Between the coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming cold and flu season, nearly everyone is looking to boost their immunity. The result: Many people are adapting their diets to include high-zinc foods.
Why zinc, though? The trace element not only aids the body in fighting off infections, but is also vital for multiple health functions.
“Zinc is involved in thousands of metabolic pathways in the body, and more than 3,000 proteins require zinc for proper functioning within your body,” explains Julie Upton, M.S., R.D. “This mineral plays a role in your immune system, metabolism, sex hormones, diabetes, and age-related macular degeneration, as well as many other diseases and conditions.”
Read More: 5 Signs You Need More Zinc
In fact, according to a 2018 article published in Nutrients, zinc may help promote the phases of wound healing, from cell membrane repair to scar formation.
Plus, while research is ongoing, some evidence per the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates that zinc lozenges may support the body’s response to the common cold (if taken within 24 hours of initial symptoms).
Luckily, since zinc is a trace mineral, the body only requires a small amount of it on a daily basis, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The recommended dietary allowance differs by sex and age, but lands at approximately 11 milligrams for adult men and eight milligrams for adult women.
More good news: You may be surprised to learn that there are plenty of high-zinc foods you can easily add to your plate. Consider incorporating the following high-zinc foods into your daily diet.
Hello, vitamin sea! “Oysters are the absolute best source of zinc,” says Katherine Brooking, M.S., R.D.
One medium raw pacific oyster is packed with just over eight milligrams of zinc, which comes out to 76 percent of your daily value (DV)—and who eats just one? The NIH calculates that a three-ounce serving fills you with 673 percent of your DV!
It’s also worth mentioning that oysters are chock-full of vitamin B12 (333 percent DV), a water-soluble vitamin that encourages the body to produce healthy nerve and blood cells, according to the NIH.
Other members of the seafood family are loaded with zinc, as well. One Alaskan King Crab leg contains 10.2 milligrams of zinc (93 percent DV) and three ounces of lobster offers just over three milligrams (31 percent DV).
“When it comes to crab and lobster, the main pitfall is buttery sauces, so opt for steamed portions—and keep the dips and sauces to a minimum,” advises Brooking.
2. Red Meat
Good news, beef lovers: A six-ounce protein-packed skirt steak is brimming with zinc—12.5 milligrams (114 percent DV), along with a whopping nine milligrams (52 percent DV) of iron, an essential mineral that helps red blood cells transport oxygen to your organs and muscles.
The Mayo Clinic advises choosing grass-fed beef over “traditional” beef, since this meat has been shown to contain more vitamins and good, heart-healthy fats.
“Choose cuts that are leaner, like top sirloin and top round,” adds Brooking.
3. Chickpeas and Beans
“If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you’ll be happy to know you can turn to chickpeas for zinc,” says Brooking.
Also referred to as garbanzo beans (the main ingredient in hummus), one cup of this fiber-rich and protein powerhouse is filled with nearly three milligrams of zinc (23 percent DV).
Read More: The Best Supplements For Plant-Based Eaters
Baked beans are also a solid choice, since one cup of this BBQ staple offers just under two milligrams of zinc (17 percent DV), Brooking adds.
4. Nuts and Seeds
“Nuts and seeds are good sources of zinc, providing plant-based protein, fiber, and many other nutrients important for overall health,” states Upton.
For example, one-ounce of chia seeds has just over one milligram of zinc (12 percent DV) and one-ounce of walnuts contains just under one milligram of zinc (eight percent DV).
Brooking’s top choices in the category include pumpkin seeds (a one-ounce serving supplies just over two milligrams or 20 percent DV of zinc) and cashews (just about two milligrams or 15 percent DV of zinc per one-ounce serving).
Whether stir fried or air fried, this budget-friendly, beloved poultry also offers an impressive amount of zinc, says Brooking.
A six-ounce serving of chicken breast provides just under two milligrams (15 percent DV) of zinc, along with 54.4 milligrams (13 percent DV) of magnesium, another mineral essential for a healthy immune system.
“Since most of the saturated fat is in the skin, go for skinless, regardless if you choose dark or light meat,” suggests Brooking.
Say cheese! Numerous creamy faves found in the dairy aisle contain a substantial amount of zinc.
A few solid options: plain yogurt (a one-cup serving 1.4 milligrams or 13 percent DV), Swiss cheese (a one-ounce serving offers 1.2 milligrams or 11 percent DV), and whole milk (a 16-ounce glass provides just under two milligrams or 16 percent DV).
And, while it’s not technically dairy, a one-cup serving of coconut milk supplies 1.3 milligrams (12 percent DV) of zinc.
Don’t see any high-zinc foods on the menu that work for your diet? Consider adding a zinc supplement to your routine.
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