Zinc is an essential trace element: it plays a key role in keeping the immune system and skin healthy, as well as helping to heal wounds. In this article, we will give you the run-down of which zinc-rich fruits, vegetables, and nuts to add to your diet to prevent zinc deficiency and keep your body running smoothly.
As an essential trace element, zinc has many different functions in the body. It is vital for a well-functioning metabolism and immune system, keeps skin and hair looking healthy, helps in wound healing, and can help improve fertility. In short, zinc is key to overall body health. This makes it all the more important to look out for in our diets! Below is a comprehensive guide to zinc-rich foods to incorporate into your diet.
- Why is zinc healthy?
- Zinc-rich vegetables and fruits
- Zinc-rich vegetables
- Zinc-rich fruits
- Which nuts are rich in zinc?
Tip: The daily zinc requirement for women is about 7mg, and for men about 10mg.
Why is zinc healthy?
Though only about 2 to 4g of zinc can be found in the body, it plays a central role in a functioning metabolism. Zinc is important for cell division, which is why it directly affects the appearance of skin and hair, and wound healing.
Zinc is also essential for a healthy immune system, as it is necessary for the development and activation of immune cells. When the body has a zinc deficiency, it is more susceptible to infections and colds because the immune system is weakened.
Fun fact: Some lab experiments have shown that zinc can slow down the multiplication of viruses in cell cultures. So far, however, no evidence of a curative effect has been found in vivo (in living organisms).
Zinc-rich vegetables and fruits
Choosing the right fruit and veg can help support your immune system! Although excess zinc is simply excreted, the WHO has found that around 31% of the world’s population has a zinc deficiency.
Though animal foods are generally considered to be particularly rich in zinc, there are also plenty of fruits and vegetables that have a comparably high zinc content and can be an equally good source for this important trace element.
In comparison, cheese products contain 3 to 4mg of zinc per 100g, milk contains only small amounts of zinc – less than 1 mg per 100 ml – and meat (from pork or beef) between 2 and 5mg per 100g. Fish and seafood rarely contain more than 2mg of zinc per 100g, though oysters are a notable exception with a whopping 22mg of zinc per 100g of meat.
So which vegetables actually contain zinc? Here are five vegetables that offer a great source of zinc.
1. Soybeans (4.2mg per 100g)
Soybeans (Glycine max) are considered a health food, especially because of their high protein content. Less well known, however, is that soybeans have one of the highest concentrations of zinc found in vegetables. 4.2mg of zinc can be found in 100g of the dried beans, making soybeans the perfect supplement for a balanced diet. In comparison, cooked beef is traditionally considered a good source of zinc, but with 6.1mg of zinc per 100g it is only slightly higher than that of soybeans.
2. Peas (3.8mg per 100g)
Peas (Pisum sativum) are not only delicious, but also extremely healthy. This is partly due to the green legume’s hidden high zinc content: peas contain just under 3.8mg of zinc per 100g. These tiny but mighty vegetables also have a high protein content and contain saponins, which have an immune-strengthening and anti-inflammatory effect.
3. Lentils (3,7mg per 100g)
If you are looking for vegetarian and vegan-friendly foods with a lot of zinc, lentils (Lens culinaris) are a must: with 3.7mg of zinc per 100g, the classic vegetable is great for supporting the immune system. This zinc-rich food also boasts a lot of protein and is easier to digest than other legumes like peas or beans.
Tip: Because of their lectin content, make sure to cook lentils properly before eating. Unlike vitamins, the cooking process does not have a negative effect on the content of minerals such as zinc.
4. Peanuts (3,5mg pro 100g)
Despite its name, the peanut (Arachis hypogaea) is not actually a nut, but rather a member of the legume (Faboideae) family. Peanuts are, in fact, most closely related to chickpeas (Cicer) and lentils. Like almost all legumes, the peanut is an excellent source of zinc. With around 3.0 to 3.5mg of zinc per 100g, the peanut is a healthy snack that packs way more zinc than meat sources such as turkey (2mg per 100g).
5. Sweetcorn (3,5mg pro 100g)
If you plant grow sweetcorn in your garden, you are cultivating an excellent source of zinc. Depending on cultivation and processing, the zinc content of corn ranges from 1.7 to 3.5 mg per 100 g. The biggest factor here is in growing the corn; a sufficient supply of nutrients to the plant is essential to having zinc-rich corn. With the right fertilisation, for example with our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food, you can not only prevent nutrient deficiency but also increase the plant’s mineral content.
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Tip: Zinc absorption in the body is not only determined by the zinc content in fruit and vegetables but can also be inhibited or accelerated by other substances. Phytic acid in particular, which is found in raw vegetables, can inhibit zinc absorption which is why it is important to cook vegetables for improved zinc absorption. Coffee and alcohol can also inhibit zinc absorption, while proteins and vitamin C promote it. A plate full of cooked, zinc-rich vegetables, protein, and a squeeze of lemon juice is the perfect (and delicious!) mix for optimal zinc consumption and absorption.
Even though fruits are more famous for their vitamin content, there are a few fruits to keep in mind when trying to increase your daily zinc consumption.
1. Blackcurrants (0,3mg pro 100g)
The blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum) is not only rich in vitamin C, but also has a fair amount of zinc: around 0.3mg are contained in 100g of these fresh berries. Combined with their high vitamin C content, these small berries can be a real boost to your immune system.
2. Strawberries (0.3mg per 100g)
Strawberries (Fragaria) are not only vibrant and delicious but also healthy additions to the diet. Strawberries not only contain more vitamin C than oranges, but they also contain a decent amount of zinc at around 0.3mg of zinc per 100g.
3. Redcurrants (0.3mg per 100g)
Like its close relative, the black currant, the red currant (Ribes rubrum) is a real superfood. Along with its high vitamin content, the red currant boasts a high zinc content of 0.23mg per 100g.
4. Banana (0,21mg pro 100g)
Bananas (Musa) are not only delicious but also are full of beneficial nutrients, like potassium, magnesium, and iron. Additionally, bananas also contain around 0.21mg of zinc per 100g.
5. Blackberries (0,19mg pro 100g)
As far back as ancient times, blackberries (Rubus sect. Rubus) have been considered a medicinal plant. The high vitamin content found in blackberries is bound to give the body a boost. With 0.2mg of zinc per 100g, their zinc content is also impressive and puts them firmly on our list of zinc-rich fruits.
Which nuts are rich in zinc?
It is no secret that nuts are healthy. Indeed, these crunchy treats not only contain many beneficial fatty acids but are also an important source of zinc. Here are five nuts that are packed with zinc.
1. Pecan (5,3mg pro 100g)
The North American natives have treasured the pecan nut (Carya illinoinensis) for a long time and it is now becoming increasingly popular overseas. And rightly so! After all, the pecan is not only delicious but also loaded with valuable minerals. Pecans contain 5.3mg per 100g, which means that 150g of pecans is enough to cover a person’s entire daily zinc requirement!
2. Brazil nut (5,3mg pro 100g)
Though the Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) comes from the tropical rainforests of South America, it has recently gained global popularity due to its taste and high concentration of healthy, unsaturated fatty acids. Aside from these benefits, its zinc content is not to be overlooked: with 4mg per 100g, this nut packs an additional punch with a zinc-filled boost to the immune system.
3. Walnut (2,7mg pro 100g)
For many people, the walnut (Juglans regia) is a popular snack, especially in winter. In fact, the walnut is not just a tasty treat, but also a very healthy addition to any diet. With a high zinc content of 2.7mg per 100g, the walnut supports the immune system and helps protect against infections. In addition to these benefits, walnuts are rich in vitamin E, which is responsible for cell protection.
4. Almond (2,2mg pro 100g)
Almonds (Prunus dulcis) are among the most popular nuts in the UK. However, it is not only their delicious taste that makes the nut a welcome addition to our diets: due to their high vitamin E content, the nuts provide support for immune system. Almonds also contain a lot of zinc, around 2.2mg per 100g, which provides a one-two effect in supporting the immune system.
5. Hazelnut (1.9mg per 100g)
Small but mighty, the hazelnut (Corylus avellana) is full to the brim with important nutrients. On top of unsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E, hazelnuts also have around 1.9mg of zinc per 100g.
Fact: Zinc absorption can also be affected by large quantities of calcium and phosphorus, which is often found in soft drinks.
Along with zinc, vitamin C is essential to maintaining a healthy immune system. Find out more in our article on vitamin C-rich fruits.