Seven Foods High in Zinc and Their Benefits

April 19, 2019
Zinc is usually found in the muscles, bones, brain, kidneys, and liver. It's an essential trace element for the body's enzymatic reactions and the proper functioning of the immune system, among other things. Discover seven foods high in zinc in this article!

In this article, we’ll explain what zinc is, what are its benefits, its recommended daily intake, the top seven foods rich in zinc, and what could happen due to a zinc deficiency.

Read on for more information!

What is Zinc?

Zinc is a trace element that we need very small amounts of.

Zinc is an essential mineral for the normal functioning of your cells. It plays a role in tissue formation, hormone production, proteins, and it’s involved in most chemical reactions involving enzymes.

Zinc is usually found in the muscles, bones, brain, kidneys, and liver. In addition, the higher concentrations of this mineral are found in semen, the eyes, and the prostate.

Recommended Dietary Allowance for Zinc

Foods rich in zinc.

Although zinc needs vary with age and sex, the recommended dietary allowance of this mineral range between 10 to 13 mg daily.

Here are the recommended dietary allowances by age groups:

  • Babies from 0 to 6 months: 2 mg
  • Babies from 7 to 12 months: 3 mg
  • Infants from ages 1 to 3: 3 mg
  • Children from ages 4 to 8: 5 mg
  • Children from ages 9 to 13: 8 mg
  • Teenage boys from ages 14 to 18: 11 mg
  • Adult men: 11 mg
  • Teenage girls from ages 14 to 18: 9 mg
  • Adult women: 9 mg
  • Pregnant women: 11-12 mg
  • Lactating women: 12-13 mg

You should also read: The Best Vitamins and Minerals for Depression

Seven Foods High in Zinc

1. Meats

Two steaks.

Meats are really high in zinc, especially liver. Liver may contain up to 7.3 milligrams of zinc per 100 grams in the case of beef.

Other foods rich in zinc include meat, especially beef, because it may contain up to 6.2 milligrams per 100 grams.

Pork and pork liver contain the next highest amounts.

Poultry meat is the third richest meat in zinc. Aside from being healthy and easy to find, chicken or turkey meat can contain up to 5 milligrams of zinc per 100 grams.

2. Seafood

You should eat shellfish and crustaceans in general, as they’re foods rich in zinc.

Clams are one of the foods that contain the most zinc, as they may contain up to 7 milligrams per 100 grams.

Another great option is crabs, which provide about 4.7 milligrams of zinc per 100 grams.

3. Nuts

Different types of nuts.

Nuts such as hazelnuts and almonds are also a good example of foods rich in zinc, since they can contain up to 4 milligrams of this mineral per 100 grams.

4. Dairy Products

Yogurt, milk, and cheese are some examples of foods rich in zinc.

There is a significant amount of zinc in cheese, particularly in cheddar cheese. Nevertheless, you should consume it in moderation due to its high calorie and salt content.

5. Grains and Seeds

Different seeds.

Whole grains are a good way to incorporate zinc in your diet, although your body won’t absorb it as much due to the phytic acid they contain. The phytic acid in whole grains may hinder the absorption of some mineral micro-nutrients.

However, yeast reduces the level of phytic acid, thus favoring zinc absorption.

To absorb zinc better, you should consume whole wheat bread with yeast, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, and brewer’s yeast in particular because it contains high levels of zinc.

6. Cocoa

Dark chocolate is beneficial in many ways, including the fact that it can help protect the immune system. A 100-gram piece of dark unsweetened chocolate contains 10 mg of zinc, which amounts to approximately 100% of the recommended daily allowance.

Furthermore, 100 grams of unsweetened cocoa powder contains 40% of the recommended daily allowance of zinc.

7. Supplements

Zinc supplements.

As in the case of other minerals, zinc supplements are intended for people who have a zinc deficiency.

However, remember that an excess of zinc can also cause health problems, which is why we recommend taking such supplements under doctor’s orders.

This article may interest you: What Is the Best Kind of Mineral Water?

The Health Benefits of Zinc

As mentioned above, zinc plays a role in various metabolic processes, enhancing a variety of enzymes and boosting the immune system and neurological functions.

Zinc also plays an important role in the development of cell membrane and gene expression.

Some studies have established that zinc is a possible treatment for common cold symptoms, age-related macular degeneration, diabetes mellitus, and even HIV/AIDS.

A zinc deficiency can cause problems in children’s physical development, pregnancy complications, weaken the immune system, and increase the risk of contracting infections. For all these reasons, it’s important to include foods rich in zinc in your diet.

Contraindications

More than 300 mg of zinc a day is toxic. In that case, gastric problems, blood in the urine, or lethargy may develop. Excess zinc can also influence copper absorption. This could produce a copper deficit that could result in anemia, arrhythmia, or fatigue.

Therefore, a balanced and varied diet is always the healthiest way to get all the nutrients you need for proper bodily functioning.

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  • Rao, G., & Rowland, K. (2011). PURLs: Zinc for the common cold–not if, but when. The Journal of family practice60(11), 669-71.
  • Jackson JL, Lesho E, Peterson C. Zinc and the common cold: a meta-analysis revisited. J Nutr. 2000;130 (5 suppl):1512S–1515S