From a young age, we’re taught that we need vitamin D to keep our bones strong, vitamin A to keep our eyes healthy, and vitamin C to help our body heal. But how many of us missed the memo when it comes to zinc?; an essential micronutrient that helps our immune system heal and assists in maintaining our sense of taste and smell.

Zinc plays many crucial roles throughout our body and brings with it several immune benefits and fortunately, it’s possible to get just the right amount through diet alone. So to reap the full benefits of this mineral and to ensure you’re getting sufficient amounts, try incorporating some of the following foods into your diet:

  • Meat
  • Shellfish
  • Dairy foods
  • Cereals

See also: The Role of Micronutrients in the Immune System


What foods are highest in zinc?


Zinc-foods-oats

As a trace mineral, the body only needs small amounts of zinc - which is great news for those of us looking to ensure we’re getting just the right amount. According to Mayo Clinic, the recommended daily amount (RDA) for women is 8 milligrams and for men, it’s 11 milligrams. [1]

Although zinc deficiency isn’t common in the United States, those with certain digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, those following a plant-based diet, or pregnant women are at risk of developing a deficiency. So whether you fall under one of these categories or you simply want to make sure you’re taking advantage of all that zinc has to offer, there are some food sources of zinc that you should know about.

See also: How Does Zinc Help The Body? Benefits, Sources, and Intake


Meat


While experts recommend keeping consumption of red meat to a minimum, eating modest amounts a few times a week can provide a good source of not only zinc but other essential nutrients such as protein, iron, and vitamin B12 [2].

Do you follow a plant-based diet? No worries needed; tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, nuts, and seeds are all a great source of zinc and each can be added to almost any meal!


Shellfish


Shellfish such as muscles, shrimp, and oysters are all a great source of zinc. Oysters, in particular, are packed with the mineral - as a matter of fact, oysters have the highest zinc concentration of any food with it estimated that 6 medium-sized oysters providing 32 milligrams (about four times the recommended daily amount!)


Dairy foods


While dairy products are typically associated with vitamin D and calcium - they boast a whole host of other important nutrients, including zinc. According to the US Department of Agriculture, one cup of low-fat milk contains around 9 percent of the daily value of zinc whereas one cup of low-fat Greek yogurt provides about 2.38mg or 20 percent of the RDA. [3]


Cereals


Buckwheat, wholewheat bread, and oats are all foods high in zinc. As well as being delicious in their own rights, these foods are incredibly adaptable - think buckwheat pancakes, freshly baked bread, and overnight oats; try adding pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, or cashews to your pancakes or oats for another great plant-based source of zinc.

If you are curious about your nutrient levels, you can find out more with an at-home lab test.


What vegetables are high in zinc?


As nutrients go, zinc is an all-rounder! While animal-based products are sometimes higher in zinc, there are many vegetables that we can all add to our everyday diets to ensure we’re getting zinc in our diet, these include:

  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Asparagus
  • Corn

Other plant-based foods that are high in zinc include:

  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Kidney beans
  • Hemp seeds
  • Almonds
  • Spinach
  • Fortified cereals

See also: Top Essential Vitamins and Minerals for Vegans


What blocks zinc absorption?


Having an inflammatory bowel disease, chronic liver disease, kidney disease or even being pregnant can all increase a person’s risk of developing zinc deficiency - as can decreased absorption.

According to the Journal of Nutrition [4], there are a handful of factors that we should know more about when it comes to zinc absorption, including:

  • Phyates can negatively impact zinc absorption. These are typically found in foods that we likely eat almost every day such as cereals, corn, and rice.
  • Iron supplements can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb iron. It’s important to note that the effect isn’t the same if the iron comes from food sources.

One of the most reliable ways to find out more about your nutrient levels at home is with an at-home lab test.

LetsGetChecked’s range of at-home Micronutrient Tests allows you to measure vital nutrient levels and potentially identify any imbalance from the comfort of home. Your online results will be available within 2-5 days and should you have any questions, our dedicated medical team is there to offer advice and help at every step.

You should consider taking a test if:

  • You want to identify areas for improvement of your overall health
  • You follow a vegetarian or vegan diet
  • You have recently excluded a particular food group from your diet
  • You are over 50 years of age
  • You are experiencing symptoms of a deficiency
  • You have a condition that may impact the absorption of nutrients such as celiac or Crohn’s disease
  • You have problems absorbing nutrients from your diet
  • You are taking certain medications that impact the absorption of some minerals

References


  1. Mayo Clinic. Zinc. Online: Mayoclinic.org
  2. American Institute for Cancer Research. Limit Consumption of Red and Processed Meat. Online: Aicr.org
  3. U.S Department of Agriculture. Food Data Central. Online: Fdc.nal.usda.gov
  4. Oxford Academic. Journal of Nutrition. Online: Academic.oup.com