Zinc is an essential mineral for many areas of general health. Found in cells throughout the body, it supports a healthy immune system. Zinc is involved in making proteins and DNA in the body, and is key in healing and our sense of taste and smell. Vegetarians and vegans are especially at risk for inadequate zinc consumption, since the best foods sources of zinc include oysters, red meat, poultry, and seafood.
Also certain compounds in plant foods inhibit proper zinc absorption. According to the National Institutes of Health, "vegetarians might need to eat as much as 50% more zinc than the recommended amounts." Other groups at risk for deficiency include those with malabsorption conditions, infants that are exclusively breast fed and heavy alcohol users.