The pandemic has raised the status of zinc as a common everyday mineral to something worth paying attention to. Studies support the notion that people who are not zinc deficient, and consume enough zinc daily when they have a respiratory virus, experience reduced symptoms and shortened number of days when they are ill. The researchers are quick to point out that these positive results are only for individuals who are not zinc deficient and that the mineral is not a replacement for conventional treatments. Our bodies can only absorb small doses of the mineral, which is why food sources of zinc are the best way to get adequate amounts.
While most people are not zinc deficient, vegans and vegetarians are at risk since meats and seafood are major sources. Pregnant and lactating women also need to pay attention attention to eating zinc-rich foods.
Zinc plays an important role in the creation of DNA, cell growth, building proteins, healing injured and inflamed tissue, and supporting a healthy immune system. As mentioned deficiencies are uncommon, unless you fall into one of these categories:
- Vegans and vegetarians
- Pregnant or lactating women
- Growing children and teens who eat nutrition-poor diets low in zinc
- Inflammatory bowel diseases or have undergone gastrointestinal surgery
- Chronic liver or kidney disease
- Excessive or prolonged diarrhea
- Suffer from severe burns
Meat and Vegetarian Food Sources of Zinc
Foods are the best way to get adequate zinc. Our bodies need 11mg of zinc per day, and 12-13mg if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Top sources of zinc include:
- Shellfish: oysters, crab and lobster
- Beef, poultry, pork
- Fortified cereals and breads
- Beans and pulses: lentils, black beans, white beans, chickpeas
- Seeds and nuts: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chia seeds, flax seeds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, cashews, sunflower seeds and squash seeds.
Though beans are a good source of zinc, they contain an acid found only in plant foods, called phytates, which can reduce absorption. However, when you heat, sprout, soak or ferment beans, it increases the zinc’s bioavailability.
Vegetarian family recipes that are good food sources of zinc, from our partners and staff from the Institute for Natural Medicine:
Family Recipe for Cuban Black Bean Soup from Joanne Yanez, ND, MPH, CAE: Black beans are a legume known for their dark pigment. Like peas, lentils, and peanuts they share a strong nutritional profile, including being a good source of zinc.
Roasting squash seeds are a fun family activity and the seeds are a good source of zinc. Toss them in a salad, use as a topping for sauteed vegetables or eat as a snack.
This recipe for roasted carrots with almonds and a spicy apricots chamoy is favorite of one of our staff members who used to live near the Mediterranean Sea in Italy. It’s so good and so good for you with immune supporting vitamins and minerals.
This article is provided by the Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, partnered with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of naturopathic medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing health care systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:
- Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of naturopathic medicine
- Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
- Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine
Stewart is an award-winning editor, food and health journalist and best-selling author of Eating Between the Lines, the supermarket shopper's guide to the truth behind food labels (St. Martin's Press).