Zinc is an essential trace mineral that plays a role in over a hundred enzymatic reactions in the body. It functions to protect against oxidative damage, helps with wound healing, makes DNA and helps with the formation of hemoglobin.
Zinc deficiency symptoms include frequent colds, leaky gut, consistent diarrhea, poor vision, infertility, thinning hair, stunted growth in children and slow healing wounds.
People most at risk for a deficiency in zinc include:
- Vegetarians and vegans
- Pregnant women
- Endurance athletes
- People with gastrointestinal diseases
- Those who over-consume iron supplements
- People taking diuretic medications
The RDA for zinc is 11 mg/day for men and 8 mg/day for women. The Daily Value is 15 mg. If you are zinc deficient, animal foods are better sources than plant foods like vegetables.
Luckily, if you are a vegetarian, there are still high zinc foods that can fit into your diet. Foods like chickpeas and pumpkin seeds provide zinc for the body even though they are not animal byproducts. Check out this complete list of the top 10 high zinc foods:
Top 10 High Zinc Foods
1) Grass-fed Beef
3 oz: 4.9 mg (33% DV)
2) Kefir or Yogurt
1 cup: 2.2 mg (15% DV)
4 oz: 4.6 mg (30% DV)
4) Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)
1 cup: 6.86 mg (46% DV)
5) Pumpkin seeds
¼ cup: 2.5 mg (17% DV)
1 oz: 1.6 mg (10% DV)
7) Cocoa powder
1 Tbsp: 0.3 mg (2% DV)
3 oz: 2.25 mg (15% DV)
1 cup: 1.4 mg (9% DV)
1 cup: 1.4 mg (9% DV)
Consume 2-3 servings of these zinc food sources daily to support optimal levels.
Top Health Benefits of Zinc
Zinc is needed to covert vitamin A into its active form in order for vision to occur. Adequate intake of zinc rich foods can help improve night vision. People treated with supplemental zinc, are 80% less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.
Zinc For Colds and Immune Function
The body needs zinc to activate T-cells, which are critical for proper immune function. The role that zinc plays in DNA replication also helps the immune system make new cells when they are needed. People who are deficient in zinc tend to be more susceptible to a variety of illnesses.
Zinc for Acne and Wound Healing
Zinc benefits the integrity of the skin. People who have actively healing wounds tend have low levels of zinc and therefore may need supplementation. If you have any type of burn, cut, or injury, consider increasing your intake of high zinc foods to promote healing.
This also relates to acne because zinc supports a healthy digestive tract which affects the skin.
Zinc for Male Reproductive Health
Advanced deficiency of zinc can impair motility and number of sperm. In one study, men ate a diet with only 10% of the Daily Value requirement (15 milligrams) for a little over a month. Researchers measured sperm quality and quantity before and after the zinc-deficient diet. This study demonstrated that even brief periods of severe zinc deficiency can lead to a decrease in sperm quality and quantity.
Also, zinc plays a role male prostate health and may even prevent prostate cancer. As you can see, foods high in zinc can have a significant impact on your health.