Top 10 Foods High In Zinc

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Zinc is an essential nutrient that helps strengthen your immune system. It is also responsible for protein synthesis and a speedier wound healing. It functions as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent to keep you protected from mild to severe health conditions like the common cold, diarrhea, and age-related diseases. The recommended daily intake of zinc for men and women is 11 mg and 8 mg respectively. Also, if you are pregnant, it is 11mg and if you are breastfeeding, it is 12 mg per day. The human body does not store zinc so it is important that you include foods high in zinc or supplements that contain this trace element.

Foods High in Zinc

Zinc is present in a wide variety of foods. Oysters are a powerhouse of zinc followed by red meat and poultry. Other foods include seeds and nuts, lentils, whole grains, dairy products, and fortified breakfast cereals. Let us take a look at them in detail.

Oysters

Oysters contain more zinc per serving as compared to any other food. One raw oyster contains about 5.5 mg of zinc, which makes up for 50-60 percent of your daily intake.

These bivalves are also a good source of vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12 and selenium.

Other seafood like shrimp, crabs, and lobsters also provide zinc. You can broil or add these to your risotto for a filling meal.

Foods rich in zinc (shellfish, meat, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy, dark chocolate, fish) on a wooden table

Food rich in zinc Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Red Meat

Red meat including beef, pork, and lamb contains zinc in notable amounts.

A 100g serving of cured beef contains about 3.57mg zinc. You can add it to your casseroles, chowder, or sandwiches for an easy boost.

Pork and lamb also make for a decent source of zinc that you can add to your diet. However, red meat, especially processed meat, has been associated with heart diseases. It is best to consume it occasionally rather than having it every day.

Poultry

Eggs and chicken are the two most easily available food items that are rich in zinc.

One cup of dried egg yolk contains 5.18mg of zinc. Making yourself one meal with an egg every day can help you achieve the daily recommended intake of zinc.

Chicken is another option if you want to have a protein plus a zinc-rich meal at once. Add it to your salads, sandwiches, or soups.

Legumes

Beans, chickpeas, and lentils are a major source of zinc for people following a vegan or a vegetarian diet.

They also contain phytates, which may hinder the absorption of zinc. Despite this, for anyone looking for a vegetarian source of zinc, legumes are reliable. You can add them to your tacos, hummus, or add boiled beans to your salads.

Seeds and Nuts

Nuts like cashews, almonds, and walnuts are a good source of zinc. A 100 g serving of mixed nuts contains about 4.66 mg of zinc.

Moreover, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds also make for a nutritious snack as they contain fiber, vitamins, and healthy fats, in addition to zinc. You can have a trail mix by adding these seeds and nuts with dried berries for your snack time.

Whole Grains

Wheat, oats, quinoa, and rice are easily available grains that contain zinc.

Studies have shown that whole grains, like legumes, can interfere with the absorption of zinc as they contain phytates. However, when you look at the wholesomeness of these grains, they also provide other nutrients like fiber, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium.

Breakfast Cereals

Breakfast cereals can give you a major boost of zinc for the day. A 100 g serving of ready-to-eat cereal contains about 4.6mg of zinc.

While these foods are mineral-rich, instant foods can be high in sugar. So, whenever you are looking for one, select the one with no added sugar or the lowest possible sugar content.

Dairy Products

Milk and cheese are two of the important dairy products when it comes to zinc.

Research suggests that dairy has a higher content of readily absorbed zinc than many other foods like poultry, eggs, or fish. This can be beneficial news for vegetarians.

You can also include yogurt in your diet as it is also rich in probiotics.

Tofu

If you are on a vegan diet, accessing zinc-rich foods can be exhausting.

Tofu is one easy option that you can add to your meals. 100 g of frozen tofu contains about 4.9mg of zinc. It is also a valuable source of protein, iron, calcium, and magnesium.

You can have it by itself, pan-fry it, or add it to your tacos.

Dark Chocolate

Chocolate contains zinc. It is not the best option but on days when you are craving a treat, this can be it.

A bar of 70-85 percent dark chocolate contains about 3.34 mg of zinc. It also comes with sugar and calories, so we suggest you indulge in smaller amounts of chocolate.

Vegan Foods High in Zinc

If you are following a vegan diet, the major sources of zinc like oysters, red meat, and poultry may not be of much help for you. But worry not, there are many other foods that can make up for the daily recommended zinc intake. Include lentils, beans, chickpeas, and tofu in your meals. Nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and hemp seeds are a good source of zinc. Oats, quinoa, and many fortified cereals also help in lifting up your zinc intake.

There are some other sources of zinc including lozenges, capsules, and gels. You can also find zinc in almost all common supplements and multivitamins. If you are looking for more information on zinc supplements, here is a guide that may help you.

If you see any symptoms of zinc deficiency, do consult with a doctor before you make any changes in your diet.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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