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Top 10 Plant-Based Food Sources of Zinc

Why is zinc important?

Zinc is an essential mineral that is required for hundreds of bodily processes. It is required for DNA replication1,3, immune function2,3, creating proteins3, healing injuries4, and cell division3. Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence. 5,7 It is even important for a proper sense of taste and smell!8

How much Zinc do I need?

Because your body cannot store zinc, it is important to get enough zinc from your diet. The amount that is right for you will depend on your gender and age. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (formerly National Academy of Sciences) recommends a daily intake of 8mg of zinc for adult females and 11mg for adult males and females who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding.2

What are Plant-Based Sources of Zinc?

While zinc can be obtained from animal products, more people are turning to plant-based sources of zinc to maintain a healthful, anti-inflammatory diet that lowers their carbon footprint. Mix and match these 10 vegan sources of zinc to ensure you’re getting enough in your daily diet.

Table 1: Zinc Content of Selected Foods9,10

Food

Serving Size

Grams of Zinc per Serving (mg)

Baked beans (canned or plain)

½ cup

2.9

Breakfast cereal, fortified with 25% of the DV for zinc

1 serving

2.8

Hulled hemp seeds

30 g 

3

Pumpkin seeds

30 g 

2.2

Cashew nuts

30 g

1.8

Firm tofu

100 g

1.6

Quinoa (cooked)

150 g

1.6

Chia seeds

30 g

1.4

Pumpkin seeds (dried)

1 oz

2.2

Chickpeas (cooked)

⅕ cup

1.3

Oatmeal 1 oz 1.1

Am I Getting Enough Zinc?

Adequate amounts of zinc can be obtained from dietary sources, but phytates in whole-grain breads, cereals, legumes, and other foods, bind with zinc and reduce the amount your body can absorb.1,11,12 So if you eat a vegetarian, vegan, or primarily plant-based diet, you may include up to 50% more  than the recommended amount of zinc in your diet.

You may also not be getting enough zinc if you are a person with a digestive disorder, like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Older infants who are breastfed may also be at risk of zinc deficiency because breast milk does not have enough zinc for infants over 6 months of age; alcoholics; and people with sickle-cell disease.

Which of these foods will you try to add to your meals? Pin for later or share with your friends.

Top  10 Food Sources of Zinc


References

  1. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001.
  2. Solomons NW. Mild human zinc deficiency produces an imbalance between cell-mediated and humoral immunity. Nutr Rev 1998;56:27-8. [PubMed abstract]
  3. Prasad AS. Zinc: an overview. Nutrition 1995;11:93-9. [PubMed abstract]
  4. Heyneman CA. Zinc deficiency and taste disorders. Ann Pharmacother 1996;30:186-7. [PubMed abstract]
  5. Simmer K, Thompson RP. Zinc in the fetus and newborn. Acta Paediatr Scand Suppl 1985;319:158-63. [PubMed abstract]
  6. Fabris N, Mocchegiani E. Zinc, human diseases and aging. Aging (Milano) 1995;7:77-93. [PubMed abstract]
  7. Maret W, Sandstead HH. Zinc requirements and the risks and benefits of zinc supplementation. J Trace Elem Med Biol 2006;20:3-18. [PubMed abstract]
  8. Prasad AS, Beck FW, Grabowski SM, Kaplan J, Mathog RH. Zinc deficiency: changes in cytokine production and T-cell subpopulations in patients with head and neck cancer and in noncancer subjects. Proc Assoc Am Physicians 1997;109:68-77. [PubMed abstract]
  9. National Institutes of Health (2021). Zinc Fact Sheet for Professionals. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/#en2.
  10. The Vegan Society (2017). Zinc General Guidelines. Retrieved from https://www.vegansociety.com/sites/default/files/uploads/downloads/Zinc%20PDF_0.pdf.
  11. Sandstrom B. Bioavailability of zinc. Eur J Clin Nutr 1997;51 (1 Suppl):S17-9. [PubMed abstract]
  12. Wise A. Phytate and zinc bioavailability. Int J Food Sci Nutr 1995;46:53-63. [PubMed abstract]
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