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Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a key role in keeping your body healthy. Zinc is needed for several bodily processes including certain gene expression and DNA repair, and it also helps to support cellular metabolism and maintain skin integrity.
With these important functions in mind, we want to make sure you understand how to get the optimal amount of zinc your body needs on a daily basis! MaryRuth is an advocate of pursuing health and getting your needed vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients first through the food you eat, and after that using supplements to fill in the gaps where your diet falls short. So, here’s a list of multiple different foods that you can add (or continue to enjoy) in your diet to be sure that you’re supporting your body’s zinc levels.
The Recommended Daily Allowance for zinc* as established by the Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board is that adult women, ages 19 and up, eat 8 milligrams of zinc per day. For men, the recommended amount is a bit higher, at 11 milligrams of zinc daily. This may not sound like much, but remember that zinc is a micronutrient – the amount of zinc your body needs is lower than that of macronutrients (like carbohydrates, fats, and proteins).
Although it may take some intentionality and thoughtful eating, getting a good daily intake of zinc in your diet every day doesn’t have to be hard! Foods that may help support your zinc levels are often nutrient-dense, so you’re able to get support not only for your daily zinc levels but for other nutrients that your body may need.
What’s more, you don’t need to be a meat-eater to get your daily zinc! While some animal-based foods including oysters and beef roast are high in the mineral, they are far from the only dietary sources of zinc. If you follow a plant food-based diet, you can still get zinc from various sources including some grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and other plants!*
So, what foods should you include in your diet to get enough zinc? Here are ten plant-based sources of this important mineral!
*It’s important to note that bioavailability of zinc from some plant food sources is lower than from animal foods because of phytates, so you may find it beneficial to speak with your healthcare professional to determine the proper amounts of certain foods to consume to provide your body with the nutrients it needs.
Chickpeas, often called garbanzo beans, are quite delicious and, in one study*, 100 grams of dried chickpeas contained between 3.7-7.4 mg of zinc! This means that a single serving of dried chickpeas (35 grams) may contain up to approximately 1.3-2.6 mg of zinc. When eaten in this amount, these chickpeas provide between 11% and 24% of your daily zinc requirement!
These yummy legumes not only have zinc, but they also boast some other beneficial micronutrients including Selenium, Iron, and Calcium, so they could be a great plant-based addition to your meals throughout the week.
A timeless, wholesome breakfast classic, this oatmeal* is a good source of zinc with 40g of dry oats containing 1.28mg, or around 11.5% of the daily value for those 4 and older. Not only can you get on your way to having a good intake of zinc for the day with this versatile food, but oatmeal can be quick and easy to prepare. Oatmeal is also easy to pair with other whole, healthy foods, including berries, nuts, and seeds.
Wild rice can be simple to cook and super easy to use as the base for a quick lunch or dinner. This variety of rice contains almost 2.2 mg of zinc per cup (cooked), which gives you just under 20% of your daily zinc requirements in under 200 calories.
While wild rice can support your zinc intake, it may also be a great addition to your diet for its other nutrients too! According to the Whole Grains Council, a standard serving of wild rice (45g, dry), while not reaching the “good source” standard for zinc, is a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, and 3 different B vitamins! Be sure to check out other whole grains for their benefits too.
Ah, the mighty spinach. Praised by many for its high protein and fiber content, this leafy green is also packed with vitamins and minerals. A cup of cooked spinach* (prepared with no sodium) contains over 1 mg of zinc while also being extremely low in calories. Cooked spinach can be a great side for your lunch or dinner, or if you’re a spinach lover, it can be the star of the show. This same cup of cooked spinach also contributes to your daily requirements of vitamins A, C, E, & K and iron, potassium, and calcium — and this isn’t an exhaustive list!
According to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 (Eighth Edition), for someone with calorie needs of 2,000 calories a day, 2 ½ cups of veggies should be eaten per day with at least 1 ½ cups of those per week as dark-green vegetables. These include spinach, broccoli, and collard greens, just to name a few. When you are looking for simple ways to add more nutrients to your diet with vegetables, the dietary guidelines specifically suggest opting for the nutrient dense forms. As well, in general, variety in your vegetable choices is encouraged.
Peas are underrated! ...and a little complicated (at least for classifying). Depending on the state of the green peas, the USDA sorts them into different classes. Mature green peas are treated more like beans while fresh or frozen green peas are classified into the starchy veggies category. Here we're referencing our friends the not-so-mature green peas that are classified with the starches.
A general serving (85g) of cooked, fresh green peas* has around 10% of your daily zinc requirements. These tasty morsels also have small amounts of plenty of other nutrients that your body may need, making them another great addition to your healthy diet as a side or in other dishes like in a stir fry, a pasta dish, a soup, or casserole.
If you’re sensing a bit of a pattern in part of this list, you’re not alone — avocados are another green food that is nutrient dense, and can help you support your daily zinc intake! While the standard serving of an avocado (30g)* doesn’t meet the requirements to be considered a good source of zinc, adding this healthy ingredient to your plate is a great idea. With around 2% of your daily zinc needs, 1 serving of avocado is a tasty way to keep building up your zinc intake little by little. Add some avocado into a salad, spread some on toast, or sprinkle a half of one with salt and pepper and enjoy it on its own — there are lots of ways to enjoy this yummy fruit.
And here’s another fun fact about avocados: Did you know that the consumption of avocados has been shown to be associated with better overall diet quality and nutrient intake? A study published in 2013 found that avocado consumers ate more fruits and vegetables and less added sugar than those who didn’t eat avocados. While this information doesn’t mean that avocados are the answer to a perfect diet, it does show that, at least in those studied, they can be part of a healthy diet.
Nut butters are another delicious food that can add to your daily zinc intake. Three of the most popular nut butters are peanut butter*, almond butter*, and cashew butter*. Whether you have a preference for one over the others or have an allergy that determines which nut butter you choose, whichever you choose, there’s good news. All three of these butters have similar amounts of zinc in one serving (2Tbsp). You can find 7.4%, 9.6%, and 12.9% of your daily zinc intake from peanut, almond, and cashew butter, respectively.
Just remember that nut butters tend to be higher in calories than some other foods, so be sure to have them in moderation. That’s not to say that you should avoid them though! All three of these butters can support a healthy diet by adding not only zinc, but other nutrients to your plate.
Long, stringy, and maybe not your favorite veggie as a kid, asparagus is yet another vegetable that can support you in your daily hunt for nutrients. One serving (93g/5 spears) of these odd-looking green veggies* will provide you with about 5% of your daily zinc intake. And, like so many other great veggies, asparagus is low in calories, making it a no-brainer to include it in your diet!
Asparagus can make the perfect side for a home-cooked dinner. You can boil it, cook a few stalks in a pan with your favorite seasonings, or fire up the grill and get some yummy grilled asparagus to include in your meal.
All of these plant-based foods are listed here because they can provide some level of zinc, which is essential for your body! But even better than providing you with just zinc, these foods also help your body have a balanced, healthy diet including multiple essential nutrients. When you want to eat a nutrient-dense, healthy diet, making plants a staple can be a good start.
Do you currently have a healthy diet, but you’ve been told by your doctor that you’re still not getting all of the nutrients you need? While MaryRuth’s suggests a diet-first approach to your nutrients, if you’re unable to meet your nutrient needs with your diet, supplementation may be a good option for you!
If zinc is what you’re missing, check out MaryRuth's Liquid Zinc Supplement. Ensure you're getting the daily zinc you need for yourself or your kids in a liquid, non-GMO, vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, nut-free, corn-free, soy-free daily supplement that may help support your immune function and overall health!
*References available upon request.
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