September 09, 2022 · Written by Foodtolive Team

Zinc-Rich Foods and Why Do We Need It?

If you’re overwhelmed by daily questions like “what to eat” and “how much” to stay healthy, this article aims to answer these questions and dissolve some food myths. We will mainly focus on one of the most vital elements our organism needs – Zinc.

Zinc is a nutrient involved in many body processes: it helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses; our body also needs zinc to make proteins and DNA (the genetic material in all cells). [1]

Since our body doesn’t produce zinc naturally, zinc must be obtained through foods rich in zinc. To enrich your organism with this valuable nutrient, consider adding zinc-rich foods to your diet.


Zinc-Rich Foods and Why Do We Need It

Meat (pork, lamb, beef, chicken, turkey)

Red meat such as beef is considered an ideal source of this mineral. However, it is not the only source of zinc. This trace element is also found in pork and lamb. A 100-gram portion of beef can contain up to 4.8 grams of zinc, which is equivalent to 44 percent of the daily intake (DV).


Zinc-Rich Foods and Why Do We Need It


Healthline reports that 1 large egg contains about 5% of the DV. This comes with 77 calories, 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of healthy fats, and a host of other vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins and selenium. [2]


Zinc-Rich Foods and Why Do We Need It

Seafood (oyster, crab, lobster, shellfish)

USDA estimates a zinc powerhouse of 5.5 mg per raw oyster. That’s to say, oysters are a great source of minerals.

Zinc-rich foods for vegetarians

If you’re not getting enough zinc in your diet because you’re vegetarian, you can take plant sources of zinc. Vegetarians need to consume 50% more zinc than people consuming products of animal origin regularly. This means that male vegans and vegetarians may need to eat about 16.5 mg of zinc a day, while women should eat up to 12 mg per day.


Zinc-Rich Foods and Why Do We Need It

Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans)

Chickpeas, lentils, beans, and other legumes contain significant amounts of zinc. Thus, 100 grams of (cooked) lentils contain about 12% of the daily norm. Lentils serve as a plant-based protein, making them an excellent zinc-rich food for vegetarians. [3]


Zinc-Rich Foods and Why Do We Need It

Whole grains (quinoa, oats, brown rice)

According to USDA, 1 cup of raw quinoa contains 5.27mg of zinc. Quinoa is gluten-free which makes it a great substitute for wheat pasta. It is packed with nutrients and it contains all 9 essential amino acids that are the building blocks of protein.

Rice is packed not only with zinc but also with a large number of carbohydrates, 8-12% protein, vitamins B3, PP, B1, B2, and B6, as well as potassium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, selenium, and calcium.

A half-cup of oats provides 1.5 mg of zinc. Like legumes, oats (and other whole grains) contain phytates, which can affect how well your body absorbs the mineral. [4]


Zinc-Rich Foods and Why Do We Need It

Vegetables (beets, cabbage, asparagus, peas)

Vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and white cabbage, also contain zinc, fiber, vitamins C, PP, and carotenoids.


Zinc-Rich Foods and Why Do We Need It


Almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts are a great addition to the daily diet and help the body maintain zinc levels. Nuts, in different quantities, depending on the variety, also contain trace elements such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, vegetable protein, fiber, and other useful components.


Zinc-Rich Foods and Why Do We Need It

Zinc-rich foods benefits

To start with, the human organism can’t do without zinc since zinc deficiency can lead to weight loss, impaired immune function, diarrhea, loss of taste sensation, and delayed sexual maturation. Note, however, that these symptoms might be associated with other health conditions or diseases, therefore, you should consult with a medical expert to make sure whether it’s caused by zinc deficiency or by other reasons. Nevertheless, zinc is valuable because it:

  • strengthens the immune system
  • Due to zinc content, our organism can fight off viruses and bacteria.
  • improves metabolism
  • Zinc participates in the creation, and breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
  • slows down cell aging and promotes skin health
  • Zinc prevents wrinkle formation at the molecular level as it helps antioxidants fight off free radicals from damaging your skin.
  • stabilizes the nervous system
  • Regulates the functioning of the nervous system: stimulates the cerebellum, and improves mood, attention, and memory.
  • strengthens bones
  • It’s generally known that bone strength depends on calcium intake. However, zinc is no less important for maintaining bone mass and its strength.
  • plays a key role in the metabolism of thyroid hormones
  • Zinc affects thyroid hormones and regulates their activity. And its deficiency increases the likelihood of diseases of this organ which might be accompanied by hair loss.
  • normalizes the reproductive function
  • Pregnant women should also consume zinc-rich food because a certain amount of this element is needed not only for the woman’s body but also for the normal development of the fetus. Zinc plays a crucial role in the synthesis of DNA, protein, and cell division. Zinc is equally important for male fertility.
  • If pregnant, please consult your physician before taking Zinc.

 Zinc Dosage and Side Effects

According to the National Institute of Health, the recommended daily dosage of zinc is 8-11mg for adults and 5-8mg for children. See the table below: [5]

Zinc-Rich Foods and Why Do We Need It

Recent findings revealed by the Conference on Coronavirus Disease of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases show a significantly lower plasma level of zinc in COVID-19 patients who died (43 μg/dl) than the patients who survived (63.1 μg/dl). Further analysis proved that increase in plasma zinc at the time of hospital admission resulted in a 7% reduced risk of in-hospital mortality. That’s to say, the human organism really needs an adequate zinc level. [6]

To sum up, zinc is a vital element of our body: it provides additional protection against viruses or illnesses (it doesn’t cure any diseases though). Many researchers conclude that foods rich in zinc have the most significant and positive effect on the immune system.