20 Zinc Rich Foods And Their Health Benefits

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Zinc stands as an essential trace mineral that our body needs in small amounts. It plays a significant role in the functioning of over 100 enzymes within our body to carry out crucial chemical reactions. It not only aids in maintaining the immune system but also helps in repairing the tissues.

According to NIH, the recommended daily requirement of zinc is 11 mg and 8 mg for an adult male and female, respectively. Thus, we have compiled the top 20 zinc-rich foods that will help fulfill your daily requirements. Consider two to three servings of these foods to achieve optimal zinc consumption.

Health Benefits of Zinc

Zinc, a crucial mineral, supports a number of essential functions in the human body. Beyond bolstering the immune system, it plays a pivotal role in DNA and protein synthesis, aids in wound healing, and is important for childhood growth and development.

Now, let's explore some of the potential health advantages linked to zinc:

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Immune function

Zinc is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system. Insufficient zinc levels can elevate the risk of infections, including conditions like pneumonia.

Wound healing

People dealing with chronic wounds or ulcers often have low levels of zinc. Healthcare professionals may suggest zinc supplements for those with persistent wounds to promote the healing process.

Treating diarrhea

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends zinc supplements for infants experiencing diarrhea. There is substantial evidence indicating that zinc can help reduce the duration of diarrhea episodes, particularly in cases where infants may not have access to a well-balanced diet.

Age-related macular degeneration

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), zinc prevents cell damage in the retina and may contribute to delaying the progression of age-related macular degeneration and vision loss. However, zinc is unlikely to completely prevent the degeneration.


Zinc plays a vital role in bone formation and overall bone health, with the potential to prevent osteoporosis. However, the efficacy of zinc supplementation in preventing or treating osteoporosis is still unclear and requires further research.

Chronic disease

Zinc's antioxidant properties make it valuable in reducing oxidative stress, which is associated with chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, and various components of metabolic syndrome. Scientists believe that there is a connection between oxidative stress and the development of these chronic health conditions.

1. Avocado

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One medium-sized avocado delivers 1.3 milligrams of zinc, 8 percent of the Daily Value (DV). This creamy green orb (technically a fruit) is among the healthiest foods on the planet because of its impressive nutrient profile. It contains vitamins C and E, fiber, potassium, magnesium, heart-healthy fats, and various B vitamins.

Avocados can contribute to numerous health benefits, including enhancing digestive health, averting bone density loss, supporting heart health, guarding against cancer, reducing the likelihood of depression, preventing osteoporosis, promoting fetal well-being, and even enhancing vision.

2. Chicken

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A mere 100 grams of chicken contains 1 milligram of zinc (7 percent of the DV). In addition to zinc, chicken is also a rich source of B vitamins, including vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and pantothenic acid. Low in calories and high in protein, chicken can help with weight management and may reduce the risk of heart disease.

A number of research suggest that elevating your intake of protein may lead to increased feelings of fullness and help maintain lean body mass. When combined with resistance training, it can facilitate muscle development and contribute to the maintenance of strong and healthy bones.

3. Chickpeas

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Just one cup (164 g) of cooked, boiled (without salt) chickpeas contain 2.51 mg of zinc (17 percent of the DV). Like all legumes, chickpeas are complex carbohydrates that the body slowly digests and uses for energy. Several studies show that they increase satiety and help maintain weight.

They also boost digestion by swiftly moving foods through the digestive tract. Additionally, chickpeas contain a good amount of protein, necessary for bone and muscle, making them an ideal choice for people who do not eat meat or are cutting down on meat consumption.

4. Dark Chocolate

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Dark chocolate provides significant amounts of zinc, with a 1-gram bar of 70 to 80% dark chocolate providing 3.31 mg of this mineral, accounting for 41.4% of the DV for women and 30.1% of the DV for men. The serving also contains 24 grams of sugar and packs a substantial caloric punch at 598 calories.

As such, it's advisable to consume dark chocolate in moderation, rather than relying on it as your primary source of zinc. When consumed adequately, dark chocolate with a high cocoa content can supply your body with valuable antioxidants and minerals, potentially contributing to your heart health.

5. Dairy

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Dairy products supply a host of nutrients, including zinc. Milk and cheese are two notable sources as they are good sources of bioavailable zinc, meaning your body can absorb most of this trace mineral in these items.

One-ounce (28.35 g) serving of sharp cheddar cheese delivers 0.516 mg of zinc, which is around 9.5% of the DV for men and 13% of the DV for women. Similarly, a cup (244 g) of whole milk contains 1 mg of this vital mineral, which is 9.1% of the DV for men and 12.5% of the DV for women.

6. Eggs

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Eggs are not just high in protein but are also rich in zinc. One large egg (50 g) delivers 0.645 mg of this trace mineral, contributing to 4.8% of the DV for men and 6.6% of the DV for women. It also contains 6.3 g of protein, 5.3 g of healthy fats, 77.5 calories, and a host of other vitamins and minerals.

This nutrient-packed food offers protection against a spectrum of health issues, including diabetes, macular degeneration, mood disorders, weight management, and heart disease. Notably, eggs stand out as one of the best dietary sources of choline, an essential nutrient that often falls short in the average person's diet.

7. Lamb

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A 100-gram serving of lamb (ground, raw) provides 3.41 mg of zinc, making it a perfect food for non-vegetarian people who are looking to add an extra dose of zinc into their diet. Lamb also offers essential nutrients like selenium, Vitamin B12, iron, protein, riboflavin, phosphorous, and niacin.

Regular consumption of lamb may aid in promoting muscle growth, maintenance, and performance. Moreover, it helps prevent anemia, a common condition characterized by low levels of red blood cells and reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of your blood.

8. Lentils

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One cup of lentils offers 2.52 mg of zinc (17% of the DV) and an array of other vital nutrients and minerals. These include protein, healthy fats, fiber, niacin, thiamine, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese. Beyond these nutritional riches, consuming lentils can improve your overall gut function.

Low in calories and fat, this plant-based protein food boasts remarkable health benefits encompassing lower cholesterol levels, enhanced heart health, improved digestive function, stabilized blood sugar levels, increased energy, and blood sugar management.

9. Mushrooms

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Mushrooms serve as an excellent vegetarian source of zinc, delivering 1.4 mg of zinc per one-cup serving (9% of the DV). In addition, they are a rich, low-calorie source of fiber, antioxidants, protein, and various B vitamins, including riboflavin, folate, thiamine, niacin, and pantothenic.

The consumption of mushrooms not only helps enhance immunity and alleviate inflammation but also contributes to a range of health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cancer, aiding in sodium reduction, supporting lower cholesterol levels, protecting brain health, providing a source of vitamin D, and fostering a healthier gut.

10. Nuts

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Eating nuts like cashews, almonds, and walnuts can boost your zinc intake. They are rich in healthy fats, low in carbohydrates, and supply a good amount of vitamin E, vitamin K, selenium, magnesium, dietary fibers, potassium, carotenoids, and phytosterols with potential antioxidant action. 

One ounce (28.35 grams) of cashew nuts contains 1.64 mg of zinc. The same serving of almonds and walnuts supplies 0.885 mg and 0.876 mg of zinc, respectively. Nuts are known as a quick, hassle-free, and convenient snack option.

11. Oatmeal

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Oats are a breakfast classic for good reason - they are a nutrient-packed food, rich in zinc, fiber, beta-glucan, and various essential B vitamins, including folate and vitamin B6. Just half a cup of oats delivers 1.3 mg of zinc, making it an outstanding choice for vegetarians seeking zinc-rich foods.

However, the benefits of oats extend beyond their nutritional profile. They play a crucial role in cholesterol regulation, promoting heart health. Their versatility allows for a variety of enjoyable preparations, whether served with milk or incorporated into savory dishes with vegetables.

12. Pomegranate

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Pomegranate is one of the vital fruits containing zinc, as it comes with 0.4 mg per 100-gram serving, which is around 6% of the DV. This versatile fruit further supplies important vitamins and minerals, such as copper and vitamin C, alongside a healthy dose of fiber.

Like most other fruits, they are low in fat and sodium and contain compounds and nutrients with health-promoting qualities. They help build bones, cartilage, and muscle and may delay or prevent the development of certain cancers, heart disease, and other diseases in which oxidative stress plays a vital role.

13. Ricotta Cheese

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Ricotta cheese is among the healthiest cheese options for every cheese lover because it contains significant amounts of healthy fatty acids and micronutrients, along with zinc. One cup (246 g) of ricotta cheese contains 1.3 mg of zinc, which is 10% of the DV.

Compared to many other cheeses, ricotta cheese is notably lower in sodium and saturated fat. It has earned the classification of a fresh cheese due to its lack of aging. It's also rich in nutrients like calcium for bone health, and vitamin B12, and provides a good source of protein and vitamin A.

14. Seeds

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Seeds serve as a healthy addition to your diet and can help elevate your zinc consumption. Some seeds are better choices compared to others: for instance, just three tablespoons (30 g) of hemp seeds contain 2.97 mg of zinc, which is 27% of the DV for males and 37.1% of the DV for females.

Other seeds containing significant amounts of this mineral include sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, and squash. In addition to zinc, seeds also contain healthy fats, vitamins, fiber, and other minerals. Eating them as part of a balanced diet has been associated with a number of health benefits, including reduced cholesterol and blood pressure.

15. Shellfish

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Shellfish are nutritious, low-caloric sources of zinc. Oysters contain particularly high amounts of zinc, with six medium-sized oysters supplying 33 mg, which is 300% of the DV for men and 412.5% of the DV for women.

Alaska king crab delivers 7.62 mg per 100 grams. Smaller shellfish like mussels and shrimp also serve as good sources. Both provide nearly 15% and 20% of the DV for men and women, respectively, in a 100-gram serving.

16. Spinach

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This leafy green vegetable is a superfood often considered the best source of vitamins and minerals, including zinc, for vegetarians. It provides 1.37 mg of zinc per one-cup serving (180 g, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt), making it one of the healthiest foods on this list.

Besides zinc, spinach is packed with carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, folic acid, fiber, and calcium. This remarkable array of nutrients not only promotes optimal digestion but also helps prevent a range of health concerns, including heart diseases, diabetes, obesity, and minor infections.

17. Tempeh

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While it shares some similarities with tofu, tempeh distinguishes itself through its preparation process. It is made by fermenting half-cooked soybeans with a rhizopus mold. In every 175 grams of tempeh, you'll find approximately 1.14 mg of zinc, making it a notably nutritious vegetarian zinc source.

Tempeh is a versatile ingredient celebrated for its numerous health advantages. Consuming tempeh may contribute to lowering cholesterol levels, reducing oxidative stress, and supporting bone health. However, it's important to note that individuals with soy allergies should avoid tempeh altogether.

18. Tofu

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Tofu is a popular vegan food option that contains a good amount of zinc. A 100-gram serving of firm and freshly made tofu delivers approximately 2 mg of zinc. The food can be used for several culinary creations, making it a versatile source of zinc.

Not only are these foods gluten-free and low in calories, but they also offer a cholesterol-free nutritional profile. They are packed with essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin A, vitamin K, and magnesium, which play a key role in promoting healthy blood clotting. Tofu, in particular, stands as a top choice for those following a non-meat diet.

19. Whole Grains

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Whole grains such as quinoa, wheat, oats, and rice contain a small amount of zinc, but their zinc content can be diminished due to the presence of phytates, which hinder its absorption. Compared to refined grains, whole grains typically contain higher levels of phytates, resulting in lower zinc availability.

Nonetheless, despite this potential drawback, whole grains offer substantial health benefits. They serve as rich sources of vital nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium. Incorporating whole grains into your diet has been associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

20. Yogurt

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A single cup of yogurt provides 1.4 mg of zinc. Yogurt is a probiotic food that fosters the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. It plays a crucial role in promoting healthy digestion, strengthening the immune system, enhancing gut health, and contributing to cardiovascular well-being.

Opting for yogurts with lower added sugar and minimal processing can help you make a healthier choice. Reading product labels and ingredient lists can be beneficial in identifying yogurt products that best fit your nutritional goals and dietary preferences.

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