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Mussels and Zinc

By Erica Kannall

Consuming mussels boosts your daily zinc intake to help maintain your overall health. Mussels, a type of shellfish similar to clams, are commonly harvested along the U.S. and Mediterranean coastlines and are farmed in other parts of the world. They come in a variety of shell shapes and colors, including blue, green and yellow. In addition to the creatures' visual appeal, the zinc in mussels may speed healing from injuries and help you recovery from the common cold.

Role of Zinc in the Body

Zinc is an essential mineral needed in your body to maintain certain processes. Your body is unable to store zinc, so it must be present in your daily diet. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, about 100 enzyme reactions in your body require zinc. It also plays a part in cellular metabolism, immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing and cell division. Normal growth and development during childhood, adolescence and pregnancy rely on adequate zinc levels as well. It's found naturally in many protein-rich foods and is commonly added to breakfast cereals.

Amount of Zinc in Mussels

Eating mussels can help meet your daily dietary requirement for zinc. A 3-ounce portion of cooked mussels contains about 2.3 milligrams of zinc, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Adult men need at least 11 milligrams of zinc per day, women need at least 8 milligrams and pregnant or lactating women need 11 to 12 milligrams per day. Eating one serving of mussels meets anywhere from 19 percent to 29 percent of the recommended daily intake for zinc.

Getting Enough, But Not Too Much

A deficiency of zinc in your diet may cause loss of appetite, growth retardation, impaired immune function, hair loss, diarrhea, changes in taste and reproductive health problems. Your need for zinc may increase at certain times in your life, such as when growing, healing from a wound or while pregnant or breast-feeding. Although getting enough zinc is essential, consuming more than 40 milligrams per day may cause toxicity, resulting in nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea and headaches. Excess zinc intake may also interact with certain medications, such as antibiotics and diuretics.

Incorporating Mussels in Your Diet

Incorporating mussels into your diet may seem daunting if you've never worked with these shellfish before. But with a little practice, you'll find ways to get the benefits of zinc from preparing these mollusks. There are dozens of mussel varieties, all differing in appearance and flavor. Look for mussels with tightly closed shells when purchasing to ensure they're fresh and alive. You can then steam or bake these shellfish to cook them. Serving with a broth or sauce gives more flavor to the mussels.

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