Several minerals are essential for human survival. These minerals play different roles in the human body. In particular, Zinc is considered one of the most critical minerals that need to be consumed daily.
The mineral is generally obtained from food. A zinc supplement is also available to help increase the intake of the mineral. The importance of zinc as a dietary mineral was first established in the year 1963.
Zinc deficiency is becoming a significant concern.
This can cause several adverse effects on the human body. Getting enough zinc ensures enzymes and several other functions can act normally. There are several food sources of zinc. This allows a person to obtain more dietary zinc.
We look at the top foods high in zinc. These help to provide an improvement in zinc levels. It also assists in reducing the risk of a zinc deficiency.
What Is Zinc?
Zinc is a mineral. It is considered an essential nutrient. A person needs to provide their body with an appropriate zinc intake through food and supplementation. The body itself does not make zinc. It also does not store dietary zinc. This is why eating foods high in zinc should be considered an important part of a person’s daily diet.
The mineral is involved in many bodily functions. There are more than 300 enzymes and enzymic activities that depend on a healthy zinc level. When there is not enough zinc, these enzymes may not function normally.
Apart from enzyme actions, dietary zinc is also involved in the metabolism of other nutrients. It ensures these nutrients, including some vitamins, are metabolized and absorbed into the body.
A healthy diet can usually provide a person with an adequate zinc intake. The problem, however, is that many people follow unhealthy diets. This is what causes a risk of zinc deficiency.
Benefits Of Zinc
There are a few benefits to ensuring a person gets enough zinc each day. The mineral is involved in enzyme activities, as previously mentioned. It also provides other nutrients are metabolized.
In addition to these, other benefits that zinc also provides:
- Zinc plays a role in the immune system. Getting enough of this mineral helps to keep the immune system healthy. In turn, the body is more resilient to viruses, bacteria, and other invading pathogens. The body can also fight against disease more effectively.
- The mineral has a role in metabolism too. An adequate zinc intake helps to keep the metabolism functioning normally.
- Zinc also helps with the wound healing process. When there is enough zinc in the body, it ensures wounds can heal faster and more effectively.
Apart from these, zinc also contributes to the sense of smell and taste in the human body.
Even though a healthy diet can provide enough dietary zinc, a significant number of people have a deficiency in this mineral. According to one study, the estimated worldwide zinc deficiency prevalence is 31%.
Studies report different results, as they look at the prevalence among different populations. The study found that the deficiency rate varies between 4% and 73% when all world regions are taken into account.
A deficiency in dietary zinc can cause serious problems. A minor deficiency can make it harder for the body to heal wounds. It may also lead to poor protection against infections and disease.
When zinc deficiency becomes more serious, these are the complications that may occur:
- Eye lesions
- Skin lesions
- Hair loss
- Impotence in men
- Hypogonadism among men
- A delay in sexual maturation among young boys
- A loss of a person’s appetite
- Impaired immunity
In young people, growth retardation is also considered a severe complication caused by zinc deficiency.
How Much Zinc?
Getting enough of this essential mineral is important. At the same time, a person should avoid a high zinc level.
This may also come with consequences. Thus, both men and women need to recognize how much zinc they need. This ensures neither a deficiency nor surplus of the essential mineral occurs.
The recommended zinc intake differs between men and women. There are also certain scenarios that call for a higher intake of dietary zinc.
- It is advised that men get 11mg zinc in their daily diet.
- Women need about 8mg of zinc each day.
- When a woman is pregnant, she needs 11mg of zinc per day.
- Breastfeeding women should obtain 12mg of zinc on a daily basis.
10 Foods High In Zinc
There are many ways to increase the intake of zinc. Eating more foods that are rich in zinc is one of the best ways to increase zinc consumption. There are many foods high in zinc.
Adding more of these to a person’s daily diet is a great way to reduce the risk of a deficiency. It also ensures zinc is able to boost immune function and regulate enzymic activities.
One of the top sources for dietary zinc is meat. There are several scientific publications that back this up. Several varieties of meat have been shown to provide a high-quality source of zinc. The best kind of meat for increasing zinc intake is red meat. This includes pork, lamb, and beef meat products.
Meat is not only high in protein. There are several other vital nutrients that meat can also offer. This provides a healthy way of increasing zinc, along with protein and other nutrients.
A 100-gram portion of ground beef provides about 4.8mg zinc. This amount calculates to 44% of the daily recommended intake for dietary zinc.
In addition to the zinc content, the same serving of ground beef offers the following nutrients:
- About 10g fat
- 20 grams of protein
- 176 calories
The beef also contains creating, iron, and a few B vitamins.
While meat is an excellent source of zinc, it should be consumed in limits. Overeating red meat can be bad for the body. Some studies have linked high red meat consumption to heart disease. There is also evidence that red meat may increase the risk of certain cancers. Thus, a person should limit their intake of meat to about 100 grams per serving.
Processed meat products should also ideally be avoided. While these products may still contain zinc, they are also rich in added ingredients. These added ingredients often include sodium.
High sodium intake can cause elevated blood pressure levels. Long-term consumption of these processed meats can lead to hypertension. Thus, people should prefer unprocessed red meat if they want to include this food source of zinc in their daily diet.
Shellfish are considered a very healthy food. People who are not allergic to shellfish can enjoy this food to provide their bodies with a wide range of nutrients.
The great thing about shellfish is the fact that the food is very low in calories, yet rich in nutritional content. This makes it a great way to add more nutrients to a person’s daily diet without gaining weight or eating too many calories.
Eating six medium-sized oysters offer more than 100% of the daily recommended zinc intake. This serving of oysters contains about 32mg of zinc. That calculates to 291% of the daily recommended intake for zinc. Oysters are the highest in zinc when it comes to shellfish. There are other shellfish food options that still contain high amounts of zinc.
As an example, about 100 grams of Alaskan crab provides a dose of 7.6mg zinc. This calculates to an estimated 69% of the daily zinc intake requirements.
Mussels and shrimp contain zinc, but just in smaller amounts. They offer about 14% of the daily recommended zinc levels for every 100-gram serving.
3) Seeds & Nuts
Seeds and nuts are often used as healthy snacks. They can be easily packaged into a bag. They also make for a delicious snack during the day. It is a great way to avoid gaining excess weight due to unhealthy snack options – like donuts and potato chips. What many people do not realize is that these foods are some of the best zinc sources too.
There are quite a few varieties of seeds and nuts that a person can pack as a snack. Many of these nuts and seeds also offer additional nutrients.
Hemp seeds provide an excellent source of zinc. A 30-gram serving offers 43% of the daily recommended intake for women. The same amount of hemp seeds provide 31% of the daily recommended zinc level for men. Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and squash seeds are also excellent food sources of zinc.
These seeds also contain healthy fats and fiber. These are essential nutrients that the body also depends on. Additional minerals and vitamins are also contained in these seeds.
When it comes to nuts, cashews are a great option. A 28-gram serving of cashews provides 15% of the daily recommended zinc content. Many nut varieties have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Some nuts are also helpful in reducing the risk of some cancers.
Whole grains should also form an important part of a person’s daily diet. There are various forms of whole grains that can be added to a diet. Oats are considered an excellent option. Rolled oats provide a wide range of nutrients, and it makes for a delicious breakfast.
It should be noted that zinc absorption with oats can be somewhat low. This whole grain contains a high concentration of phytates. Zinc binds to these phytates in the oats. It interferes with the absorption rate of the mineral. Still, the body still gets some of the zinc.
Oats not only provide zinc but is also rich in many other nutrients. Fiber is an important nutrient found in oats. This helps a person feel fuller. It also contributes to a healthier digestive system.
The whole grain is rich in magnesium, selenium, manganese, iron, and phosphorus too. Other nutrients include a range of B vitamins.
Apart from these, oats have also been shown to help in reducing the risk of gaining excess weight. This makes a person less likely to become obese. The person’s risk of type 2 diabetes is also reduced in the process. Additionally, oats contain nutrients that help to boost heart health.
Eggs are mostly known for their protein content. Many people add eggs to their diet to increase their intake of protein. This is a source of high-quality protein. It is a great option for athletes who want to increase their performance. People also turn to eggs if they want to increase their satiety after a meal.
Eggs are not the highest source of zinc. They do, however, contain some zinc. This is also a nutrient-rich food. There are several other nutrients that eggs can offer a person.
One egg contains about 5% of the recommended daily zinc level. There are about six grams of protein in an egg. The food is also rich in healthy fats. There are several B vitamins in this food, as well as selenium and other important minerals.
Furthermore, eggs also provide choline. This is an overlooked nutrient that a lot of people fail to recognize in their diet.
Legumes refer to a family of foods. It includes beans, lentils, and chickpeas. A 100-gram serving of cooked lentils provides about 12% of the zinc that a person should get on a daily basis. There are phytates in legumes. This means zinc absorption is a bit low. Other nutrients are also found in legumes, however.
Many dairy products are rich in zinc too. Milk is the most common example. Cheese is another dairy product that can help a person get enough zinc each day. A 100-gram piece of cheddar provides around 28% of the daily recommended zinc value. A cup of milk (full fat) can offer a person 9% of the amount of zinc they need to consume each day.
8) Dark Chocolate
Chocolate is often considered unhealthy, but there are benefits to eating dark chocolate. It is recommended to opt for a 70% or higher dark chocolate option. A 100-gram serving of this chocolate provides about 3.3 grams of zinc.
9) Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is also a dairy product that has become popular due to its probiotic content. This particular dairy product also provides a healthy serving of zinc. Other nutrients, including some crucial minerals, are also found in Greek yogurt.
There are many vegetables that can help to increase zinc intake. Not all vegetables contain high amounts of zinc, however. The best options include potatoes and green beans. Kale also contains some zinc.
Zinc deficiency has several adverse effects on the human body. Increasing zinc intake helps to reduce the risk of such a deficiency. Foods high in zinc helps to contribute to a higher intake of the mineral.
Zinc supplementation can also be used in cases of a severe deficiency. This provides the mineral in the form of zinc gluconate or zinc sulfate. Dietary zinc should ideally be combined with other nutrients for optimized results.