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Top 10 Foods That Are High In Zinc & Their Health Benefits 2023

Cassi Donegan

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Dr G. Michael DiLeo, MD

foods high in zinc

Zinc is necessary for your immune system function and many other processes[1]. This essential trace mineral is in many superfoods, and since your body cannot create this mineral on its own, like iron and calcium, and your body cannot store zinc, you must have a well-balanced diet that provides you with adequate zinc daily. 

If you want to ensure you’re getting enough zinc, you can buy quality zinc supplements or intentionally eat a healthy diet with plenty of foods high in zinc. 

How much zinc per day[2] do you need exactly? It depends on your age and gender. Adult females need 8 milligrams, while adult males need 11 milligrams. Pregnant women also need 11 milligrams and 12 milligrams if they are breastfeeding. 

Let’s investigate the health benefits of zinc, along with 10 of the foods highest in zinc that you can eat to get your recommended dietary allowance. 

10 Foods That Are Highest In Zinc

  1. Seafood 
  2. Grass-fed beef 
  3. Lamb
  4. Chicken 
  5. Chickpeas 
  6. Hemp seeds
  7. Pumpkin seeds
  8. Lentils 
  9. Whole grains 
  10. Cashews

10 Best Food Sources Of Zinc

When planning your meals with a list of foods high in zinc in mind, you’ll also want to remember certain nutrients can help your body to absorb zinc better, and other nutrients can block absorption.

For example, eating foods rich in protein[3] will help zinc to absorb better. Animal products contain the most bioavailable zinc for your body since they have amino acids that encourage zinc to absorb into your body. 

But, many plant-based food sources of zinc contain phytate[4] or phytic acid, and phytate inhibits zinc absorption. So, despite this, if you’re looking for good food sources for vegan or vegetarian diets, there are still ways to get all the zinc you need with a well-thought-out meal plan. 

There are methods[5] to help reduce the phytic acid in plant foods. For example, soaking oats, nuts, beans, and sprouting seeds will help reduce phytic acid amounts. 

Some sources say that being a vegetarian makes you at higher risk for a zinc deficiency, but other research says[5] that vegetarians are at no greater risk of a zinc deficiency than meat-eaters and resiliently adapt over time by increasing retention and absorption of zinc. So if you are plant-based, you don’t necessarily have to eat meat to avoid inadequate zinc levels.

Zinc deficiency[6] can result in immune system dysfunction, poor neurological performance, allergies, and diarrhea. However, getting your recommended dietary allowance with some of the following foods on this list can help avoid this. 

Seafood

foods high in zinc

If you’re looking for foods rich in healthy fats, zinc, and vitamin D, seafood covers all this and more. Seafood is a great source of lean protein, aiding in zinc absorption. 

Several sources of zinc in the seafood category contain more zinc than the others on this list, with oysters coming in first. This immune system superfood contains over 5 milligrams of zinc per oyster[7], providing 50% of the daily value (DV). Having three or more oysters will put you at 150% or more of the DV. In addition, three ounces of Alaskan king crab[8] provides most of the day’s zinc requirement with over 50% of the DV. 

Grass-Fed Beef 

foods high in zinc

Another potent source of protein, grass-fed beef comes in second with a zinc content of almost 5 milligrams of zinc per one-fourth-pound patty of ground beef[9]. Foods high in vitamin C and zinc, like ground beef, support immune health. Grass-fed beef also contains healthy fats like conjugated linoleic acid that studies show to have an anti-obesity effect[10] that can improve body weight.

Lamb

foods high in zinc

Lamb is another good meat source of zinc and contains over 10 milligrams of zinc per cooked piece[11] (242 grams). It’s very high in protein, has heart-healthy fatty acids, and also contains other nutrients like cysteine and methionine to help your body absorb the zinc it needs. 

Chicken 

foods high in zinc

Another meaty way to make sure you’re getting an adequate intake of zinc is to include chicken in your diet. One cup[12] of this cooked white meat has 2.72 milligrams of zinc and adds more nutritional value with 38 milligrams of protein to promote zinc absorption and bone health[13]

Chickpeas 

foods high in zinc

Chickpeas are also known as garbanzo beans, a type of legume used to top salads and make hummus. A cup of cooked chickpeas[14] contains 2.51 milligrams of zinc or around 25% of the DV. These are great plant-based source of protein and fiber[15], which helps to regulate your digestive system, improve your gut microbiome, and maintain a healthy weight. 

Hemp Seeds

foods high in zinc

Hemp seeds are an excellent food source high in zinc for a vegan diet. Each three-tablespoon[16] serving of these seeds contains 2.97 milligrams of zinc for your DV. These nutty-flavored seeds contain protein, fiber, and healthy fats that join with zinc to promote heart health[17]. You can throw these into a smoothie or roll them into an energy bites recipe to help meet your zinc needs. 

Pumpkin Seeds

foods high in zinc

Pumpkin seeds are a plant-based food high in fiber, protein, zinc, and magnesium to support your digestive tract and immunity. One ounce[18] of pumpkin seeds contains almost 3 milligrams of zinc. 

These seeds also contain many nutrients like potassium, iron, and B vitamins, making them a superfood for your skin. The rich amount of healthy fats these seeds contain helps to promote skin cell health. In addition, the vitamin A and zinc they have help to produce collagen and smooth skin. 

Lentils 

foods high in zinc

Lentils are small round beans you can add to soups or use as a meat replacement on tacos. One cup of cooked lentils[19] has 2.52 milligrams of zinc and 17 milligrams of protein. They are also high in fiber, beta-carotene, and healthy fats. Studies show[20] that eating lentils can provide many health benefits, like protection against diabetes, heart problems, cancer, and obesity. 

Whole Grains

foods high in zinc

Whole grains like oats, brown rice, and quinoa can provide a good complex carbohydrate source of zinc. Generally speaking, these are better for your overall health than refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, and potato chips. Oats[21] contain almost 3 milligrams of zinc per cup, brown rice[22] has 1.43 milligrams per cup, and quinoa[23] has 2.02 milligrams of zinc per cup. 

Soaking these whole grains will reduce the amount of phytates and allow you to absorb more of the zinc they provide. They also contain B vitamins, fiber, iron, and protein. Whole grains promote a healthy digestive system and can help prevent type two diabetes[24].  

Cashews

foods high in zinc

Cashews are one of the best foods that are high in zinc and copper, and these can be an easy addition to your diet if you don’t have a nut allergy. These nuts are full of nutrients, protein, and healthy fats. One cup of raw cashews[25] provides 1.64 milligrams of zinc. Consuming at least two servings of tree nuts per week can also help reduce the risk of heart disease[26]

Health Benefits Of Zinc

Zinc plays a vital role in human health and helps to regulate enzyme activity throughout the body. Keeping a balanced diet with foods that contain zinc can provide you with benefits throughout your body. Here are a few ways zinc is good for you.  

Boosts Immune System 

Zinc has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties[27] to help boost immune function, fight illnesses, and decrease the risk of infections[28]. Studies report positively about zinc’s ability to reduce the duration of cold symptoms and respiratory tract infections[29]

Liver Health 

Foods with zinc can help all the organs in your body, including your liver. Short-term and long-term studies show[30] that zinc supplementation can improve liver health. It can reduce the signs of disease, increase liver function, and reduce the risk of developing liver cancer.  

Eye Health 

Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) can cause significant vision loss in older generations. Studies show[31] that supplementing with zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene may delay and prevent the damage that ARMD can cause. 

Wound Healing And Skin Health

If you want healthy skin, eating zinc-rich foods can help. It helps in the treatment[32] of acne, ulcers, and eczema. Foods that are high in this essential mineral[33] can help make sure you don’t acquire a deficiency, which can lead to cell damage, skin lesions, and trouble healing wounds. Zinc can help repair skin damage, promote growth, and reduce inflammation.  

The Bottom Line

Eating foods rich in zinc will help increase your zinc intake, which can provide several benefits, including wound healing, fighting a common cold, metabolism, and more. 

Using animal products as sources of zinc, like seafood, beef, lamb, and chicken, can help you absorb more of this essential mineral zinc compared to plant-based sources like legumes and whole grains that contain phytic acid. 

If you suspect you are low in zinc or have the opposite, zinc toxicity, speak with trusted health professionals to help your monitor your nutrient intake and keep you on the path to optimal wellness.


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Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

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Cassi Donegan

Medically reviewed by:

Michael DiLeo

Cassi Donegan, Licensed Practical Nurse, is a freelance health writer and editor. She has over 17 years of nursing experience in various specialties including Neurology, Orthopedics, Spine, and Pediatrics. Patient care has convinced her to be passionate about educating others on nutrition, natural childbirth, home birthing, and natural remedies for the holistic and alternative healthcare field.

Medically reviewed by:

Michael DiLeo

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