No one talks much about zinc benefits, but it’s an essential mineral that we all need to stay healthy. Zinc is found everywhere throughout our bodies, in our cells, tissues, and organs; but most of the two to three grams of zinc in the average adult body is contained in muscles and bones.

Zinc deficiency is widespread in the developing world, but even in the U.S., experts estimate that about 12 percent of Americans are at risk. Zinc deficiency can lead to impaired growth and development in children, low libido, hair loss, loss of appetite, fatigue, irritability, slow wound healing, and infection.

Here are seven awesome ways zinc benefits your health:

1. Zinc Can Boost Your Sex Drive

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If your libido is flagging, it might be a sign that you are deficient in zinc. Studies have linked zinc deficiency to low testosterone levels and vaginal dryness.

2. Zinc Helps Drive Away Zits

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In a Swedish dermatological study, doctors found that the severity of acne lesions decreased from 100 percent to 15 percent in patients receiving 12 weeks of treatment with zinc sulfate (taken orally).

3. Zinc Helps Heal Cuts and Wounds

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Zinc deficiency slows the healing of cuts and infections, so getting enough from the foods we eat or taking a zinc supplement is essential to protect our skin. But in a study published in the journal Wound Repair and Regeneration, researchers noted that topical use of zinc appears to be better at treating skin wounds than oral therapy.

According to the authors, “topical zinc therapy is underappreciated even though clinical evidence emphasizes its importance in autodebridement, anti-infective action, and promotion of epithelialization.”

4. Zinc Oxide Is the Safest Sunblock

We’ve been slathering ourselves in sunscreen for years, to protect our skin from the sun and prevent skin cancer. But now we know that many of the ingredients in chemical sunscreens are actually toxic to our skin and linked to cancer themselves.

Zinc oxide is an effective alternative because it acts as a reflective shield, creating a physical barrier between your skin and the sun’s damaging UV rays. One patented sunscreen uses chelated zinc oxide to maximize zinc’s healing effect on the skin.

5. Zinc Supports Your Immune System

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According to the European Journal of Immunology, our bodies need zinc to activate T cells, lymphocytes that regulate our immune system and attack infected or cancerous cells.

6. Zinc Helps Cure Colds

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In a meta-study published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists’ Association, scientists concluded that zinc can reduce the “duration and severity of symptoms of the common cold when administered within 24 hours of the onset of common cold symptoms.”

7. Zinc Fights Off Depression

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In a 2013 review on the role of zinc in major depression, neuroscientists describe how zinc-containing neurons regulate the brain and body’s response to stress. Low levels of zinc and zinc deficiency are linked to higher levels of depression.

A recent study found that patients receiving a zinc supplement in combination with antidepressant therapy had significantly reduced depressive symptoms compared with those receiving antidepressants alone.

Foods High in Zinc Include:

  • Oysters
  • Beef
  • Spinach
  • Pork
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Chicken
  • Cheese
  • Dark Chocolate/Cacao
  • Oatmeal
  • Milk

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Naomi Imatome-Yun is a food, wellness, and lifestyle editor. Her work appears in USA Today, Yahoo, and Dining Out. She is the author of Cooking with Gochujang: Asia’s Original Hot Sauce and is a food expert for About.com. Naomi lives in Santa Monica and spends her days running, reading, playing beach volleyball, doing yoga, wandering through sculpture parks, and dancing around with her husband and sons.

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HoneyColony and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on HoneyColony is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program.