Zinc is an essential nutrient that is involved in a wide range of vital body processes, including the normal functioning of the reproductive, neurologic, dermatologic, and gastrointestinal systems. It is a basic component of over 300 enzymes and is essential for cell growth and division, immune function, DNA synthesis, wound healing, and protein production. In this article, we will share the top 10 zinc rich foods that you can easily find and add to your meals or diet to improve your health.
As zinc helps cells to grow and multiply, adequate amounts of it are required in childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy.
Zinc is a trace mineral that needs to be consumed in relatively small amounts every day.
- The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults (above 19 years of age) is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. Pregnant and lactating females require 11 mg and 12 mg respectively.
- The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of Zinc is 40 mg a day for adults (above 19 years). This is the highest level of daily nutrient intake that is unlikely to have adverse health effects.
Top 10 Zinc Rich Foods
Zinc deficiency is characterized by stunted growth, diarrhea, loss of appetite, impaired immune functions, headaches, impotence, hair loss, and skin and eye lesions.
If you have a zinc deficiency, here is a list of foods that can help you meet your daily requirement:
Meat is an excellent source of zinc. The greatest of all types of zinc-containing meat is red meat, and beef and lamb meat are also good sources of it. However, red meat should be consumed in moderation as it is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.
According to dietary guidelines, about half of the daily required amounts should come from lean meat options.
- Zinc content: three ounces of meat contains 2.4g of zinc
- Preparation: The healthy way is to boil or roast it with minimal spices and condiments
While adding seafood to your diet is a great way to improve your health overall, shellfish are one of the highest natural sources of zinc. Crab, lobster, and oysters, among other types of shellfish, are known to have high zinc content.
However, pregnant females should only consume shellfish that are completely cooked to avoid food poisoning.
- Zinc content: a 3 oz. cooked oyster contains 74 mg, a 3 oz. crab contains 6.5 mg and a 3 oz. serving of lobster contains 3.4 mg.
- Preparation: a preferable method to cook shellfish is to prepare them using a moist heat method. This includes steaming, poaching, boiling, or braising.
Nuts are delicious powerhouses of nutrients that provide a plethora of health benefits. Pine nuts, peanuts, cashews, almonds, and walnuts provide adequate amounts of zinc along with other minerals and essential fatty acids. Overall, nuts are a good source of fiber, healthy fats, plant proteins, and phytochemicals.
- Zinc content: a handful of nuts contain 3.5 mg.
- How to consume: a handful of almonds, cashews, or walnuts can be consumed as snacks or with smoothies.
Seeds are extremely nutritious and provide several health benefits. They are great sources of fiber, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Generally, seeds are little bundles of energy, protein, and nutrients but not all seeds are good sources of zinc. Some seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, squash, hemp, and chia have relatively higher zinc contents.
- Zinc content: 1 oz. of squash, pumpkin, and hemp seeds provide 3 mg and 1 oz. of sunflower seeds and chia seeds provide 2 mg and 1 mg of zinc respectively.
- How to consume: These seeds are easy to incorporate into your diet. You can eat them whole or grind them into a powder and add them to yogurt or smoothies.
Eggs have high nutritional qualities that are beneficial for adults and children besides being good sources of protein, and also contain a decent amount of zinc.
- Zinc content: 1 large egg contains 0.6mg of zinc.
- How to consume: in any form because heat does not affect the zinc levels.
6. Whole Grains
Whole grains such as wheat, quinoa, rice, and oats contain significant amounts of zinc, calcium, iron, and other minerals but they are not absorbed by the body due to the presence of high amounts of phytates. Phytates decrease the intestinal absorption of zinc by binding to it. However, whole grains are significantly important in improving overall health. They are a good source of fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, manganese, and selenium.
Legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and beans provide considerable amounts of zinc. However, similar to whole grains, they also contain phytates. Phytates reduce the intestinal absorption of zinc and other minerals. But nevertheless, legumes are a great source of zinc for vegans and vegetarians. Adding foods such as moong dal, urad dal, black beans, and chickpeas to your diet can greatly improves your zinc intake and provide other health benefits. Furthermore, legumes are low-fat and high-protein foods that are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Zinc content: 1 cup of cooked lentils provides 2.52 mg, 1 cup of black beans provides 1.93 mg, and 1 cup of chickpeas provide 1.66 mg.
- Preparation: boiling.
Dairy products, particularly cheese, milk, and yogurt, are rich sources of calcium and zinc. They also contain protein, calcium, and vitamin D, all of which promote bone health.
- Zinc content: 1 cup each of nonfat milk and low-fat milk contains 1.1 mg and 1.05 mg respectively, and 1 cup each of non-fat yogurt and low-fat plain yogurt contain 2.38 mg and 2.2 mg respectively.
- How to consume: Add fat-free or low-fat milk to oatmeal and smoothies, and try yogurt topped with fresh fruits.
Fruits and vegetables are generally poor sources of zinc. However, some vegetables like mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, kale, and garlic provide a good amount of it. These are nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich, and low-calorie foods and can easily be incorporated into your diet for an extra dose of zinc.
- Zinc content: 1 cup of sliced raw mushrooms contains 0.36 mg, 1 cup of cooked kale contains 0.3 mg, and half a cup of cooked spinach contains 79 mg.
- How to Consume: boiled, roasted, or raw, and even as vegetable soup.
10. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains a fair amount of zinc. It is also rich in minerals and antioxidants that provide several health benefits. Even though dark chocolate is a good source of zinc, you should not rely on it as your main source, and must be consumed in moderation as it is high in calories and sugar.
- Zinc content: 100 g of 70-85 percent dark chocolate has 0.9 mg.
Zinc is an essential mineral needed for enzyme activity, immune support, wound healing, protein synthesis, and even for normal taste and smell. It is abundant in many types of foods, so the key is to consume a variety of zinc-containing ones.
If you are still unable to meet your daily zinc requirement with these top 10 zinc rich foods, consult your physician about the possibility of taking a supplement for it.