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15 foods high in zinc

Written by John Davis

Last updated: September 17, 2022

Zinc is such an essential mineral in the body. Note that the body doesn’t store zinc. All the more reason to ensure you take the required amount daily. Zinc ensures the repair of body tissues and general maintenance of the immune system. 

The recommended amount of zinc for men is 11 mg and 8 mg for women, but if pregnant, she needs 11 mg and 12 mg if breastfeeding. Eating a balanced zinc-rich diet may help you meet the required zinc level. Here are some foods rich in zinc to curb deficiency in the body.

15 Foods Rich in Zinc

Compared to vegetables, animal products such as meat have a higher zinc bioavailability (1), making them the best sources of zinc in the body. Seafood such as oysters and lobsters are also good sources of zinc.

1. Eggs

A single egg has several nutrients, such as chlorine, 77 calories, 5 g of fat, selenium, 6g of protein, and vitamin E. An egg may contain up to 0.6 mg of zinc or 5% of the Daily Value. 

This mineral in an egg has several health benefits, including fighting diabetes, mood disorders, cardiovascular disease, and muscle degeneration. Eggs ensure your weight is in check if you struggle with body weight. One egg is all you need in a day (2) to give all these and more benefits every day.

2. Shellfish

Are you looking for a low-calorie food rich in zinc? Shellfish is one among the many options you should consider. For example, a three medium oyster provides 145% of the DV.Regular consumption of oysters assures you of countless benefits, not limited to antioxidants and proteins. Raw oysters are prone to contaminants, bacteria, and metals like cadmium.

Alaskan crab contains 7.6 mg per 3.5 ounces or 69% of the DV. Shrimps and mussels have 14% of the DV per 3.5 ounces (3, 4, 5).

For pregnant women, when preparing shellfish, it’s highly advisable to cook entirely to reduce the food poisoning risk. That notwithstanding, shell food is the best source of zinc for the body. Therefore, be sure to include it in your meals regularly.

3. Cashew Nuts

To boost your Zinc intake, take nuts such as cashew nuts, pine nuts, and peanuts. Nuts come with several minerals and vitamins, fiber, and healthy fats.

For instance, 28 gm of cashew nuts grants 15% of the DV. Cashew nuts provide the body with unsaturated healthy fats and proteins.

Nuts help in curbing health problems such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, inflammation, and diabetes. Nuts enhance brain and bone health (6, 7, 8). Statistics show that people who eat nuts have a longer lifespan than those who don’t 9. Consider adding nuts to your general diet and daily snacking routine.

4. Mushroom

Mushrooms are highly revered sources of zinc. All you need is a cup of white button mushrooms weighing about 1.4 g which provides about 9% of the daily value (DV). At this early stage, it’s easy to choose which mushrooms are safe and healthy for consumption (10). 

However, the benefits of mushrooms are innumerable. They include; fighting the growth of cancerous cells, boosting the body’s immunity, protecting cardiovascular health, improving the body’s energy, strengthening bones, and many others.

All these benefits are made possible by the many nutrients in mushrooms, like zinc, vitamin D, potassium, phosphorus, fiber, carbohydrates, and proteins.

5. Poultry Products

Next to shellfish, poultry is the best source of zinc. For example, one roasted chicken drumstick contains 5 mg of zinc. Additionally, in every cup of roasted duck, you get 33% of the DV and 27% for every 3 ounces of roast turkey. Poultry is not just sweet to the taste, it’s also nonallergic compared to beef or mutton.

Unlike red meat from cattle, poultry (white meat) has numerous minerals like zinc, vitamins B6 and B12, pantothenic acid, and niacin (11). By including poultry in your diet, you’re assured of benefits such as; boosting moods, promoting healthy skin, improving heart health and maintaining high energy levels. 

6. Almonds

Almonds are the world’s healthiest nuts and richest in zinc. They are a primary ingredient in almond milk, flour, and butter. Some people prefer to eat them raw as a snack. Blended almonds make lotions, fragrances, and oils.

With 28 g of almonds, your body gets up to 161 calories, 13.8 g of fat, 5.9 g of proteins, fiber, carbohydrates, phosphorous, vitamin E, magnesium, niacin, manganese, and most importantly, 0.9 mg of zinc or 6% of the DV (12). 

Health benefits of almonds include; preventing heart attack, improving brain health, maintaining skin health, curbing diabetes, and helping with weight regulation.

7. Dairy Products

Dairy foods such as ghee, kefir, butter, milk, yogurt, and cheese host about 18-22 nutrients,e.g., vitamin 12, 23% of DV of calcium, 8 g of proteins, 11 g of carbs, 20% of DV of phosphorus, vitamin D, and 8 g of healthy fats. 

Cheese and milk have a good amount of bioavailable zinc content. For instance, a cup of milk contains 9% of the DV, while 100 grams of cheese provides 23% of the DV.

These nutrients help strengthen your bones, reduce the risk of cancer and obesity, and help your heart health (13). Be sure to have a dairy product of your choice daily to ensure you don’t rob your body of all these benefits.

8. Chicken Peas

Chicken peas, also known as garbanzo beans, are the second most widely grown and eaten legumes. Like all legumes, it has a complicated carbohydrate supply to the body. Chicken peas have a wide range of nutrients, such as 2.5 mg of zinc or 17% DV, proteins, fats, fiber, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, selenium, copper, and vitamins A, C, E, and K.

Garbanzo beans produce a regulated amount of carbohydrates to supply the body with energy for a long time, help control sugar levels, increase satiety, and improve digestion, as enabled by its fiber content. Additionally, it protects you from cancer and heart disease (14). The Zinc and Folate minerals in chicken peas are essential in DNA copying.

9. Red Meat

Red meat is an outstanding source of zinc supply in the body. Red meat includes lamb, pork, and beef. Precisely, 3.5 ounces of raw beef provide 4.8 mg of zinc which is 44% of the Daily Value. In addition, it contains 10 g of fat, 20 g of protein, and about 176 calories. Other nutrients available in red meat include iron, creatine, vitamin B12, selenium, and niacin(vitamin B3).

Though red meat has all these benefits, it may cause several health issues (15), including cancer and heart ailments. Certainly, processed proteins such as sausages and bacon are unsuitable for your health. Therefore, ensure you maintain a minimum amount of red meat daily and always accompany it with a balanced diet( some vegetables, fiber, and fruits (16).

10. Whole Grains

Examples of whole grains include rice, corn, barely spelled, millet, quinoa, oats, and wheat. Whole grains contain phytates that cling to zinc, ensuring they are not absorbed fast (17). Every cup of oats provides 2.95 mg, cooked brown rice contains 1.38 mg, cooked quinoa has 1.85 mg in one cup, while two sandwiches of wheat bread have 1.1haveg of zinc.

Other nutrients contained in whole grains include iron, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, manganese, B vitamins, and fiber.

Eating whole grains reduces heart diseases and obesity (18). Wouldn’t you like to be one of the people who eat whole grains and live longer and healthier lives? Consider including it in your daily diet.

11. Seeds

Adding seeds to your diet is a step forward to meeting your Zinc requirement daily. The choice of seeds you want to add to your menu is essential. Some of the best seeds rich in zinc include pumpkin, squash, hemp, flax, and sesame seeds.

For instance, 30 grams of hemp seeds contain 31-43% of the DV, depending on gender, and are an excellent source of omega 3 and 6. One cup of pumpkin seeds provides 44% of the DV. More to zinc supply in your body, seeds have other nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and healthy fats.

Seeds promote mental health, reduce cholesterol levels in the body’s blood pressure, and maintain post-menopause health (19). Taking these seeds in salads, yogurt, and soups is advisable.

12. Spinach

Spinach is one of the healthiest vegetables worldwide. To your satisfaction, it is also rich in zinc. Every 1.4 mg cup of spinach contains 9% of the DV of zinc. Additionally, cooked spinach has 41.4 calories, 5.3 g of protein, 6.7 g of carbs, 0.5 g of fat, 4.3 g of dietary fiber, and minerals such as magnesium, iron, manganese, copper, thiamine, calcium, folate, and vitamins C and K (20).

The Health benefits of spinach include protection against cancer, defense against cardiovascular diseases, immunity boosting, stabilizing blood sugar, strengthening bones, skin care, detoxification, and maintenance of healthy vision and brain health.

13. Avocado

Avocados are on the list of the world’s superfoods. This is mostly due to their delicious taste, easy eating, and hearty health benefits. Aside from zinc, they contain several other nutrients, such as potassium, fiber, healthy fats, and vitamin K.

One avocado contains 1.3 mg of zinc or 8% of the DV. Avocado is essential for healthy diets (21). Due to its ability to improve heart, skin, hair, digestive, and eye health, reduce the danger of metabolic disorders, fight cancerous cells, arthritis, and diabetes, promote weight loss, and boost moods. Avocado is an alternative you shouldn’t miss in your grocery shopping list.

14. Lentils

Lentils are part of the leguminous family rich in both proteins and carbohydrates. Types of famous lentils include brown and green lentils, Egyptian lentils, Spanish Pardina lentils, France green lentils, and yellow lentils. A cup of 198 g of lentils contains 230 calories, 0.8 g of fat, 15.6 g of fiber, 17.9 g of proteins, and 39.9 g of carbohydrates.

Lentils contain minerals (22), such as 2.3 mg of zinc, 6.6 g of iron, and others like magnesium, potassium, thiamine, copper, riboflavin, pathogenic acid, and vitamin B6. Lentils are among the main sources of fiber and plant protein. It helps promote heart, digestive, and gut health, manages blood sugar levels, balances the body’s pH, and aids in weight loss (23).

15. Dark Chocolate

It must be surprising that dark chocolate has a notable amount of zinc. More precisely, 3.5 ounces of 70-85% dark chocolate has 30% of the DV (3.3 mg of zinc). 

It’s worth noting that dark chocolate is a high-sugar and calorie food, containing up to 600 calories. Such a high amount of calories can harm your body (24). Therefore, eat it in moderation and ensure it’s not the food you depend on solely for your zinc supply.

Benefits of Zinc in the Body

  1. Cleaning cuts and wounds – Zinc helps maintain mucosal membranes, which facilitate wound healing. It also fastens the blood clotting process.
  2. Reduces Prolonged Diarrhea – High levels of zinc decline how severe and prolonged diarrhea would be, primarily for malnourished kids.
  3. Curbs Eye Damages – Diets rich in zinc also supply the body with vitamins E and C that reduce macular degeneration, mostly in older adults.
  4. Improves Immune System – Zinc creates and activates T-lymphocytes that develop bone marrow’s vital cells.
  5. Thyroid Function – Diets high in zinc improve the metabolism rate. That ensures a constant energy supply in your body.

Side Effects of Zinc Deficiency

  • Hair loss.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Lowers the body’s immunity.
  • Slows the growth process in kids.
  • Decreases the smell and taste senses.
  • Cripples the production of male sex hormones.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Skin and eye sores.
  • Impotence.

Groups at High Risk of Zinc Deficiency

  • Vegetarians – Research shows that meat is better for bioavailability than vegetables. That means it can sustain zinc in the body longer than vegetables. It’s therefore advisable that vegetarians take 50% of the Daily Value of zinc. 
  • AlcoholicsAlcohol tends to reduce zinc absorption and increase urinary zinc excretion. Statistics show that for every two alcoholics, one is zinc deficient. Consider reducing or abstaining from alcohol to get your zinc levels right.
  • Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women – A growing fetus tends to need a high level of zinc and sucks more from the mother through breast milk. This condition may cause the mother to experience low zinc levels. Choose some or all of the foods discussed to increase your zinc intake.
  • Exclusively breastfed kids – After six months, kids should be placed on balanced meals rather than wholly depend on breastmilk. Breastfeeding alone is not guaranteed to supply the required zinc levels after six months.
  • Sickle Cell patients.
  • People on high iron supplements.
  • People on diuretics.
  • People with gastrointestinal complications or surgeries.

The Bottom Line 

Zinc is a vital mineral in our bodies that improves body immunity, helps to heal wounds, and increases metabolism to supply us with energy for daily activities. Since the body does not manufacture or store zinc, it is necessary to ensure its sufficient intake. 

In case you consider using zinc supplements, ensure you have a qualified medical practitioner to prescribe the meds to you.They will advise you on vital factors such as supplements that are suitable for your consumption, as well as the dosage.


John Davis