Not getting enough zinc can cause various health issues such as eye problems, hair loss, diarrhea, unwanted weight loss, and more. When you get the amount you need, your body flourishes.
We generally get all the zinc our bodies need through our diets, but a poor diet can lead to zinc deficiency. As much as twelve percent of the United States population are at risk for zinc deficiency and that number jumps to forty percent of the elderly population.
If you’re worried that you aren’t getting enough zinc, or if you are suffering from zinc deficiency and looking for ways to increase your intake, there are natural ways to do so.
This article provides a breakdown of what zinc is, its benefits, and twelve foods that are high in zinc.
What is zinc?
Zinc is one of the essential trace minerals that our bodies need but don’t produce. Since it is a trace mineral, our body doesn’t need much of it, but it is still vital to our health and development.
Zinc is found in cells throughout the body and plays many roles. It’s a key player in aiding the immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses. The body also uses zinc to heal wounds and help you smell and taste properly. Zinc is most important during pregnancy, infancy, and childhood since we need it to grow and develop properly.
Our bodies don’t naturally produce zinc, so we get it from the foods we consume. Therefore, a healthy diet is quite important to get your daily requirement.
How much zinc do you need?
The RDA, or Recommended Dietary Allowance, for adult men, is 11 mg of zinc a day and 8 mg for women. Women who are pregnant or lactating would need a bit more, and their recommendation is 11-12 mg.
Besides aiding in our growth and development, there are many benefits to consuming the recommended amount of zinc. Some of those benefits are:
- Faster wound healing: A key player in regulating all phases of the wound healing process, zinc can speed up healing. This can be through naturally increasing your intake, or sometimes as a topical cream or supplement.
- Boosted immune system: The immune system relies on the help of T cells when it comes to fighting off infections. Research shows that increased levels of zinc help with the performance and number of T cells.
- Reduction of age-related disease: Immune dysfunction and chronic inflammation are harder to deal with as we age. Since zinc helps keep the immune system running smoothly, older people who are more susceptible to infections must get their recommended amount.
- Reduced inflammation: Oxidative stress, an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body, can cause chronic inflammation. Zinc reduces the body’s oxidative stress levels, which reduces inflammation and swelling in the body.
How to add more zinc to your diet?
Although there are zinc supplements out there, the best way to get more zinc is through the foods you eat. Your body absorbs the nutrients better when it’s from food.
Here are 12 high in zinc foods
Shellfish are packed with protein, healthy fats, omega-3s, and vitamin B. That makes it a great addition to any healthy diet. Also, a good deal of seafood contains enough zinc to exceed your DV percentages.
If you love oysters, you are getting 52 mg of zinc per 6 oysters. That’s 472% of your daily recommended value!
Other shellfish that are high in zinc include Alaskan king crab at 10.2 mg per leg, cooked lobster with 3.4 mg per 3 ounces, and cooked shrimp providing 1.4 mg per 3 ounces. These are just a few examples of various seafood that are high in zinc.
High in protein, iron, and other valuable nutrients, meat is the main attraction of many meals.
Red meat contains the highest amount of zinc in the meat family, but pork and poultry are substantial sources as well.
Chuck steak, for instance, has approximately 15.4 mg of zinc in one steak, which is 140% of your DV.
Several types of meat that are zinc-rich are beef chuck pot roast with 6.6 mg of zinc per 3 ounces, pork chops with the fat still on them at 6.4 mg per chop, roasted chicken legs with the skin with 5.3 mg per leg, and lean roasted ham come in at 4.4 mg per cup. Any of these meats can be added to the menu to naturally increase your zinc intake.
3. Whole Grains
Known to decrease the risks of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, whole grains are great for the body.
To be considered a whole grain, the grain must contain the 3 major parts of a seed. Those parts are the bran (outer layer), germ (middle layer), and endosperm (core).
A few whole grains containing zinc are brown rice with 1.21 mg per cup, oatmeal with 1.5 mg per half a cup, and two slices of whole wheat bread with 1.8 mg.
Along with zinc, whole grains contain B vitamins, iron, vitamin E, antioxidants, and more great nutrients. Whole grain also has fiber, which makes you feel full longer because they take longer to digest.
Nuts make a great snack, and they are a quick and easy way to add a bit more zinc to your diet. Not only are they good for adding zinc, but they contain many vitamins and minerals the body needs.
Some nuts containing zinc are pine nuts and dry roasted cashews, both at 2 mg of zinc per ounce. Dry roasted pecans, Brazil nuts, and almonds all provide about 1 mg per ounce.
While it might not seem like nuts add much, remember zinc is a trace mineral. The daily recommended value is low, so an extra milligram or two helps.
Another satisfying snack on the list is seeds. Since seeds contain all the nutrients a plant will need to grow, our bodies reap the benefits of those nutrients when we eat them.
A handful of pumpkin or squash seeds, about one ounce, has around 3 mg of zinc. Following close behind, an ounce of sunflower seeds has 2 mg. Chia seeds and flax seeds, which are great additions to smoothies, have about 1 mg per ounce, each.
Seeds also provide our bodies with protein and the healthy fats we need.
6. Fortified breakfast cereals
Fortified breakfast cereals are cereals that contain added vitamins and minerals that wouldn’t naturally occur. To make sure people are getting the nutrients they need, they are added to foods the kids and adults typically eat.
Some ready-to-eat bran flake cereals have upwards of 27 mg of zinc per cup. Other breakfast cereals such as wheat germ, whole grain cereals, and anything low in sugar are great options for boosting your zinc intake.
Most cereals available now are fortified, but to be sure, check the ingredients list for the vitamins and minerals.
Beans, peas, lentils, soybeans, and peanuts are all part of the legume family. A healthy diet containing legumes can help lower blood sugar, blood pressure, heart rate, and other heart diseases.
Canned baked beans and canned chili with beans both contain a little over 5 mg of zinc per serving. Firm tofu has approximately 4 mg of zinc per serving. Cooked lentils and cooked chickpeas both have 2.5 mg of zinc.
There are multiple reasons outside of the additional zinc to add legumes to your weekly menu. They are a healthy source of protein, carbs, and fiber.
8. Specific Vegetables
Vegetables don’t need an introduction or an explanation. We all know how nutritious they are, and that they contain quite a few of the nutrients we need.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, getting your daily zinc requirement might be a bit more difficult, but some vegetables will help you get there quicker.
Cooked shiitake mushrooms and green peas are veggies with a high amount of zinc in this category. They both have approximately 1.9 mg of zinc per cup. Spinach, lima beans, lentil sprouts, and asparagus all have a little over 1 mg of zinc in them per cooked cup.
This is only a sample of the vegetables that provide zinc. Explore all the different options, because eating more veggies is always a good idea.
Packed with fiber and essential vitamins and minerals, fruit is always great to have around. They also contain antioxidants which help reduce the risk of certain diseases like heart disease, cancer, inflammation, and more.
Avocados contain about 1.3 mg of zinc per avocado. Blackberries have at least 0.8 mg per cup, while pomegranates have about 0.6 mg per cup. Some other fruits containing trace amounts of zinc are raspberries, guavas, and cantaloupes.
While fruits don’t have the highest amounts of zinc, adding a few of them will make hitting the daily recommended value easier.
Dairy products are full of nutrients like phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin D, and protein. The calcium in dairy also helps with building and maintaining strong bones.
The amount of zinc in dairy products can be just what you need to meet your DV amount.
One cup of grated low-sodium grated parmesan cheese has 3.2 mg of zinc per cup. Non-fat yogurt and low-fat yogurt have about 2.4 mg and 2.2 mg per cup, respectively. Low-fat 2% milk and skim milk range from 2.3 mg to 2.1 mg of zinc per 16 ounces.
A bowl of fortified cereal with milk could have you close to your zinc DV by the time you finish breakfast.
11. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is tasty and can be used in a variety of ways. It’s also good for your health since it is chocked full of omega-6. Since peanuts are a natural source of arginine, an amino acid, peanut butter can possibly prevent heart and vascular diseases.
A serving of peanut butter has around 0.85 mg of zinc, which is 7.7 percent of men’s DV and 1.6 percent of what’s recommended for women.
Though it might not seem like much, since peanut butter is versatile, it can be added to other foods to boost zinc intake. A pb&j on whole wheat bread or a spoonful in your oatmeal is a great way to add a few more milligrams of zinc to your diet.
12. Dark Chocolate
If you’re looking for a sweet treat with a bit more zinc, dark chocolate is a great option.
Any type of sweet should be enjoyed in moderation since they tend to be high in calories and fat, but dark chocolate is the healthiest of the chocolate family. Dark chocolate typically contains more nutrients like copper and iron than regular milk or white chocolate.
As for the amount of zinc in dark chocolate, that number is 0.9 mg per ounce.
If your sweet tooth bothers you, dark chocolate is a delightful treat to soothe it. Plus, again with moderation, you get to reap the benefits of lowering your risk for high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.
Since zinc is a trace mineral, it could be easy to dismiss its importance. It is vital and allows for our bodies to grow and develop properly. Therefore, a higher amount is needed for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Although the amount of zinc needed daily is small, it’s possible to miss the mark if you don’t have a healthy, well-rounded diet.
There are many benefits to getting your daily required milligrams of zinc. Having your injuries heal faster and a more efficient immune system can be the byproduct of you getting the zinc you need.
If you are looking to increase your intake of zinc, there are ways you can do so naturally. The best way to start is by incorporating some of the foods listed above.
Oysters lovers need not fear because oysters have well above the DV of zinc. For non-seafood lovers and vegetarians, there are plenty of options available. From zinc-packed vegetables, cereals, and everything in between, there’s a food or two you can add to get what you need.