10 Best Food Sources of Zinc

Posted by Kayla Phillips on

Did you know that a healthy amount of zinc in your diet has been linked to an improved immune system and faster wound healing? The benefits of getting enough zinc don’t stop there.

Research has also found that zinc may help in these situations:

Shorten the common cold. 

When taken as an over-the-counter supplement, zinc reduced the severity and duration of the common cold in a meta-analysis published in The Journal of Family Practice.

Fend off heart disease.

In a preliminary lab study published in July 2015 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers found that zinc may play an important role in regulating the heartbeat — a potential advancement in the fight against arrhythmia-related heart failure. 

Treat hypothyroidism. 

Researchers have observed that zinc positively affected thyroid function among a small group of overweight women with hypothyroidism, according to a study published in March 2015 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

Improve eye health. 

Specifically, supplemental zinc may help slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Support wound healing. 

As mentioned, zinc may aid the healing of wounds by reducing inflammation and activating immune cells at the area of injury, per research cited in an article published in January 2018 in Nutrients.

Can Adding These Foods to My Diet Help Prevent Illnesses Like the Coronavirus?

Another hot topic: whether zinc can prevent the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. The short answer is maybe. There is ongoing research on this and the NIH notes that in general, zinc has immune-boosting properties.

How Much Zinc Should You Take to See Benefits?

Zinc is an essential trace mineral, which means our bodies need only a small amount of it to maintain good health, according to MedlinePlus. The NIH sets the recommended dietary allowance at 8 milligrams (mg) for adult women and 11 mg for adult men. While only a small amount may be needed, don’t underestimate the power of this mighty mineral.

Here are 10 foods that can help you hit your zinc quota every day. 

Oysters Pack Zinc and Other Key Vitamins and Minerals

Try oysters cooked, canned, or on the half-shell — no matter how you serve them, you’re in for a tasty treat and possibly a stronger immune system to boot, thanks to their zinc content.

Meat and Poultry Serve Up Protein and Zinc

Beef, pork, and chicken are not only packed with protein — they provide a decent helping of zinc. For the most nutritious cuts, choose lean meats such as 90 percent lean beef, pork tenderloin, and boneless chicken breasts, according to the USDA. Just 1 cup of chopped roasted, skinless chicken breast provides 19 percent (2.13 mg) of the daily recommended value of zinc, according to the USDA.

While the jury is still out on which came first, eggs also contain zinc — about 5 percent (0.6 mg) per large egg, per the USDA — so crack one open today. 

Don’t worry if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, though. There are plenty of nonmeat sources of zinc on this list. Plus, you’re doing your body good by filling your plate with plants: Following a healthy plant-based diet has been linked to lower mortality risks among American adults, according to a study published in April 2018 in The Journal of Nutrition.

Vegetables Such as Mushrooms and Kale Are Low-Calorie Sources of Zinc

Adding these foods to your diet will give you an extra dose of zinc without adding many calories to your daily total. Mushrooms have a mere 20 calories in 3 oz, plus an excellent amount of the B vitamin riboflavin, according to the USDA.

In addition to zinc, kale offers vitamins A, K, B6, and C, plus calcium, potassium, copper, and manganese — all for only 33 calories per cup, according to the Mayo Clinic

Legumes Are a Vegetarian-Friendly Source of Zinc

While zinc is commonly found in animal products, vegans and vegetarians aren’t out of luck. Legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and beans are also very good sources of zinc. Add foods like hummus, edamame, and black beans to your meals for extra zinc and other health benefits.

In ¼ cup of hummus, you can pick up 8 percent (0.89 mg) of the daily recommended value of zinc, according to the USDA. Meanwhile, canned chickpeas pack 19 percent (2.07 mg) per cup, and lentils have 11 percent (2.27 mg) per cup, while shelled edamame has 19 percent (2.12 mg) and black beans have 18 percent (1.93 mg).

Also for relatively few calories, legumes are a great low-fat, high-protein food packed with vitamins, minerals, and lots of dietary fiberaccording to a study published in October 2015 in Clinical Diabetes.

Versatile Nuts and Seeds Make It Easy to Up Your Zinc Intake

Haven’t tried chia seeds yet? These little guys offer zinc, too — nearly 12 percent of the DV in 1 oz (1.3 mg), notes the USDA. 

Whole Grains Deliver Fiber and Key Vitamins and Minerals Like Zinc

Fortified Breakfast Cereals Can Provide a Quarter of Your Zinc Needs — But Watch for Sugar

Breakfast cereals are fortified with a number of vitamins and minerals, including zinc. In general, 1 cup provides about 25 percent (2.8 mg) of the daily recommended amount of zinc, according to the NIH. Check the nutrition label to see just how much you’ll be getting from your own favorite.

While analyzing the nutrition label, take a look at added sugar, too. According to an analysis of 1,556 cereals by the Environmental Working Group, the vast majority of cereals are too sweet to be considered healthy, packing roughly 2 teaspoons of sugar per serving. Ryan Andrews, RD, a principal nutritionist with Precision Nutrition based in Norwalk, Connecticut, advises looking for a cereal that shows no more than 6 g of sugar per serving (again, usually 1 cup) and has whole grains as the first ingredient on the list. He says Total, Corn Chex, Wheat Chex, and Rice Chex are reasonably healthy options.

Milk and Dairy Foods Help You Meet Your Calcium and Zinc Goals

Add fat-free or low-fat milk to cereal, oatmeal, and smoothies, and try yogurt topped with granola and fresh fruit. Try this tropical smoothie — a good source of zinc to start your day off right.

Again, don’t worry if you’re dairy-free. As you can see from this list, there are plenty of ways to source zinc and steer clear of animal products.

Try Decadent Dark Chocolate for a Zinc-Filled Dessert

What a sweet surprise! Yet another exciting fact about dark chocolate is that it’s a source of zinc. And the darker, the better: Generally, 60 to 69 percent cacao varieties contain nearly 7 percent (0.75 mg) of the recommended daily value per ounce, while 70 to 85 percent cacao varieties contain about 8 percent (0.9 mg), according to the USDA. That’s not all though: Dark chocolate may have some vascular benefits, including lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow, due to its flavanol content, according to the Cleveland Clinic. While dark chocolate may be your favorite source of zinc, remember that it’s not the only one: To keep calories and sugar in check, stick to no more than 1 oz per day.

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