Known for its immune-boosting properties, zinc is a staple in many people's diets (and medicine cabinets) during cold and flu season. According to the National Institute of Health, adults need between eight and 11 milligrams of zinc every day, depending on their sex. Zinc can be found in foods like chicken, peanuts, and hummus, and according to Nina Lum, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician and hospitalist in Kentucky, most people who eat a balanced diet and take a regular multivitamin will get their recommended daily allowance of zinc. However, if you do need to take a supplement, it's important that you take it correctly.
Because zinc is absorbed in the small intestine, "it's best to take it one to two hours before meals, with a glass of water for optimal absorption," Dr. Lum told POPSUGAR. She further noted that you can consume zinc as a lozenge or in pill form, both of which can be taken at any time, day or night. Dr. Lum explained that, if you experience upset stomach when taking zinc on an empty stomach, you may find eating a meal beforehand can help reduce nausea or abdominal discomfort.
Again, most people can get by without a supplement. So, even if you're concerned about your zinc levels, it's important that you discuss supplementation with your doctor first. That's especially true during the pandemic, because while you may be interested in taking zinc to help prevent or treat COVID-19, Dr. Lum would urge you to reconsider. "Zinc can support immune function and help blood cells fight infections, but there are not enough studies that prove zinc can be an effective form of treatment for COVID-19," she said.