Recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are looking out for natural ways to boost their immunity. Of course, when we talk about immunity, Vitamin C is the first thing that comes to our mind. However, very few know that zinc-rich foods are equally essential for our immunity and play a significant role in keeping us healthy.
Zinc is a trace mineral, which means that our body requires it in tiny amounts. Zinc is necessary for the activity of over 300 enzymes, protein synthesis, wound healing, cell growth, and a healthy immune system. Unfortunately, our body cannot synthesise zinc, and we need to consume zinc-rich foods regularly in small amounts for proper growth and functioning.
Zinc deficiency is prevalent and leads to a weak immune system. Therefore, it is essential to consume zinc-rich foods to supply our bodies with adequate zinc minerals. Zinc-rich foods are readily available, and there are various options for both vegetarians and non-vegetarian people. Consume zinc-rich foods at least two to three times a day to achieve optimal zinc levels in your body.
Here is everything that you need to know about zinc-rich foods and their benefits:
Recommended Daily Dose of Zinc
- Women – According to NIH, the daily consumption allowance of zinc for women is 8 mg.
- Pregnant Women – Pregnant women need more zinc for the proper growth and development of the foetus. Therefore, the daily recommended dose of zinc for pregnant women is 11 mg.
- Breastfeeding Women – For breastfeeding women, it is 12 mg.
- Men – The daily allowance of zinc for men is 11 mg.
Health Benefits of Eating Zinc-Rich Foods
1. Improves Immune System
Zinc activates the T- cells in our body that are important for proper immune function. An inadequate amount of zinc in the body can weaken these immune cells. As a result, people deficient in zinc suffer from low immunity and are more susceptible to falling sick, recurrent infections, skin conditions, and other chronic diseases.
2. Boosts Eye Health
Zinc activates Vitamin A, which is essential for good eye health. Zinc can reduce inflammation and oxidation and improve eye vision. Zinc-rich foods can significantly improve your overall eye health.
3. Promotes Wound Healing
An adequate amount of zinc in the body helps to fasten the process of healing. For example, it helps treat infections and heals the wounded skin. Conversely, low levels of zinc in the body lead to a delay in wound healing.
4. Promotes Skin Health
Zinc has anti-inflammatory properties that help treat various skin conditions, like acne and skin infections. Eat zinc-rich foods daily to get rid of acne naturally.
5. Promotes Muscle Growth and Repair
Zinc promotes cell growth and maintains muscle health. It also helps release the growth hormone, testosterone, and encourages muscle mass building and fastens muscle repair.
7. Aids in Nutrient Absorption
Zinc helps in protein synthesis. It also helps to break down carbohydrates from the food and release energy. People with a low level of energy and fatigue usually have low levels of zinc in their bodies.
Zinc-rich foods for you to include in your diet
Here are some of the richest sources of zinc for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
100 g of Lamb contains 4.8 g of zinc. It is the best source of zinc for non-vegetarian people. Besides zinc, lamb also contains other essential nutrients like Vitamin B12, selenium, iron, phosphorous, protein, and niacin.
2. Pumpkin Seeds
1 cup of pumpkin seeds contains 6.6 mg of zinc. They are a great source of fibre and plant-based protein. Eat a tsp or two pumpkin seeds every day to fulfil your daily zinc requirement.
1 cup of chickpeas contains 2.5 mg of zinc. If you are a vegetarian, then chickpeas are the best source of zinc for you. They are also high in fibre and protein.
1 cup of lentils contains 2.5 mg of zinc. Lentils are also rich in polyphenol and micronutrients. They are also an excellent source of plant-based protein.
5. Hemp Seeds
2 Tbsp of hemp seeds contain 5 mg of zinc. Hemp seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids along with zinc. They are also good for your heart health.
100 grams of chicken contains 1 mg of zinc. Non-vegetarians can choose from a wide variety of zinc-rich foods. Chicken is not only high in zinc but is also a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and lean protein.
100 g of Oysters contain 16 g of Zinc. Oysters have the highest amount of zinc. If you want to increase your zinc levels, then you should include oysters in your diet.
2 Tbsp of cashews contains 1.6 mg of zinc. Cashews are great to munch on and fulfil your daily requirement of zinc. Along with zinc, cashews are rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, copper, folate, protein, and healthy unsaturated fats.
1 cup of yoghurt contains 1.4 mg of zinc. Yoghurt is a probiotic food that promotes good bacteria for a healthy gut. It is a good source of zinc and supports healthy digestion, boosts immunity, improves gut health and cardiovascular health.
1 cup of mushrooms contains 1.4 mg of zinc. Mushrooms are an excellent vegetarian source of zinc. In addition, they have anti-inflammatory properties and help to boost immunity.
1 cup of spinach contains 1.4 mg of zinc. Spinach is a superfood and an excellent source of zinc. It also helps to keep heart diseases, obesity, diabetes, and other minor infections at bay.
12. Ricotta Cheese
1 cup of ricotta cheese contains 1.4 mg of zinc. It includes a good amount of fatty acids and micronutrients along with zinc. Ricotta is a fresh cheese and the healthiest cheese option for every cheese lover.
1 avocado contains 1.3 mg of zinc. Avocado is the healthiest food that one could ever have. It is full of essential nutrients like zinc.
2 Tbsp of almonds contains 0.9 mg of zinc. Have a handful of almonds for your daily dose of zinc. Almonds are full of nutrients and are great for your overall health.
Signs of Zinc Deficiency
People with digestive disorders do not absorb zinc well, leading to zinc deficiency in their bodies. Some signs of zinc deficiency are:
- Poor appetite
- Loss of taste or smell
- Hair loss
- Depressed mood
- Delayed wound healing
- Decreased immunity
- Skin infections
- Stunted growth
- Loss of libido
- Weight loss
- Mental and physical lethargy
Like every other nutrient, zinc is also available as a supplement in the form of pills and tablets. Various zinc-rich foods can fulfil your daily requirement of zinc quickly. If you think your diet lacks the required amount of zinc, then you can take zinc supplements. However, do not take zinc or any other supplements without consulting a healthcare expert.
If you take excess zinc supplements without any guidance, it can interfere with iron and copper absorption in your body. A high intake of zinc can cause serious health issues, including vomiting and nausea. Visit a doctor to get you tested for zinc deficiency.
Zinc is an important mineral that is essential for maintaining proper health. Therefore, it is imperative to include zinc-rich foods in your diet to sustain appropriate zinc levels in the body. It is pretty easy for non-vegetarians to fulfil their zinc requirement since animal products contain high amounts of zinc. However, if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, increase your intake of zinc-rich foods to avoid the risk of zinc deficiency.
Pregnant and lactating women should specifically include a lot of zinc-rich food in their diet for the proper growth and development of the baby. If you feel your diet lacks zinc-rich food, you can go for supplements but only under the guidance of a doctor. Too much of anything is harmful, so make sure you eat a well-balanced diet rich in essential nutrients and that which does not contain anything in excess or deficit.
- Chapter 5, Zinc Deficiency by Laura E. Caulfield and Robert E. Black
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A. Many vegetables like mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, garlic, and kale are rich in zinc and other essential nutrients.
A. Zinc is an essential nutrient that our body requires for its proper functioning. It boosts our immune system and improves our metabolism. It also aids in wound healing, improves eye health, skin health, etc.
A. Yes, ginger contains a good amount of zinc and other nutrients like manganese, copper, and selenium.
A. if you are taking zinc supplements, do not take copper, iron, or phosphorous supplements simultaneously.
A. Hard-boiled eggs are an excellent source of zinc and are rich in high-quality protein, calcium, and vitamin B.