Current DateSeptember 27, 2021

Foods High in Zinc – Best Animal and Plant Sources

Zinc is a trace element essential for the proper functioning of the body, in which it is found in trace amounts. Indeed, the body usually contains two to three grams of zinc which is distributed between the muscles and the bones. 

A healthy and varied diet makes it possible in most physiological situations to compensate for the daily zinc requirements. Indeed, zinc is naturally present in a lot of foods, which allows us to meet our daily needs through our diet.

However, in certain cases, a zinc deficiency may occur, and you might want to naturally increase your daily intake of zinc. Here are the best sources of zinc that you can opt for.

The role of zinc in the body

Although zinc is a relatively unknown nutrient, it is a multipurpose nutrient that plays a role in many functions of the body, such as:

  • Zinc plays a role in the functioning of the retina and helps to keep your vision sharp, even in the dark.
  • It keeps hair strong, contributes to normal hair growth and helps maintain shiny hair. In addition.
  • Zinc nourishes skin from the inside out which helps to keep the skin healthy.
  • Essential for concentration and memory.
  • Enhances the fertility of men and women.
  • Stengthens the immune system.

How much zinc do you need per day through the diet?

The Reference Intake (RI) of zinc, the amount of zinc you should digest daily, depends on your gender and age. Zinc is a trace element, which means that you only need small daily quantities. For adult women, the recommended daily intake of zinc is set at 8 milligrams per day. For adult men, it rises to 11 milligrams per day.

Zinc-rich foods of animal origin

Oysters

Oysters are known and prized for their aphrodisiac properties. They are said to be able to stimulate libido. But they are also very rich in minerals and trace elements, of which zinc is of course part. 

Indeed, the oyster is a bivalve mollusk particularly rich in zinc: each contains about 5.3 mg of zinc. Cooked, canned, or fresh: all oysters will be effective in replenishing our reserves of minerals and stimulating the body’s natural defenses. 

Shrimps are also a reliable source of zinc, as 100 grams of shrimp provide 17% of the recommended daily intake of zinc. Moreover, they are also rich in antioxidants. 

Lobster and crab

Other seafood stands out among the best sources of zinc: crabs and lobsters in particular. 100 grams of lobster provide 3.4 mg of zinc or 23% of the recommended daily allowance. 

For crab, this value rises to 6.5 mg of zinc or 43% of the recommended daily allowance! 

Seafood, in general, is an excellent source of essential minerals and trace elements: don’t hesitate to vary your consumption of seafood as much as possible as part of a balanced diet. 

Calf’s liver and offal

Calf’s liver is a great source of zinc: raw, it contains just over 12 mg per 100 grams. While the raw liver is richer, cooking only causes the calf’s liver to lose 0.10 mg of its zinc: it can therefore be consumed in all possible ways: in the oven, in a pan, in carpaccio, etc. It is the same for the other offal.

Poultry and meat

Poultry contains protein and many essential minerals. It is estimated that 100 grams of chicken breast provide approximately 0.9 mg of zinc.

Meat in general is an excellent source of zinc. 100 grams of red meat for example provide 12 mg of zinc, which is considerable. It is however recommended to pay attention to the meat you consume, by favoring meats of good quality, ideally organic. 

Lean ground beef contains 4.12 mg of zinc per 100 grams. 

Dairy products

Dairy products are an undeniable source of nutrients and minerals. They are also known for their zinc content. A glass of skimmed milk contains the equivalent of 1 mg of zinc, which represents 7% of the recommended daily allowance. Plain yogurt can contain up to 1.4 mg! 

To combine the benefits of several sources of zinc, you can add a few pieces of fruit, cashews, and squash seeds to a delicious natural yogurt. 

Finally, cheeses are also sources of zinc that are easily assimilated by the body. Indeed, lactose has the effect of improving the digestibility of nutrients.

Eggs

Eggs are an essential source of protein. And like most foods high in protein, they also contain a good amount of zinc. It is estimated that an egg provides 0.6 mg of zinc, which is about 5% of the recommended daily allowance.

Zinc-rich foods of plant origin

Certain foods of plant origin also contain a good amount of zinc, in addition to having many other benefits. Zinc is found mostly in foods rich in vegetable protein, but not only.

Wheat germ

Wheat germ is a natural source of essential minerals and trace elements. It is particularly distinguished by its zinc content. Indeed, 100 grams of wheat germ contain 16.7 mg of zinc. 

You can sprinkle some on a salad, on cottage cheese, or on other cereals. 

Whole grains

Whole grains are excellent sources of zinc as well as other minerals and trace elements. For 200 grams of brown rice, 0.6 mg of zinc is obtained. For the same amount of oats, 0.9 mg of zinc is ingested. A slice of wholemeal bread brings us up to 0.5 mg of zinc, which is not negligible. 

Once again, the main thing is to vary your diet as much as possible with wild rice, wholemeal flour, oatmeal, quinoa, bulgur, whole rye, etc.

As for flour, prefer whole and whole flour. They are much richer in fiber and nutrients, bring the feeling of fullness more quickly, and provide benefits through their daily intake.

Legumes

Legumes are one of the best plant sources of zinc. This group of foods includes all forms of beans, peas, and lentils. 

A simple bowl of chickpeas can contain up to 2.5 mg of zinc, which is 23% of the recommended daily allowance for this trace element. 

As for white beans, half a bowl is enough to provide us with 25% of the recommended daily allowance. 

Lentils, low in calories and fat, are rich in vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and protein. 80% of lentils provide up to 4% of the recommended daily allowance for this nutrient!

You can of course vary your diet with split peas, red and green beans, coral, brown and blond. Legumes go perfectly with whole grains for healthy and balanced meals.

Seeds

Seeds are very rich foods that we too often overlook. However, they provide very rich and interesting nutrients. Among the seeds richest in zinc are squash seeds. 350 grams of these seeds provide up to 6.6 mg of zinc. 

Sesame seeds are also very rich in zinc since 100 grams of these grains provide 10 mg of zinc.

Of course, it is rare to consume a bowl of seeds per day. However, it is very easy to integrate them into meals by sprinkling them on certain dishes, desserts or by integrating them into culinary preparations such as snacks, for example. 

On the other hand, some seeds such as sesame also come in the form of butter (tahini), which allows you to vary your diet and consumption methods.

Nuts and oilseeds

Oil fruits and nuts are very rich and natural sources of trace elements, minerals, proteins, essential fatty acids, and vitamins. For example, 100 grams of cashew nuts contain 5.6 mg of zinc. Pecans provide approximately 4.6 mg of zinc per 100 grams. 

Hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, are also great sources of zinc.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms, in addition to being very low in calories, are delicious and allow you to vary your diet considerably. In addition, they are excellent natural sources of vitamins, minerals, and essential trace elements, like zinc, which interests us here. 

Adding mushrooms to a dish generally increases your intake by 1 to 1.4 mg of zinc. Shiitake mushrooms are distinguished here by their high zinc content. 100 grams of these Japanese mushrooms provide us with 7.66 mg of zinc, which is not negligible. 

Often purchased dried, they must be rehydrated before adding them to culinary preparations. Shiitakes are perfect as a garnish for meats, in soups, in mixes with other mushrooms, etc.

Green vegetables

Like mushrooms, green vegetables are great side dishes. Some of them are great sources of zinc. This is the case of spinach, which contains up to 1.4 mg per serving, which is equivalent to 9% of the recommended daily allowance. Spinach can be eaten raw (in a salad, or in a smoothie) or cooked. 

Spinach is a rich and healthy alternative to traditional lettuce, often criticized for its low nutritional value.

Cocoa powder

Chocolate and cocoa powder (preferably unsweetened) help fight cardiovascular pathologies, hypertension, and depressive states. But cocoa is also a natural source of zinc. It is preferable to opt for dark chocolate which, in addition to being rich in magnesium, contains up to 3.3 mg of zinc. Limit yourself to 25 or 30 grams of chocolate per day in order to control your sugar intake.

Tofu

People who want to boost their zinc intake without resorting to animal products can consume the foods presented above. They can also turn to tofu, which is an ideal source of zinc for vegetarians and vegans. 100 grams of firm tofu can provide us with up to 2 mg of zinc, which is still 14% of the recommended daily value for this nutrient.

Zinc-enriched products

On the market, you can find foods that have been fortified with nutrients, especially zinc. This is the case of fortified cereals, which can provide a significant amount of zinc and other nutrients: vitamins, minerals, trace elements. Of course, you must, first of all, consult the label of the product in order to ensure that the provided zinc is sufficient.

Signs that you are have a zinc deficiency

You are often tired

Fatigue is a common symptom of many illnesses. It is not specific to zinc deficiency, but it should be taken into account nonetheless. Combined with the symptoms below, it could indeed be suggestive of a zinc deficiency. People affected by this deficiency feel very tired. Their brain activity is slowed down (decreased production of neurotransmitters), sometimes with memory loss problems.

Your immune system has weakened

Do you easily catch a cold? Zinc deficiency makes the body more susceptible to respiratory and ENT infections. Indeed, zinc is essential for the proper functioning of your immune system.

A micronutrient deficiency decreases the innate immune responses, so they are no longer adequate. This increases the susceptibility to infections.

Zinc also acts as an antioxidant: it protects thiol groups from oxidation and modulates the function of immune cells.

A zinc deficiency then decreases immune reactions, and creates chronic inflammation.

You have lost your appetite

Loss of appetite is one symptom of a lack of zinc for which scientitsts are yet to find a real explanation. Several hypotheses are put forward to explain it.

One of these hypotheses is that this deficiency increases the mass of undigested food in the intestine, which would be responsible for this loss of appetite. A vicious circle follows: the less we eat, the more the zinc deficiency increases, the more appetite decreases, etc.

In addition, zinc is an essential coenzyme for making proteins. Gustin is the protein of the taste buds and is also zinc dependent.

Hairloss and brittle nails

Did you know: Zinc is essential for hair and nail growth?

Zinc is a trace element that contributes to the growth of hair and nails. Hair and nails have in common their composition, including a protein called keratin.

However, zinc is present in high concentration in the epidermis, because it is useful for the differentiation of keratinocytes.

Zinc deficiency makes hair thin, brittle, and it is one of the causes of alopecia, that is, hair loss. Likewise, a deficiency in this trace element will make the nails brittle or streaked.

We can also observe the appearance of white spots on the nails. At the level of the skin, and more precisely of the epidermis, a significant desquamation can also appear: the skin peels.

The quality of the skin is affected, sometimes with acne.

You suffer from depression or mood disorders

People deficient in zinc are more likely to develop mental illnesses: depression, mood swings, etc. Research shows that people who are depressed are more likely to suffer from zinc deficiency. It is not yet known to what extent such a deficiency would affect the psyche.

The latest hypotheses are related to the antioxidant activity of zinc. This mineral would play a role in affective and cognitive functions, by acting on the circuits of glutamate. The latter is a neurotransmitter involved in the brain’s reward circuits.

In the long term, a lack of zinc intake would play a role in the development of psychiatric pathologies, and cognitive decline.

You have hormonal problems

Zinc is essential for the secretion of certain hormones, including insulin, thymic humoral factor and gustine. These hormones play different roles in the body:

  • Insulin regulates blood sugar
  • Thymic humoral factor, a hormone secreted by the thymus, stimulates the immunocompetence of T cells
  • Gustine, present in saliva, stimulates the growth of the taste buds

By acting on these hormones, a zinc deficiency causes:

  • A disruption of insulin metabolism, with insulin resistance
  • Increased risk of diabetes
  • Weight gain
  • A loss of taste and smell, due to the decrease in the secretion of gustine

You heal badly

When you injure yourself, your wounds take longer to heal. Indeed, zinc is an important co-factor in the synthesis of enzymes necessary for the repair of the cell membrane, and for the proliferation of these cells. A zinc deficiency thus weakens the healing process.

Conclusion

Zinc is an essential element for health. A sufficiently balanced, varied, and diversified diet should suffice to meet all of your nutritional needs (or special situations: pregnancy, breastfeeding, high-level sport, etc.). However, to boost your intake, you can integrate the foods presented in this article more widely as part of your diet. 

If necessary, and on medical advice, supplementation may be considered. Especially if your diet is not enough to meet your daily needs.

Learn more about the benefits of zinc in this in-depth article.