Zinc, is a metal, typically used to make watering cans. It also has an important role in our diets and health. Fortunately it’s really simple (and tasty) to meet your daily Zinc needs, without having to rely on supplements or consume animal products – there are many healthy, delicious, plant-based foods high in Zinc.

Zincy & the Brain

In addition to being a high scoring four letter Scrabble word, Zinc is, (perhaps more importantly), a mineral essential for all life. It acts mainly as a catalyst in the body, triggering chemical reactions. It is needed by the body for more than 300 enzymes and responsible for more than 300 chemical reactions! Some of the key roles of Zinc in your body include:

  • Carbohydrate metabolism (Zinc is responsible for the synthesis and degradation of carbohydrates as well as lipids, proteins and nucleic acid)
  • Helps enhance skin, hair and nails (Zinc is present in virtually all tissues and is responsible for cell division and copying DNA);
  • Healthy cellular growth (Zinc plays a vital role in DNA replication, transcription and repair)
  • Efficient and balanced hormone production (Zinc is also in charge of balancing androgen hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and progesterone, key hormones for both men and women)
  • Enhances sense of smell
  • Speeds up wound healing
  • Promoting a well-functioning immune system

Your body houses high concentrations of Zinc, in the eyes, brain, muscles, bones, kidneys and liver and, in men, in the prostate gland (essential for testosterone production and libido). The body isn’t capable of storing Zinc, so you must regularly consume foods high in Zinc in order to get enough.

Signs That You May Not Be Getting Enough Zinc

  • Wounds that take ages to heal
  • Hair loss
  • Impaired immune function
  • Dermatitis
  • For children, poor growth and delayed sexual maturation.

The Institute of Medicine puts the RDA for Zinc at 11 mg/day for men and 8 mg/day for women. But RDA’s are biased, for example the recommended intake of calcium was raised to encourage dairy product consumption, clearly influenced by the dairy industry. Countries with the highest levels of calcium consumption actually have the most cases of osteoporosis as dairy causes calcium loss from the bones[1]. Also RDA’s are often set at levels to ensure survival and not to help you thrive; we often need a lot more than is recommended than to simply stay alive.

Foods High in Zinc

Some of the best plant-based foods high in Zinc are:

  • Whole grains: Brown rice, wild rice, kamut, teff, spelt
  • Legumes: Garbanzo beans, kidney beans, lima beans, adzuki, peas, peanuts, cowpeas, lupins
  • Nuts and Seeds: Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, chia seeds, and hemp seeds
  • Vegetables: Cabbage, lemongrass, brussels sprouts, palm hearts, spinach, garlic, asparagus
  • Fruits: Dried apricots, blackberries, raspberries, prunes, avocados, dried figs
  • Mushrooms: Shiitake, morel, portabella, oyster

The Top 6 Zinc Containing Plant-Based Foods

Food Zinc content per cup Percentage of your RDA
Sesame Seeds 11.2mg 74%
Pumpkin Seeds 10.3mg 69%
Lentils 9.2mg 61%
Cashews 7.5mg 51%
Garbanzo Beans (Raw) 6.9mg 46%
Quinoa 5.3mg 35%

[2] [3]

Increasing Zinc Absorption

Many plant-based foods high in Zinc also contain anti-nutrients that can affect the absorption of Zinc, like the phytates (naturally produced to protect beans in nature) that bind with the Zinc, preventing it from being absorbed by the body. Here are some tips to make the absorption of Zinc easier:

  • Soak beans before eating them to wash the phytates out
  • Consume sulphur-containing amino acids (found in garlic and onions), citric acid (found in citrus fruits like oranges), malic acid (found in apples), and tartaric acid (found in grapes)
  • Eat protein rich plant foods (whole grain products, peas, nuts, quinoa, lentils, etc)
  • Cut down alcohol consumption

There is a lot of misleading information when it comes to absorption of Zinc in a plant-based diet when compared to omnivore diets. If you consider the Phytate factor in beans and legumes, a herbivore should consume as much as 50% more Zinc daily than an omnivore. However, a study published in the Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture in 2013[4] showed that herbivores have a similar Zinc status to omnivores meaning they are actually doing better in the Zinc challenge!

Much Easier Than You Might Zinc

After reviewing the importance of Zinc and the major role it plays in maintaining a good balance in our general health, it’s easy to see why we need to Zinc about it! Luckily, Zinc can be found in an abundance of healthy and nutritious sources. A small change in diet, allied with some tricks, like consuming more plant-derived proteins and soaking the beans prior to cooking, will ensure your body is sufficiently Zinced up.

You can experience priceless benefits to your body and mind without expensive supplements or freaking out about daily intake. Now you can Zinc your teeth into a healthier way of being.

Let People Know the Truth

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