If you want to make sure you're getting enough zinc in your diet, you can always turn to a supplement, like a multivitamin. But to ensure your body is absorbing the nutrient, focusing on eating a healthy diet consisting of foods that are high in zinc might be even more effective.
What Is Zinc?
Zinc is a mineral that's essential for good health and is the second most common trace metal in the human body after iron. It performs a number of functions, including assisting in cell division, healing the immune system, and breaking down carbohydrates. It even plays a role in the proper function of your sense of smell and taste.
Fortunately, most of us get plenty of zinc. In North America, instances of zinc deficiency are rare. But in certain cases, like for pregnant or nursing mothers, it can be necessary to seek out foods that are high in zinc to make sure you're getting enough. One thing to note is that your body doesn't absorb excess zinc, so you need to keep getting it on a daily basis.
Foods High in Zinc
Here are some foods that have the highest amount of zinc. Keep in mind that you don't need to get your entire intake from just one meal or one component of a meal. Your best bet is to eat a range of foods, including meats, seafood, grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Fruits don't contain a ton of zinc (avocados have the most, followed by blueberries), but eat them anyway for a balanced diet. If you consume a varied and balanced diet, you will likely consume enough zinc as well as enough other essential vitamins and minerals.
Oysters are by far the single best source of zinc of any food. A single oyster contains 5.5 milligrams of zinc, so two oysters will provide your whole daily zinc intake. But unless you eat oysters every day, which most people don't, you'll have to look elsewhere for your regular zinc intake.
Note that pregnant women are not advised to consume raw or undercooked seafood. Cooked oysters, whether they are grilled, fried, or baked, are typically safe to eat.
Good news for meat lovers—if you eat a normal serving of beef, you're getting your full daily requirement of zinc right there. A rib-eye steak contains 14 milligrams of zinc, or 129 percent of the recommended daily nutritional requirement. A 6-ounce burger has 11 milligrams, or 100 percent of the daily requirement.
Other meats, such as lamb, pork, and chicken (particularly the dark meat), range from 50 to 113 percent of the daily requirement per serving.
Legumes such as beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils are also relatively high in zinc. Although they don't contain as much zinc as red meat, certain legumes, like lentils and chickpeas, provide 2.5 milligrams, or 23 percent of your daily requirement, in a 1-cup serving. Firm tofu, which is made from soybeans, provides 4 milligrams, or 36 percent of your daily requirement.
Note that legumes contain substances called phytates, which can decrease the absorption by your body of zinc, as well as other nutrients like iron, magnesium, and calcium. In some cases, this effect can be diminished by soaking or sprouting the legumes before eating them. Note that this effect only applies to the meal you're currently eating, not other meals that are eaten that day.
Whole grains are another source of zinc. Oatmeal provides 3.1 milligrams, or 27 percent of your daily requirement, in a single serving (half a cup of uncooked oats). Teff, spelt, amaranth, quinoa, and wild rice also provide a significant amount, from 2 to 2.8 milligrams, or 18 to 25 percent of your daily requirement. Whole grains are still good sources of zinc—particularly if you spread out your zinc intake throughout the day, and from a variety of foods.
This last one might come as a surprise. Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are often fortified with zinc. Multigrain Cheerios contain 15 milligrams, or 136 percent, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch provides 9 milligrams, or 82 percent. In addition, many brands of crispy rice cereal and corn flakes contain between 6 and 7.5 milligrams, or 55 to 68 percent.