Calcium, magnesium, iron… everyone knows about these common minerals and why they’re important to maintaining a healthy body. But few people recognize the importance of zinc. Even fewer could tell you which foods are rich in zinc.
To get the word out, we put together this grocery list of foods that will ensure your daily zinc intake is on par with your body’s needs. First, let’s do a quick overview of this important mineral.
Why Is Zinc Important to Your Health?
Zinc plays a bigger role in your health than most people realize. From helping to maintain immune health to assisting with basic protein synthesis, it’s an incredibly under-appreciated mineral. Zinc can affect everything from your vision to your libido.
Before we tackle your diet, let’s take a closer look at a few important ways low zinc levels can affect your body.
- Immune Function—if your immune system isn’t functioning at its best, a diet low in zinc might be partially to blame. Studies have indicated that immune system function can suffer more in elderly individuals when they’re not eating enough zinc-rich foods. However, making the necessary dietary changes can also help reverse the problem within just a few weeks.
- Skin—just like immune function, skin health seems to take a turn for the worse whenever dietary zinc levels are too low. For example, studies have been done that show young males breakout when fed a low-zinc diet. Other symptoms reported by subsequent studies included facial rash, foot fungus and even canker sores as a result of zinc deficiency. Like the quickly restored immune function, adequate zinc restored healthy skin within a matter of weeks.
- Sensation—on the extreme end of the scale, severe zinc deficiency can lead to a loss of taste and appetite. An estimated 15% of seniors have lost their sense of taste as a result of zinc deficiency. However, in some cases, sensory loss is a condition linked to more serious health concerns, so definitely report any loss of taste or appetite to your primary doctor as soon as you can. Zinc is also linked to vision health, as it works in conjunction with vitamin A to help your eyes with sensing light and transmitting those signals to the brain. Studies have linked low zinc levels with vision loss, which is why so many vision supplements include zinc.
10 Foods Full of Zinc
If you’re at all concerned about your current zinc intake, make a few simple adjustments to your weekly grocery list. Add these foods high in zinc to your daily diet as appropriate. We’ll start the list with the best vegetarian sources of zinc…
1Beans: There seems to be no end to the list of bean benefits. Just one cup of garbanzo beans (great on salads) provides nearly a quarter of your daily zinc needs.
2Green Vegetables: Asparagus and spinach, in particular, are great vegetarian sources of zinc. They also happen to be incredibly versatile, which is why they’re near the top of our zinc foods list!
3Mushrooms: From shiitake to crimini to plain white mushrooms, these friendly fungi (often known as the vegetarian’s meat) are great sources of zinc with about 10% DV per cup.
4Cocoa, Cocoa Powder, Baking Chocolate: Good news for everyone, dark baking chocolate is super high in zinc. A cup of grated baking chocolate serves up a whopping 85% of your daily value for zinc.
5Nuts: Nuts are one of Mother Nature’s healthiest all-around snacks, full of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals (including zinc). Here are a few examples of nuts rich in zinc: pine nuts (12%), pecans (9%), almonds (6%), walnuts (6%), peanuts (6%) and hazelnuts (5%).
6Oysters: For the pescatarians and omnivores in the group, oysters are great sources of natural dietary zinc. Just six medium oysters give you almost 500% of your daily value!
7Beef: Pound for pound, beef is the best bet for meat eaters when it comes to upping your zinc intake. Four ounces serves up 37% of your daily requirement.
8Lamb: Not far behind beef, lamb serves up 35% of of your daily zinc needs.
9Poultry: Chicken and turkey don’t pack quite as much zinc as lamb or beef, but if you opt for the dark meat instead of the white, you’re at least zeroing in on the zinc-richest cuts.
10Shrimp & Scallops: If seafood is your meat of choice, you’re still in luck. Per one four-ounce serving, shrimp provides 17% of your daily zinc requirements. That same four-ounce serving of scallops will give you 16%.
Meat eater or not, you have plenty of options to boost your zinc intake. On your next trip to the grocery store, start your list with these items. How many are already staples in your daily diet?