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36 Foods Rich In Zinc

1. Oysters

39.3 mg / 100g

Considered a delicacy in many parts of the world, oysters contain the highest known natural source of bio-available zinc of any food group.

Indeed, an 85g serving, which is about a dozen oysters, provides as much as 74mg of zinc - this far exceeds the recommended daily requirement of zinc.

These versatile shellfish are low in calories and can be consumed cooked or raw, making them an easy, healthful snack between meals.

2. Pumpkin Seeds

7.81 mg / 100g

Pumpkin seeds are delicious roasted and added to flapjacks and breads, or slightly salted and eaten as a snack on their own; they are also an invaluable source of zinc and many other nutrients.

A 28g serving of pumpkin seeds contains as much as 2.9mg of zinc, or 27% of the recommended daily allowance for men, and 5.2g of protein, or 10% of the daily allowance, making them an easily available source of zinc and protein for vegetarians and vegans.

3. Sesame Seeds

7.75 mg / 100g

Sesame seeds may seem tiny and insignificant, but they hide a multitude of nutrients that make them an incredibly important part of any diet. They are low in cholesterol, salt and bad fats and contain a remarkable amount of dietary fibre and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids – all of which are important for maintaining health.

Also, a 28g serving of sesame seeds contains around 2mg of zinc, or about 18% of the daily allowance for men. It is very easy to incorporate these seeds into your diet; whether you eat them straight out of the packet or chuck a handful on your cereal in the morning, they are one of the easiest ways to get zinc into your body.

4. Pine Nuts

6.45 mg / 100g

Native to regions of the northern hemisphere, pine nuts are the creamy fruits of female cones in pine trees. They are calorie-rich and an excellent source of good mono-unsaturated fats and nutrients, including zinc; in fact, a 28g serving contains about 1.83mg of zinc, which is roughly 17% of a man's recommended daily allowance.

These are an excellent snack for anyone who is gluten intolerant because the pine nut is one of the few nuts available that is naturally gluten free, making them an ideal choice for adding to trail mixes and cookies.

5. Cashew Nuts

5.78 mg / 100g

Cashew nuts are absolutely delicious roasted, lightly salted and eaten as a snack; they are also very popular in vegetarian and vegan diets thanks to their versatility and the levels of protein they contain.

These creamy nuts are a good source of zinc, containing 1.6mg per 28g serving. Cashew nuts can often be used in place of other nuts in a number of recipes and will provide you with a wealth of good fats and cholesterol, making them a healthy option for almost any diet.

6. Adzuki Beans

5.04 mg / 100g

Native to East Asia, adzuki beans are a staple food for many cuisines in the region, especially Japan and China. Traditionally they are used in sweet dishes and are often made into a bean paste that can be used in making sweets, cakes and even tea.

That said, they make an excellent addition to chilli and stews that call for beans. Adzuki beans are incredibly low in fat, containing 0.23g per cup, making them ideal for low fat diets.

They are also a rich source of zinc, with one cup of cooked beans providing 4.07mg, roughly 37% of a man's recommended daily intake.

7. Sunflower Seeds

5 mg / 100g

Sunflower seeds are high energy, nutrient dense foodstuffs that can be easily incorporated into any diet; sprinkle some over your cereal, add them to a flapjack recipe or eat them roasted and lightly salted as a snack, the possibilities are endless.

It really pays to include these powerful little seeds in your diet because they are a rich source of zinc, packing as much as 5mg in per 100g, or around 45% of the daily allowance for men; and since these seeds are incredibly tasty and easy to use, it isn't hard to imagine eating them in large quantities!

8. Chia Seeds

4.58 mg / 100g

Touted as a superfood, the humble chia seed is packed full of dietary fibre, non-animal protein and omega fatty acids. It also provides around 7% of daily zinc requirements in a 28g serving.

Chia seeds are regularly used in a number of vegan recipes, such as chia pudding, but they are quite popular in the mainstream as well and find their way into energy bars, cakes and even jams.

9. Grass Fed Beef

4.55 mg / 100g

It has long been believed that cows fed on grass produce much better quality beef that is richer in essential nutrients and protein, than cows fed a processed diet.

Indeed, a 100g serving of grass fed beef contains as much as 30% of the recommended intake of zinc, as well as being high in protein, B vitamins and other essential trace minerals.

There are a huge number of ways to incorporate grass fed beef into your diet such as a simple steak with salad, beef stew or cooked in strips and served in a sandwich.

10. Pecans

4.53 mg / 100g

Related to the walnut, pecans originate from Mexico and have a delicious smoky flavour when roasted. They are complimented by maple syrup and are often used with similar tasting syrups to make delicious pastries and pies; pecans are also great in trail mixes and cookies. A 28g serving of pecans contains around 8% of the daily requirement of zinc.

11. Flax Seeds

4.34 mg / 100g

Flax seeds are packed full of protein, fibre and contain no cholesterol, and with the exception of vitamin C, they contain good amounts of almost every other vitamin and mineral your body needs.

A 28g serving of flax seed has around 8% of the recommended daily intake of zinc. It is incredibly easy to incorporate them into the diet by adding them to cakes and flapjacks, sprinkling them over cereal or including them in trail mix.

12. Brazil Nuts

4.06 mg / 100g

Native to South America, the brazil nut is exported around the world and is especially popular in sweet treats, like cookies. It is a surprisingly versatile nut and finds its way into many vegan recipes such as cream cheese and nut milk, but is also regularly used in trail mixes or consumed on its own as a simple snack.

The brazil nut provides a good level of protein, omega-6 fatty acids and minerals like zinc; indeed, a 28g serving of brazil nuts contains around 8-10% of the recommended daily allowance of zinc.

13. Oats

3.97 mg / 100g

Oats come in many forms these days, but regardless of how they are processed they are an excellent source of dietary fibre, protein and trace minerals; one cup of oats can also provide you with up to 41% of your daily zinc needs!

Oats are extremely easy to incorporate into the diet either as porridge, home made cookies, breads and flapjacks, or even by chucking a handful into minced meat dishes where they will dissolve completely.

14. Lentils

3.27 mg / 100g

Lentils are a staple ingredient in many frugal, vegan and vegetarian households thanks to their high protein content and ability to be used in place of meat in a number of dishes including curry, bolognaise & pasta sauces, chilli and stews. A one cup serving of cooked lentils contains roughly 17% of the recommended daily intake of zinc.

15. Peanuts

3.27 mg / 100g

Peanuts taste great and are packed full of protein, making them an excellent addition to vegetarian and vegan diets. Smooth peanut butter can be used in place of tahini in hummus and whole peanuts are delicious as a snack when lightly salted or covered in dark chocolate. A 28g serving of peanuts also contains around 6% of the recommended daily intake of zinc.

16. Almonds

3.12 mg / 100g

Because they are naturally gluten-free, almonds are a wonderful option for anyone that eats a gluten-free diet. Powdered, they are great in cakes and biscuits; whole, they can be soaked and whizzed up to create a vegan-friendly almond milk.

These amazing nuts are rich in a huge number of nutrients, including zinc, and monounsaturated fats which have a positive impact on cholesterol levels. A 28g serving of almonds will provide around 6% of the recommended daily intake of zinc, making them an excellent and healthful snack choice.

17. Quinoa

3.1 mg / 100g

This simple grain has been cultivated for human consumption for thousands of years, largely due to its ability to cope in very dry conditions.

Quinoa is classed as a complete protein source and features regularly in the diets of many health-conscious people, particularly those who suffer with gluten intolerance because, unlike many other grains, quinoa has a very low gluten index.

A one cup serving of cooked quinoa will provide you with around 13% of the daily intake for zinc, as well as a good helping of protein, fibre and other important minerals.

18. Walnuts

3.09 mg / 100g

Walnuts are composed almost entirely from fat, however, they are incredibly low in cholesterol and the fat that they do contain is the good kind.

They are an amazingly rich source of every mineral our bodies need, bar sodium, and a one cup serving of chopped walnuts provides you with around 28% of the recommended daily intake of zinc.

Walnuts are easy to add to the diet, eat them straight out of the packet as a snack, chuck them in cakes and cookies or include them in homemade trail mixes to get the maximum benefits.

19. Lima Beans

2.83 mg / 100g

Lima beans, also known as butter beans, are an excellent source of many of the essential trace minerals our bodies need and a one cup serving of cooked beans will contain around 12% of the daily requirement of zinc.

They are also high in protein and dietary fibre and low in fat. Lima beans make tasty additions to rice and pasta salads, as well as being great in a burrito or fajita mix.

20. Kidney Beans

2.79 mg / 100g

A versatile ingredient, kidney beans regularly feature in a wide array of dishes including chilli, bean burgers, fajitas and goulash.

They are incredibly high in dietary fibre and non-animal protein, but contain no fat, making them great for people on low-fat diets.

Kidney beans are also an excellent source of many trace minerals including zinc, with one cup of cooked kidney beans containing around 10% of the recommended requirement.

21. Garbanzo Beans

2.76 mg / 100g

More commonly known as chickpeas, garbanzo beans are the main component in hummus and falafels. They also make an excellent addition to stews and pasta sauces.

The beans are rich in fibre and non-meat protein and contain an incredible quantity of important trace minerals, including zinc. A one cup serving of cooked garbanzo beans contains as much as 23% of the daily recommended intake of zinc.

22. Hazelnuts

2.45 mg / 100g

Like many nuts, hazelnuts are energy and nutrient dense foods that make an excellent addition to your diet. They are delicious eaten as a snack and make chocolate chip cookies taste wonderful; they can also be used in cakes, puddings and trail mixes as well.

A 28g serving of hazelnuts will generally provide around 5% of the recommended daily allowance of zinc, as well as plenty of omega-6 fatty acids and a good dose of other important minerals.

23. Corn

2.21 mg / 100g

Corn is an amazingly versatile plant, it can be ground to make flour for use in breads, cooked as cobs on a grill and served with butter, or separated into kernels and used in risottos.

Corn also has varying levels of bioavailable zinc that depend on how it has been processed, cooked and stored.

Corn kernels, raw, contain about 0.46mg of zinc per 100g, but cooked kernels can contain up to 0.63mg per 100g. Corn flour usually has around 1.8mg of zinc per 100g, whilst cornmeal will provide up to 3.24mg per 100g.

24. Pistachio Nuts

2.2 mg / 100g

Pistachio nuts are quite high in fat and should be consumed in moderation; that said, they are a good source of vitamins, minerals and protein. A 28g serving of pistachio nuts provides around 4% of the daily intake of zinc, the same size serving is also surprisingly low in cholesterol and sodium, as long as no salt has been added.

Pistachio nuts are most often enjoyed as a high energy snack, but they do also make a great tasting ice cream and are wonderful scattered through a curry.

25. Black Turtle Beans

2.2 mg / 100g

Black turtle beans have a very meaty texture that makes them popular for use in vegetarian dishes; they are also one of the main ingredients in black bean burritos.

These tiny beans are surprisingly full of nutrients that are essential for maintaining a healthy body and weight, including dietary fibre, protein and vitamin B6. A one cup serving of black turtle beans also provides 27% of the recommended daily allowance of zinc.

26. Brown Rice

2.02 mg / 100g

It is well known that brown rice is healthier and contains more nutrients than white rice. As such it features in the diets of many health-conscious individuals.

As well as being a tasty accompaniment to hot curries, brown rice makes excellent egg-fried rice and is also great made into a cold rice salad. A one cup serving of cooked brown rice, whether hot or cold, will provide you with around 1.2mg of zinc.

27. Dark Chocolate

2.01 mg / 100g

Of all the sweet treats available, dark chocolate is perhaps one of the healthiest; and the higher the percentage of cocoa solids it contains, the better it is. A 100g bar of dark chocolate can contain as much as 22% of the recommended daily allowance of zinc. That said, it is recommended that no more than 84g (3oz) of dark chocolate is consumed in one day in order to prevent weight gain from the calories it contains.

28. Turkey

1.84 mg / 100g

Turkey is renowned for being quite low in calories compared to other meats and is high in protein - one cup of turkey contains just 291 calories and 79% of daily protein requirements. It therefore it features regularly in diet recipes.

It can be used in place of other poultry meats and in a minced form is a great alternative to red meat. One cup of cooked turkey also contains approximately 28% of your daily zinc requirements, making turkey a sensible choice for anyone wanting to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

29. Mussels

1.6 mg / 100g

Mussels are considered to be an environmentally friendly option for anyone who enjoys seafood because they are found in abundance in the wild, unlike some of the more heavily farmed or fished species of fish.

They are best when lightly steamed and served with lemon juice and butter, but there are a number of delicious recipes that include mussels such as seafood risotto and chowder. An 85g serving of mussels contains roughly 15% of the recommended daily requirement of zinc.

30. Shrimp

1.34 mg / 100g

Shrimp is very high in cholesterol and so should only be consumed in moderation, however, it does contain some very good levels of important nutrients including zinc, with an 85g serving having around 9% of your daily zinc needs. Shrimp can be cooked and eaten as is, breaded and fried to eat with chips, or added to fish pie and paella.

31. Edamame

1.32 mg / 100g

Edamame are the green, immature pods of the soybean plant and are commonly available frozen; this is to prevent them spoiling after picking, which they so often do.

They are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, non-animal protein and dietary fibre, and a one cup serving will provide around 14% of the recommended daily requirement of zinc.

Edamame are popular to eat as snacks, but can also be added to sauces, curries and risottos to add an extra protein kick to any meal.

32. Macadamia Nuts

1.3 mg / 100g

A 28g serving of macadamia nuts contains roughly 2% of the daily allowance of zinc. These tasty nuts are also a reliable source of many of the other important vitamins and minerals our bodies need, but they are quite high in fat so should be eaten in moderation.

That said, macadamia nuts are delicious added to cookies and energy bars, they also work well in trail mixes and stuffing, or simply eaten on their own as a snack.

33. Eggs

1.29 mg / 100g

Eggs are an excellent, non-meat source of protein and B vitamins; they also provide a good amount of zinc, with one egg containing around 4% of the recommended daily allowance.

Eggs are incredibly versatile and allow you to whip up a delicious, wholesome meal in just a few minutes including scrambled or poached and served with wholemeal bread, or turned into an omelette packed full of veggies and cheese.

34. Peas

1.24 mg / 100g

Peas can be prepared and enjoyed in a number of ways, and should definitely be included in any healthy diet because they are packed full of goodness.

One cup of green peas contains varying amounts of almost every essential vitamin and mineral, including around 12% of the daily zinc requirement, and they also have an impressive amount of dietary fibre and protein.

Stir peas through risotto, as a side to meat and fish dishes or add them to curries to enjoy their healthful benefits.

35. Coconut

1.1 mg / 100g

The levels of zinc available in coconut depends on how the coconut meat has been prepared and stored. Generally speaking, coconut meat that has been dried, sweetened and then flaked only contains around 0.7mg of zinc per 100g, but coconut meat that has been dried and toasted contains the highest levels of zinc with roughly 2mg per 100g of coconut.

It is incredibly easy to incorporate coconut into the diet by chucking it in flapjacks or adding it to smoothies; regardless of how you include it, it will give zinc levels a little kick.

36. Mushrooms

1.03 mg / 100g

The levels of zinc in mushrooms varies depending on the type of mushroom you are eating. A one cup portion of regular white button mushrooms only contains around 4% of the daily requirement of zinc, but one cup of Shiitake mushrooms contains 6%.

To reap the maximum zinc benefits, consume oyster mushrooms as they will provide as much as 8% of the daily requirement of zinc.

About Zinc

Zinc is a mineral that occurs naturally in a number of foods and plays a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy body, particularly where the immune system is concerned. It can also be artificially created – usually in the form of zinc gluconate, zinc sulphate and zinc acetate – and used in dietary supplements or to fortify cereals and other foodstuffs. These are an important part of vegetarian diets since vegetarians and vegans often need to eat more zinc-rich foods in order to reach their daily requirement than meat eaters do.

One of the biggest concerns regarding zinc in a vegetarian diet relates to the understanding that zinc from plants and wholegrains is harder to absorb due to the phytates they contain which bind the zinc and prevent it being absorbed into the blood stream. That said, it is perfectly possible for someone to achieve their dietary zinc needs by eating a well planned vegetarian diet and doing things such as soaking, sprouting and fermenting some of the foods that they eat to help counteract the problems caused by phytates.

Its status as an essential trace element means that we only need a small amount of zinc to maintain our health. Unfortunately, however, zinc cannot be stored in our bodies longterm which means that we need to eat foods containing it on a daily basis in order to prevent ourselves from developing a deficiency; whatever is not used will be flushed out of the body within roughly twenty four hours.

The amount of zinc available naturally in food will vary depending on the food, and even in artificially created zinc supplements the amount of elemental zinc available will depend on the form it takes, so a varied, balanced diet is key to ensuring that your zinc requirements are met.

Why Is Zinc Important?

The importance of zinc in our diets is alarmingly underestimated, you only need to look at the symptoms of zinc deficiency mentioned below to understand that this mineral is imperative to a healthy body. One of the most important functions of zinc is to ensure that the immune system works properly and is as strong as it can be.

Zinc is needed in order to allow lymphocytes (white blood cells) to proliferate and do their job; with this in mind, it is understood that zinc may help reduce the time it takes to recover from a cold, although there is conflicting evidence in relation to this.

Zinc is also needed to ensure that children grow and develop properly. In 2012, a study conducted by Hamza et al examined how zinc affected growth in pre-pubescent Egyptian children. Fifty children who were shorter than average and suffering from zinc deficiency were given zinc supplements for three months; at the end of the study, they had all increased in height. It was concluded, however, that zinc supplementation should occur for a longer period because the children were still shorter, on average, than their peers.

According to a 2013 review, zinc supplementation may be beneficial in shortening episodes of diarrhoea in children over six months of age. The evidence showed that in twenty-four trials of more than nine thousand children, zinc was effective at reducing the duration of an episode by around ten hours; in children suffering from malnutrition this time was further reduced by twenty-seven hours.

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group examined the effects that antioxidants and zinc would have on slowing the onset of macular degeneration in a long term study that followed 3640 participants, aged fifty-five years and over, for an average of 6.3 years. The results showed that supplementation with the antioxidants and zinc, as well as zinc on its own, greatly reduced the chances of developing macular degeneration. The antioxidants on their own appeared to have no effect which suggests that zinc was the primary catalyst in preventing the degeneration.

Also, thanks to a recent study, it is thought that children who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are lacking in appropriate levels of zinc in their blood stream. Indeed, the study demonstrated that their zinc levels were significantly lower than those of their peers who did not suffer from ADHD. There have been suggestions that supplementing their diets with zinc may be of benefit. Of course, further research does need to be done in this area, but the findings are promising.

Recommended Intakes

Generally speaking, the recommended daily allowance of zinc for adult males, aged nineteen and over, is 11mg a day; for females it is 8mg, except when pregnant – then it is 11mg a day and 12mg a day for breastfeeding mothers.

For the elderly, aged sixty years and over, females should be getting around 6.8mg a day and males should be getting 9.4mg a day. Unfortunately, however, it would appear that older people are not always getting what they need, especially if they are in a food-insufficient household, with as much as 25% of older adults not getting their daily allowance of zinc.

For children aged thirteen or under, the recommended daily allowances are the same for both sexes: 8mg for nine to thirteen year olds; 5mg for four to eight year olds; and 3mg for children aged from seven months to three years old.

For babies aged six months and under, there is no recommended daily allowance, instead there is something called an “adequate intake”, which refers to an amount that is deemed suitable because there is a lack of scientific evidence to set an actual guideline for a particular group. The adequate intake for babies aged six months and under is set at around 2mg a day.

Even though you should be aiming for the recommended daily allowance of zinc, there is a safe upper limit of zinc that can be taken daily of up to 40mg a day for men and women over the age of nineteen; 34mg for those aged between fourteen and eighteen; 23mg for nine to thirteen year olds; 12mg for four to eight year olds; 7mg for children between one and three years old; 5mg for infants aged between seven and twelve months; and 4mg for those under six months old. Long term ingestion of amounts over these limits can cause long term health problems.

Zinc Deficiency

There are a number of symptoms that highlight the possibility of a zinc deficiency; although their presence does not necessarily mean that low zinc levels is the problem, it is always worth getting any symptoms checked out. Things to look out for include: loss of appetite, diarrhoea, depression, loss of smell or taste, lethargy, impaired immune system i.e. getting ill a lot, hair loss and acne.

In severe cases, a zinc deficiency can exhibit with symptoms such as growth retardation and delayed sexual maturity in children, problems with eyesight, wounds not healing properly, anaemia, mental retardation and even anorexia. It is a serious problem that should be treated urgently.

In the developed world, severe zinc deficiencies are incredibly rare although mild deficiencies can occur, often due to a poor diet or a problem with zinc absorption. There are a number of groups that are at a higher risk of developing zinc deficiency than others and they include:

  • Vegetarians – as explained above, vegetarians do not eat meat or fish, which are rich sources of easily available zinc. They also tend to eat foods that are high in phytates that bind zinc and make it harder to access, such as wholegrains and legumes.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women – being pregnant can put a huge strain on your body because another life relies on you to provide it with all the nutrients it needs to grow into a healthy baby; this means that women who are pregnant can very easily become zinc deficient, especially if they started pregnancy already on the borderline of deficiency. Post-birth, breastfeeding mothers are still at a risk of becoming zinc deficient because their babies are still heavily reliant on them to provide all the nutrients their tiny bodies need to thrive.
  • Alcoholics – the consumption of alcohol reduces the rate at which zinc is absorbed and increases zinc excretion. Of course, this isn’t a huge problem for people who drink moderately; alcoholics, on the other hand, are at very high risk of being unable to access the levels of zinc they need.
  • People suffering from stomach problems – anyone suffering from diseases that affect the digestive tract may also be at risk of zinc deficiency because some disorders can actually reduce the effectiveness of zinc absorption. Chronic diarrhoea can also lead to zinc loss via the extra liquid that is lost during an episode.
  • People with sickle cell disease – it is not entirely clear as to why patients suffering with sickle cell disease are at risk from lower zinc levels. It has been suggested that the body needing more nutrients to boost the immune system in the fight against sickle cell disease depletes levels of zinc more quickly than in people without sickle cell disease.

Risks And Warnings

Whilst it is clear that zinc, in the appropriate amounts, is good for us, there is a risk that ingesting too much can lead to harmful complications that can be both short term and long term depending on the situation.

The short term effects of zinc toxicity include headaches, stomach cramps, nausea and diarrhoea. The severity of these symptoms will be dependent upon your own health and the ability of your body to manage a zinc overload.

In situations where more than 150mg of zinc is being consumed a day, long term problems can arise and include reduced levels of “good” cholesterol, low copper absorption and an impaired immune system.

It is also worth noting that some medications can be impacted by zinc supplements, including antibiotics and diuretics. In some cases you simply need to allow time to elapse between taking the supplement and the medication, but in other instances you need to stop taking the supplement altogether – the best thing to do is speak to your doctor if you are taking zinc supplements and they can discuss the options with you.