What is zinc and why do we need it?

A zinc taste test, or other types of monitoring for a zinc deficiency, can be a helpful tool considering zinc is an essential mineral involved in so many body processes. Zinc is needed for processes like immune function, growth and development, blood sugar regulation, wound healing (1). Other ways the body uses zinc include:

  • aiding in night vision
  • prostate function
  • reduction of inflammation
  • improved skin
  • toned down body odor
  • fertility
  • is crucial to the body’s ability to utilize over 100 enzymes that help regulate dozens of bodily processes every day.


How much zinc do you need?

Recommended intake levels are provided by the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI’s) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine.  Daily recommendations depend on your age, sex and life stage.

Average, daily intake requirements for adults (aged 19 years and older) is:

  • 9 mg/day for women, 11 mg/day in pregnancy
  • 11 mg/day for men


testing is available for zinc deficiency


How to best meet your recommended needs?

You can meet your daily needs with food sources such as seafood, poultry, beef, nuts, seeds, and some fortified cereals.

However, you may need supplements if you are deficient.  A deficiency can negatively affect the immune system and cognitive function, cause diarrhea, hair loss, poor appetite, skin disorders, and changes in taste.



How can you test your zinc levels?

There are a few ways to assess for zinc deficiency. There are products like Zinc Test by Standard Process or Zinc Tally by Metagenics that allows for a simple taste test taste to gauge the level of zinc in the body. The simple taste test reveals your status in a matter of 30 seconds. Another option would be a blood test. You can talk to your doctor about assessing your serum levels. We also offer an in depth micronutrient deficiency test that includes zinc. 

How to do a zinc challenge taste test

You can purchase a Zinc Test or Zinc Tally (or similar) and find out quickly if your zinc levels may be low.

The simple taste test reveals your possible zinc status in a matter of 30 seconds.

  • To perform the test, hold the recommended amount of solution in your mouth until a taste develops.
  • Your taste buds will give you information about your zinc status
  • Results in taste will vary giving valuable information regarding your levels in the body.


What do the taste test results mean?

Compare your personal results to your taste test with these descriptions and see which category best describes your results.

    • If you do not taste the zinc, you may have a deficiency.  Or if after a few seconds the solution becomes “dry”, “mineral”, “furry”, or “sweet”; this may be an indicator of severe deficiency.
    • If you experience a mildly unpleasant taste; this could indicate a slightly low level.
    • An immediate, strong, metallic taste suggests adequate levels.

What is suggested should you have low levels?

Eating a balanced diet that provides adequate zinc and working with your nutritionist to determine appropriate supplementation. Take a supplement for eight weeks and retest.

Who is at risk of a zinc deficiency?

You are at risk if you have a:

  • diet that avoids foods with good sources of zinc
  • history of surgery on your intestines
  • diabetes or renal disease
  • history of anorexia nervosa or malnutrition

You are also at risk if you use any of these prescription medications:

  • Antacids
  • Female hormones
  • Diuretics
  • Antihypertensives
  • ACE inhibitors

How can I do a zinc challenge?

As indicated above, you can order your own test online.

Watch two of our dietitians take the challenge in this video.

YouTube video

-Blog reviewed and updated June 2024

Rebecca Bitzer loves to empower Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) and their clients.  Co-author of Welcome to the Rebelution: Seven steps to the nutrition counseling practice of your dreams and  Taste the Sweet Rebellion: Rebel against dieting.