10 Foods That Are Rich in Zinc

Do you know what are the main foods rich in zinc and what function this mineral plays in the human body? Did you know that his disability can harm your health? Well, stay tuned, because in this article on Home Remedy you will find out everything about this topic.

Zinc is a mineral that is present throughout the human body. A study published in 2011 showed that the adult human body has between 1.5 and 2.5 grams of zinc, which acts directly to maintain cell functions. ( 1 )

This maintenance is related to the organism’s immune, defense, antioxidant, growth and development functions. That’s why the mineral is extremely important during pregnancy and childhood. ( 2 )

When the intake of this nutrient does not meet the daily needs of metabolism, the body can show some symptoms and be susceptible to various health problems. However, it is not always necessary to take industrialized supplements, as zinc is found naturally in several food groups.

Zinc Rich Foods

The amount of a particular nutrient in food is defined by the term bioavailability. This is the proportion of the ingested substance that is absorbed and used by the human body. ( 1 )

The food that has the most zinc in its composition are oysters (Photo: depositphotos)

That said, the main foods rich in zinc, according to the Bioavailability of Foods book are:

1. Oysters

The oyster is the richest food in zinc there. A 100 gram serving of cooked food contains 39 mg of zinc, nearly four times the daily requirement of an adult male. And it only delivers about 160 calories.

Raw oysters have a bioavailability of 27 mg of zinc for every 100 grams ingested. And they deliver just 125 calories per serving. They are rich in other minerals such as phosphorus and potassium. ( 3 )

2. Red meats

Another food that has a large amount of the mineral is red meat. Beef is considered the most nutritious, with 8.5 mg of zinc in each 100 gram serving.

Steak, which is usually made with a leaner portion, has 5.5 mg of the mineral, and cooked beef liver has 5.4 mg of zinc per serving. Lamb meat, another source of red meat, has 4 mg of the nutrient per serving. While the pig has 2.4 mg, almost half of the other representatives of the group. ( 3 )

3. White meats

Another great source of natural zinc is found in white meat in general, especially in turkey and chicken. However, the bioavailability of the mineral changes according to the part ingested, being mostly found in the liver.

Just to give an example, for every 100 grams of cooked chicken meat that is eaten, the body can absorb 2.9 mg of zinc. For every 100 grams of the bird’s liver, this amount increases to 4.3 mg.

Meanwhile, turkey, which is the white meat with the highest concentration of zinc, allows for the intake of 4.5 mg for each portion eaten. Fish are not left out of the list. Sardines have the highest concentration of the mineral, around 1.4 mg for each portion consumed. ( 3 )

4. pumpkin seed

It is not only in foods of animal origin that the mineral is found, it is also present in vegetables and their derivatives, such as pumpkin seeds . For every 57 grams, just under half a cup of tea, the body can absorb 4.2 mg of zinc. ( 3 )

However, you need to be careful, especially if you want to lose weight. The vegetable seeds are very caloric with about 310 calories for the quoted amount.

5. Almond

This oilseed is a good source of zinc consumption. By consuming a 78 gram serving of the seed, the body can absorb 3.9 mg of the mineral, almost half of an adult’s daily needs. ( 3 )

In addition, almonds are also rich in vitamin E, the B complex and several essential minerals for the body to function. But beware, this is another very caloric food, with almost 450 calories in the aforementioned portion. It should be consumed sparingly.

6. Brazil Nut

The Brazil nut, also called Brazil nut, is an oilseed native to the northern region and widely consumed due to its high nutritional value. A 70 gram serving represents an intake of 3.2 mg of zinc and contains just over 450 calories. ( 3 )

In addition, it is also rich in B-complex vitamins, various minerals and vegetable fats that are good for the body.

7. Boiled clams

Octopus, squid and shellfish are representatives of the shellfish class and they all form part of a diet rich in zinc. That’s because a 100 gram serving of steamed shellfish contains 2.7 mg of the mineral. ( 3 )

In addition, they are foods with only 112 calories per serving and are rich in vitamins A, the B complex and some important minerals.

8. Wheat germ

The germ is considered the noblest part of wheat, being the embryo that would give rise to new plants. So it is very nutritious and can be used in different ways in food.

Consuming just 14 grams daily is equivalent to 2.4 mg of zinc. This corresponds to about 30% of the recommended amount of the nutrient per day. While low in calories, just over 50 per serving and rich in vitamins and minerals. ( 3 )

9. Yogurt

Another great food for those who need to consume more zinc is yogurt, especially those with low fat content. A serving equivalent to one cup of the food allows the ingestion of 2.2 mg of the mineral, or 15% of the daily value. All this with just 154 calories and several other nutrients and healthy fats for the body. ( 3 )

10. Beans

Finally, legumes such as beans are also great sources of the mineral. Common beans, such as carioca , have 1.8 mg of zinc in each 127 gram serving and only 197 calories.

While black, a very popular variety in Brazil, has 1 mg of the mineral and 113.5 calories in each 86-gram serving. In addition, these legumes are rich in many other minerals, vitamins and fats that are good for the body. ( 3 )

What is the function of the mineral in the body?

You saw 10 foods rich in zinc in the previous topic, but do you know the function and importance of the correct consumption of this mineral? First of all, it must be mentioned that zinc is present in more than 300 enzymes that act in important functions in the human body.

Their action ranges from cognitive development to improving the immune system, helping to treat and prevent various diseases. In addition, the mineral acts directly on the ability to reproduce, especially in men, transporting glucose to cells and reducing blood pressure . ( 2 )

The nutrient also acts directly on the endocrine system, mainly in the production of growth hormones and insulin secretion. Maintaining adequate zinc levels helps improve bowel function, especially in children.

The mineral improves the wound healing process , the absorption of water and sodium, and also protects the body’s mucous membranes against infections.(4) Finally, zinc is a substance that acts directly on neural activity and memory . ( 3 )

These functions make the mineral an essential element, especially in some phases of life, such as during childhood and adolescence, where it acts on growth and cognitive development.

In pregnant or nursing women, zinc is essential as it acts directly on the developing fetus. After birth, zinc absorbed by the mother will reach the baby through breast milk, helping to strengthen the body’s defenses against disease. ( 5 )

Recommended daily dose for each stage of life

The daily doses of zinc recommended by experts change according to age and special needs. As is the case with illnesses or pregnancy, for example. See how much zinc you need to ingest by age below.

Children up to 13 years old

Newborns up to six months of age get all the necessary zinc from breast milk. Therefore, it is important that breastfeeding women maintain a balanced diet rich in this mineral.

At this stage of life, adequate zinc intake is 2 mg per day. From the age of seven months, when the introduction of food begins, the minimum amount goes to 3 mg per day and remains so until the age of three.

Children aged 4 to 8 years need an average of 5 mg of zinc per day to maintain healthy growth and cognitive development. Children, regardless of gender, between 9 and 13 years old should ingest an average of 8 mg of the mineral a day. ( 3 )

adult men and women

Men have slightly higher zinc requirements than women. Mainly because the nutrient acts on the production of sperm and even the size of the testes. Therefore, the adequate daily consumption for adult men is 11mg and this number extends into old age. ( 3 )

Women, on the other hand, need to ingest about 8 mg of zinc daily. This number changes during pregnancy, due to the development of the fetus. ( 2 )

During pregnancy and breastfeeding

During these two phases, women need a higher intake of zinc. After all, the nutrient is also intended for the healthy development of the fetus and newborn.

For this reason the adequate intake of zinc during pregnancy is 13 mg per day. ( 3 ) On the other hand, women who are breastfeeding should consume foods that guarantee the absorption of an average of 14 mg of the mineral daily.

This must be done through food, as some studies show risks regarding the use of industrialized supplements. ( 5 )

Zinc Deficiency Symptoms for Health

There are several symptoms presented by the body when the amount of zinc ingested is not enough. Some of the main ones are seen in children, for example: hair loss, diarrhea and skin lesions such as acne. In the long term this can lead to anorexia and delay in fetal growth or development when deficiency is seen in pregnant women.

Adults with low levels of the mineral may have slower healing of lesions, glucose intolerance and decreased insulin production, which can lead to diabetes mellitus. In addition to sexual impotence, recurrent infections, memory problems and dermatitis. ( 2 )

When the deficiency is more pronounced, there can be loss of appetite and constant tiredness and even rougher skin. ( 4 )

Main risks for this issue

Mineral deficiency can have serious consequences for the body. The main ones are problems related to the gastrointestinal system, which can be fatal if not treated quickly.

Furthermore, the problem increases the risks of maternal mortality and abortion. In addition to delaying delivery and even influencing normal delivery, it can also cause infertility. ( 4 )

Other risks linked to zinc deficiency are constant diarrhea and delayed growth and motor and cognitive development. Low levels of the mineral even affect the body’s defenses against infections. Making him more susceptible to malaria and pneumonia and even childhood obesity or malnutrition. ( 5 )

Finally, some studies carried out between 1996 and 1998 showed that zinc may be related to neuropsychological performance. That is, the disability can change the way the individual behaves and reacts in some situations. ( 6 )

What are the main causes of zinc deficiency?

Zinc deficiency is something seen in many regions of the world, especially in emerging countries. The main causes of problems tend to be inadequate nutrition, malabsorption or misuse of nutrient sources.

Malabsorption, in turn, can occur for several reasons. One of the main ones is acrodermatitis enteropathica, a disease that causes a disorder in the ability to absorb zinc. Other causes are some inflammatory diseases, which cause nutrient loss.

Finally, intestinal problems such as diarrhea and some chronic illnesses can also cause the problem. In these cases, external supplementation of the mineral may be necessary. ( 5 )

How and when to supplement?

Zinc supplementation is indicated in more severe cases of the problem and should only be recommended by a medical professional. Indiscriminate use can pose health risks. Therefore, it is necessary to carry out tests to check the levels of minerals and other nutrients in the blood.

One of the ways to supplement is through medications to prevent anemia or deficiency in other minerals. That’s because many of them are already fortified with zinc and can be safely consumed.

In some cases, supplementation may be indicated to treat diarrhea problems in children. ( 5 ) The doses are usually 6.5 mg of zinc per day, in a treatment that lasts an average of six months. ( 4 )

What is chelated zinc and how to use it?

Chelated zinc is the name given to the supplement when the mineral is linked to an amino acid . Thus, it is called organic minerals. The main advantage of this type of supplementation is that the nutrient is absorbed faster by the body.

Therefore, it is more suitable for cases in which the individual cannot consume or retain the necessary amounts of zinc in the body. Chelated zinc usually comes in 10 or 6 mg lengths and should be consumed daily. ( 7 )

Care with mineral supplementation

Zinc is a nutrient that has a very wide limit to exceed acceptable levels of daily intake. However, this can happen, especially when it is necessary to make external supplementation of the mineral.

Therefore, the intake of an amount higher than the daily maximum, for a long period of time, can make the mineral toxic to the body.

The main side effect of this is the problem to metabolize copper. Therefore, there is a greater chance of developing anemia. In addition, the excess of mineral in the body can lead to gastric ulcers, reduced immune system and cholesterol.

Other consequences of excess zinc are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, accompanied by a feeling of lethargy. ( 4 ) The maximum acceptable limit for daily zinc intake is 40 mg, on average, for adults and 23 mg for children up to 13 years of age.

For this reason it is always important not to do any supplementation on your own, only a health professional will indicate the ideal amount for each case.

Ellie Lauderdale

My name is Ellie Lauderdale, MD and I am USA based professional Nutritionist .

I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who is trained in integrative medicine. I have worked with hundreds of clients, from those suffering with chronic disease to professional and olympian athletes. My goal is to help optimize you from the inside so that you can feel, perform, and look your best on the outside.

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