You may already know that Zinc is an essential mineral that plays an important role in our health and well being. A deficiency in this mineral can lead to severe physical ailments including a chronic mental fatigue, eye and vision problems, a weakened immune system, low libido, hair loss and other problems.
While having a deficiency is not as likely if you enjoy a typical Western diet, it is estimated that over 10% of the population are likely to be deficient in this important mineral for a variety of reasons including a diet that does not adequately provide the recommended daily allowance, high consumption of alcohol, or being vegetarian. Vegetarian foods are typically not good sources of zinc, and those foods that do contain it often also contain phylates which can decrease the body’s ability to absorb zinc.
Additionally, this mineral is not stored in the body and in order to have optimum levels, you must consume foods that are good sources or take a zinc supplement. With that in mind, let’s look at the best dietary sources of zinc:
Oysters Are Best For Zinc
Oysters have long been thought of as a food that has aphrodisiac qualities, and there may be good reason for this. Zinc is very important for a healthy sex drive and high libido, and oysters are the richest form of zinc known at this time. Because zinc is not stored in the body, you must eat foods that are good sources of zinc on a daily basis to maintain optimum levels. Eating oysters can give your body a big boost of zinc in a healthy manner and which will be immediately available.
The minimum recommended daily allowance of this vital and essential mineral is presently believed to be about 11 mg for the average male and 8 mg for an adult female.
Contrast that with a serving of 100 grams of (cooked) oysters containing an average 78.6 mg of zinc! Eat oysters regularly and it’s unlikely you will ever need to worry about a zinc deficiency.
Other Benefits of Oysters
Oysters are an all round healthy food and are good sources of protein, iron, Vitamin C, and Omega 3 Fatty Acids. The 100 gram serving provides 9 grams of protein and in addition to be the best source of zinc, this serving will also provide you with 45% of the RDA for iron.
A diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids is important in preventing a number of health issues including joint problems, poor LDL to HDL cholesterol ratios, and helps slow down some of the aging processes. Obtaining good amounts of Omega 3’s can help fight against wrinkles caused by aging.
So, not only are oysters a great choice to ensure that you don’t have a deficiency in your zinc intake, they are overall a very healthy food for other reasons as well.
Beef Is A Good Source Of Zinc
A variety of beef cuts are good sources of zinc (but don’t quite live up to oysters ability to provide this mineral). A serving of Chuck Roast will give you about 7 mg while a 3 oz hamburger patty provides on average, 5 mg. Neither are sufficient to meet the daily recommended value, but you’ll be almost half way there.
You can select inexpensive cuts of beef and also lean and you can still consider you have a “good source.” Beef of course have other health benefits in that it is a very good source of protein and other important minerals and vitamins that are necessary for good health. Beef often gets a bad wrap, and we also understand that some won’t consume it (or other meats) for their own reasons of conscience but at the same time, it can provide important nutrients.
Pastured beef is likely to have even greater health benefits than beef that are not, and simply fed grains like corn.
Zinc In Other Seafoods
While not as high as oysters, some seafoods are considered “good” sources as well. For example, a 3 oz. portion of either crab or lobster will provide about 20% of the recommended amounts. Of course, those of us who love a double portion (6 oz or more) will be well on the way to half the recommended daily value of zinc.
Other seafoods such as fish are not as high in zinc. For example, three ounces of sole will only provide about 2% of the RDA. However, a diet where seafood including fish is consumed is generally considered quite healthy. It’s always a good idea to find out where the fish were harvested from, however. Some fish are more likely to have higher levels of mercury depending on where they were caught. While consumption of fish with mercury once in a while is not dangerous, eating these on a regular basis can cause toxicity.
Wheat Germ An Excellent Source of Zinc
Of all non-animal sources, wheat germ is quite possibly the best source. Wheat germ, which is the part of the wheat kernel which is responsible for germination, provides about 16.7 mg of zinc in 100 grams, which is more than the minimum daily allowance. Wheat germ is a very healthy food all round (unless you have a wheat or gluten intolerance), and is packed with nutrition as well as high levels of plant protein. That serving of 100 grams will give you 40% of the daily iron your body needs, and in addition, is also a good source of magnesium, Vitamin E, and several B-Vitamins including folic acid and thiamin.
Try eating wheat germ sprinkled on breakfast cereal, or mix it in with yogurt. Some people will also sprinkle it on salads. If you drink smoothies, consider adding to those as well. You can also bake with wheatgerm and use it as an ingredient in breads and muffins.
Zinc From Other Non-Animal Sources
Vegetarians often have a difficult time ensuring adequate daily levels of zinc intake. Unless they are eating wheatgerm everyday, other plant based foods are not as good a source as meats and seafood. Further, some of the foods that are regularly eaten by vegetarians including legumes, grains and nuts contain phytates. Phytates are considered an “anti-nutrient” as it binds with minerals including zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium in the digestive tract and the body is not able to absorb the minerals that these foods contain.
Reduce Phytates For Better Absorption
If you are concerned about your mineral intake (including zinc) because you are getting them from foods high in phytates and phytic acid, one recommendation that nutritionists recommend is to purchase your grains, legumes and nuts raw. Then, soak them until they have just started to sprout, before eating them. Soaking dried legumes overnight is not enough to reduce the levels of phytates; they need to be soaked to the point of germination in order to lower the level.
Phytate levels in sprouted grains and legumes are greatly reduced and will allow your body a much better chance to absorb and use the minerals that these foods contain.
Zinc In Legumes and Nuts
Most foods in this category are not considered “good” sources of zinc (in order to be classified as a good source, the food must provide 20% of the RDA per serving) however, and especially for vegetarians, knowing what they provide will help in planning meals in order to ensure adequate zinc in the diet.
- Nuts such as cashews contain about 1.6 mg (or around 11% of the RDA) per 1 ounce.
- Chickpeas (1/2 cup) contain about 1.3 mg of zinc.
- Almonds (1 oz) have about 0.9 mg of zinc
- Kidney Beans (1/2 cup) – 0.9 mg
- Green Peas (1/2 cup) – 0.5 mg.
Although this article is intended to be about foods that are rich in zinc, we believe that for the sake of those who don’t eat much meat or seafood (or refrain from ever eating it), that other values of zinc found in non-meat sources should be included for reference purposes. In addition, it is good to know that if you are consuming foods high in phytates, you are unlikely able to absorb the minerals those foods contain without sprouting.
What To Do If You Are Not Getting Adequate Amounts Of Zinc?
If you are not getting adequate amounts of zinc from your diet, you basically have two choices to ensure that you do get enough of this very important and essential mineral in the future:
- Eat more foods that are rich in zinc
- Use a zinc supplement
Zinc is relatively inexpensive and one of the most absorbable forms is believed to be Zinc Gluconate. Elemental minerals are not easily absorbed by the body. The NOW Brand of Zinc Gluconate is very economical as well as being of high quality and we can highly recommend it. It is available from Amazon, here.