Zinc is an essential mineral that the human body requires to grow and repair itself. The body uses zinc to produce DNA, heal wounds, maintain taste and smell, and to help the immune system fight off nasty bacteria and viruses. But though it only needs small amounts, zinc deficiency is still common in many people – especially vegans, vegetarians, pregnant women and those with digestive issues.1
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of zinc for adults is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women.2
To meet these requirements, you could easily take zinc supplements to prevent a zinc deficiency, but it’s always a good idea to take a look at how you can improve your diet as well. Luckily, zinc is found in many easily accessible foods.
Let’s take a look at some of the best zinc-rich foods around:
One of the greatest sources of zinc you’ll find in the food system is oysters. Just six medium-sized oysters can provide you with over 76 milligrams of zinc.3 That’s five times your daily need, and significantly more than you’ll get from eating beef.4 Crab and lobster are also good sources of zinc.5,6
One thing to keep in mind: Don’t overdo it with the shellfish, or you could wind up taking in too much zinc. This may lead to headaches, nausea, and even memory problems or nerve damage.7
2. Wheat Germ
The “germ” – or reproductive part of the wheat crop – is a concentrated source of zinc, with 14.1 mg per cup! 8 But unfortunately, it’s often left out of the bread-making process, because its oils can shorten the bread’s lifespan. Sprinkle wheat germ over salads or cereals for a zinc boost in your diet.
Roasted pumpkin seeds are high in zinc with around 17 mg of zinc per cup. Sesame seeds clock in at around 13 mg per cup. This makes these seeds the perfect zinc-filled snack food.9,10 Pumpkin seeds are great to roast in winter – when there’s plenty of winter squash around the kitchen. And you can sprinkle sesame seeds over many different dishes year-round.
Nuts are easily added to the diet, whether as a snack food, or sprinkled over salad, cereal, pasta, or seafood. Nuts pack a double punch, as they’re high in zinc and high in protein. One cup of pine nuts delivers 8.7 mg. A cup of dry-roasted, unsalted cashews contains 7.8 mg of zinc per cup, and one cup of pecans delivers 4.9 mg.11,12,13
5. Lean Meat
Lean red meat like beef contains around 3.8 mg of zinc per 100 g while lean pork has about 3.9 mg.14,15 Enjoy meat in moderation by consuming portions no larger than the palm of your hand.
6. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is a good source of zinc, due to the high level of cocoa it contains. Cocoa is actually full of nutrients, and a 100 g bar of dark chocolate (70-85% cocoa) contains around 3.3 mg of zinc – 22 percent of your RDA.16
Dairy can be high in fat, but it’s also high in zinc. One cup of either mozzarella or cheddar cheese will gain you around 4.1 mg of zinc.17,18 Sheep’s milk products are just as good, with one cup of crumbled feta containing around 4.3 mg.19
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you’re going to have a far more difficult time finding enough zinc in your diet. That’s why including beans in your diet is important. When it comes to zinc, your top “bean” foods should be: garbanzo beans (2.5 mg), kidney beans (1.5 mg), or even a can of baked beans, which has a whopping 5.8 mg of zinc.20,21,22
As if it wasn’t already a “superfruit,” the humble avocado is also a good source of zinc. One cup of mashed avocado contains around 1.6 mg of zinc.23
Seaweed is a phenomenal source of vitamins and minerals, including around 1.2 mg of zinc per 100 grams.24 You can include more seaweed in your diet by snacking on dried seaweed sheets, sprinkling seaweed flakes over your food, or consuming seaweed salad. Then there’s sushi, of course!
Zinc is also Important for the Health of your Feet
Zinc levels can be crucial for many important bodily functions, and they also play a role in the health of your feet.
Zinc and Bones
Zinc plays an essential role in bone formation and in keeping your bones strong over your lifetime. But the zinc in your bones decreases with age. A zinc deficiency may play a role in the deterioration of bone metabolism – the process by which your bones continually “remodel” throughout your life.25
As you age, it’s absolutely essential that you take care of your feet. A foot injury can affect your entire overall health, hindering your ability to do daily activities. Strong bones – including those in your feet – are your body’s first defense against trips, falls, and injuries.
If you don’t think you’ll be able to get enough zinc through diet alone, taking a zinc supplement might be helpful. If you’re at all unsure about whether a zinc supplement is for you, ask your doctor.
Zinc and Foot Odor
Zinc deficiency has shown to be a possible cause of foot odor in some people – though the reason why isn’t completely understood. But the good news is that zinc could have the potential to reverse the problem of chronically smelly feet. One study showed that zinc sulfate was effective for smelly feet. Approximately 70 percent of patients reported their foot odor was gone after just two weeks of applying zinc sulfate. This result continued even after two months of maintenance using the zinc. The belief behind this success is that zinc is naturally high in antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-perspirant abilities.26
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
Zinc intake alone isn’t the only thing you should be concerned about, however. Zinc absorption is just as important. Because zinc loves protein, a well-balanced diet with plenty of protein is recommended to maximize zinc absorption.27
If you’re looking to increase your zinc intake, consider adding some of these zinc-rich foods into your daily diet. Your body – and your feet – will thank you!
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19. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/19 20.https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4327/2