, most of these symptoms are linked to a sneaky little condition called leaky gut, whereby diet and lifestyle choices damage the gut lining, leading to the development of small "pores" that allow food particles to seep out and cause a reaction.

But surprise surprise, zinc can come to the rescue!

Studies show that zinc may be able to facilitate mucosal barrier dysfunction by modifying the tight junctions and helping to limit gut permeability [7, 8].

Improving the gut barrier not only means you reduce those nasty symptoms associated with leaky gut, but it also means you're improving general health by increasing nutrient absorption, decreasing inflammation, and reducing immune hypersensitivity.

5. It Gives You Clear, Radiant Skin

If you struggle with any skin conditions, be it acne, wrinkles, and just red, puffy, inflamed skin, zinc should be at the top of your supplement list.

As the skin is the third most zinc-abundant tissue in the body, the importance of zinc for skin health should be self-explanatory.

When applied topically, generally in the form of zinc oxide, it can help to protect the skin.

This is because zinc is one of two physical sun filters capable of deflecting UV rays that damage the skin [9][9].

Zinc deficiency has also been linked to changes in skin pigmentation and atopic dermatitis.

So, if you want to keep your skin looking plump, youthful, and glowing, bump up your levels of zinc.

6. Fertility? It Helps That Too

The role of zinc in reproductive health is mainly geared towards men, but as it turns out, it's just as crucial for women.

This is because zinc plays a major role in the metabolism of androgens, as well as the female reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Imbalances in any of these hormones contribute to menstrual irregularities and can decrease fertility.

Studies show that zinc is a natural androgen blocker because of its ability to block the conversion of testosterone to DHT.

As a result, this reduces the risk of high androgens and estrogen dominance, while also helping to support the production of progesterone by stimulating the pituitary gland to release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) [10].

For women that have already conceived, zinc is critical to the health of the fetus.

Zinc deficiency has been shown to cause spontaneous abortion, pregnancy-related toxemia, extended pregnancy or prematurity, malformations, and retarded growth [11].

With all of that said, if there's ONE thing you want to include in your diet or supplement regimen, zinc should be at the top of your list.

Not sure where to get zinc?

Supplementation is an excellent option to bump up your levels and prevent a zinc deficiency, but getting it from food sources should always be a priority.

Here are the best food sources of zinc:

  1. Beef—4.1 mg of zinc per 4oz. (37% DRI)
  2. Lamb—3.9 mg of zinc per 4oz. (35% DRI)
  3. Sesame seeds—2.8 mg of zinc per ¼ cup (25% DRI)
  4. Pumpkin seeds—2.5 mg of zinc per ¼ cup (23% DRI)
  5. Lentils—2.5 mg of zinc per 1 cup (23% DRI)
  6. Chickpeas—2.5 mg of zinc per 1 cup (23% DRI)
  7. Turkey—1.95 mg of zinc per 4 oz. (18% DRI)
  8. Shrimp—1.85 mg of zinc per 4 oz. (17% DRI)

A word of caution when supplementing: Be mindful of over supplementing with zinc.

Excess levels of nutrients like iron and copper can prevent zinc absorption because they compete in the intestinal tract, but also extra levels of zinc can reduce levels of iron and copper, leading to deficiencies.

Always seek medical advice from a health professional regarding zinc supplements and determine an ideal dosage.

References

  1. N Bagherani, Indian J Dermatol. Hypothesis: Zinc Can Be Effective In Treatment of Vitiligo. 2011 Sep-Oct; 56(5): 480–484. doi: 10.4103/0019-5154.87116
  2. M Jarosz, Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of zinc. Zinc-dependent NF-κB signaling. Inflammopharmacology. 2017; 25(1): 11–24. Published online 2017 Jan 12. doi: 10.1007/s10787-017-0309-4
  3. A H Shankar, Zinc and immune function: the biological basis of altered resistance to infection. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Aug;68(2 Suppl):447S-463S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/68.2.447S.
  4. M Jarosz, Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of zinc. Zinc-dependent NF-κB signaling. Inflammopharmacology. 2017; 25(1): 11–24. Published online 2017 Jan 12. doi: 10.1007/s10787-017-0309-4
  5. M Piao, The Role of Zinc in Mood Disorders. Neuropsychiatry (London) (2017) 7(4), 378–386
  6. E Pan, Vesicular Zinc Promotes Presynaptic and Inhibits Postsynaptic Long-Term Potentiation of Mossy Fiber-CA3 Synapse. Neuron, 2011; 71 (6): 1116 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.07.019
  7. G C Sturniolo, Zinc supplementation tightens "leaky gut" in Crohn's disease. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2001 May;7(2):94-8. doi: 10.1097/00054725-200105000-00003.
  8. A Michielan, Intestinal Permeability in Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Pathogenesis, Clinical Evaluation, and Therapy of Leaky Gut. Mediators Inflamm. 2015; 2015: 628157. Published online 2015 Oct 25. doi: 10.1155/2015/628157
  9. M Gupta, Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review. Dermatol Res Pract. 2014; 2014: 709152. Published online 2014 Jul 10. doi: 10.1155/2014/709152
  10. D Stamatiadis, Inhibition of 5 alpha-reductase activity in human skin by zinc and azelaic acid. Br J Dermatol. 1988 Nov;119(5):627-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.1988.tb03474.x.
  11. A E Favier, The role of zinc in reproduction. Biol Trace Elem Res 32, 363–382 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02784623