We often hear about foods rich in calcium and iron, but what about zinc-rich plant foods? Making sure you’re getting enough zinc in your diet is important not only for your immune system, but it aids in the balancing of hormones, cell division, helps prevent cancer, is a potent anti-ager and is required for optimal physical performance and proper functioning of red and white blood cells.
Zinc also regulates the activity of over 100 different enzymes in the body, but unfortunately, zinc is not stored in your body for long periods of time (unlike fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K). Thus, you need to make sure that you are including zinc-rich foods in your diet, every single day.
Most food guides and websites online will tell you that zinc is mostly available in cholesterol and saturated-fat heavy foods like oysters and other seafood, chicken, pork, beef, lamb, liver and cheese. But these are not the only options. In fact, there are a wide variety of plant-based foods that contain high levels of zinc. Any vegan (or raw vegan) could easily get their daily recommended amount of zinc in just one or two meals per day.
The daily recommended intake for zinc is around 8mg for women and 11mg for men. It is recommended to not consume more than 40mg per day (this is the upper limit – but it is pretty hard to go over this limit).
Symptoms of zinc deficiency include distorted sense of taste and cravings for saltier, sweeter food. It may also extend to symptoms like diarrhea, low energy, infertility, chronic fatigue, low immunity, poor memory, nerve dysfunction, brain fog, and slow wound healing.
Here are the top plant-based foods highest in zinc (per 100 grams or 3.5 oz):
Sesame Seeds (11.16mg, 117% DV)
Hemp Seeds (11.5mg, 77% DV)
Pumpkin Seeds (10.3mg, 69% DV)
Watermelon Seeds (10.2mg, 68% DV)
Cashew Nuts (5.8mg, 39% DV)
Sunflower Seeds (5mg, 33% DV)
Flax Seeds (4.34mg, 29%DV)
Chia Seeds (3.5mg, 23% DV)
Chickpeas (1.5mg, 10% DV)
Shittake Mushrooms (1.33mg, 9% DV)
Lentils (1.3mg, 8% DV)
Green Peas (1.2mg, 8% DV)
Quinoa (1.1mg, 7% DV)
Parsley (1.1mg, 7% DV)
Kidney Beans (1.0mg, 7% DV)
Spinach (0.53mg, 6% DV)
Cremini Mushrooms (0.52mg, 5% DV)
Avocado (0.6mg, 4% DV)
Blackberries (0.5mg, 4% DV)
Raspberries (0.4mg, 3% DV)
Dates (0.4mg, 3% DV)
Pomegranate (0.35mg, 2% DV)
Bananas (0.2mg, 1% DV)
Figs (0.2mg, 1% DV)