Zinc is a trace mineral you need for normal growth and healthy immune system function. It's involved in protein production, DNA synthesis and cell division. Zinc is also necessary for hundreds of enzymes that function in different chemical reactions, and is also crucial for a normal sense of smell and taste.
1 to 3 years: 7.0 milligrams per day
4 to 8 years: 12 milligrams per day
9 to 13 years: 23 milligrams per day
14 to 18 years: 34 milligrams per day
19+ years: 40 milligrams per day
Dietary zinc is found in protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, fish and seafood. Oysters are particularly rich. Legumes, nuts, whole grains and dairy products contain smaller amounts. Your body doesn't have a good storage system for zinc, so you need to eat foods that contain zinc every day.
Zinc deficiency symptoms aren't common in children and young adults. However, as much as 20 percent of adults over the age of 60 may have a zinc deficiency. Vegetarians, pregnant or nursing women, alcoholics and people with digestive system conditions may benefit from eating foods rich in zinc or by taking supplements (speak to your doctor first). Zinc toxicity is possible if you take too much zinc as a supplement.
Other Trace Minerals
Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Zinc. Office of Dietary Supplements. Accessed October 28, 2009. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc/.
Otten JJ, Hellwig JP, Meyers LD. "Dietary Reference Intakes: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements." Institute of Medicine, 2006.