Zinc has a range of functions. It plays a crucial role in growth and cell division, insulin activity, the metabolism of the ovaries and testes, and liver function. It is necessary for a healthy immune system and used to treat skin problems such as acne, boils and sore throats. As a component of many enzymes, zinc is involved in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and energy and used in the growth and maintenance of muscles.
A deficiency of zinc may lead to slow growth, poor appetite, wounds that take a long time to heal, loss of hair, decreased sense of taste and smell, hypogonadism (when the sex glands produce little or no hormones) in men, frequent infections and various skin lesions.
Good sources of zinc include dairy products, beans and lentils, yeast, nuts, seeds and wholegrain cereals. Pumpkin seeds provide one of the most concentrated vegetarian food sources of zinc.