Natural Foods Highest in Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral required by the body for maintaining a sense of smell, keeping a healthy immune system, building proteins, triggering enzymes, and creating DNA. Zinc also helps the cells in your body communicate by functioning as a neurotransmitter. A deficiency in zinc can lead to stunted growth, diarrhea, impotence, hair loss, eye and skin lesions, impaired appetite, and depressed immunity. Conversely, consuming too much zinc can lead to nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and headaches in the short term, and can disrupt absorption of copper and iron in the long term. If you have a zinc deficiency, then animal foods are better sources of zinc than plant foods. The current percent daily value (%daily value) for Zinc is 15mg. Below is a list of the top ten foods highest in Zinc.

#1: Oysters
Depending on type and variety oysters provide 16-182mg of zinc per 100g serving. This accounts for 110%-1200% of the DV for zinc. The food highest in zinc is The Steamed Wild Eastern Oyster which provides 182 mg of zinc per 100g serving, or 76mg (509% daily value) in 6 oysters, and 154mg (1029% daily value) in a 3 ounce serving.
#2: Toasted Wheat Germ
Packed in jars and sold toasted, wheat germ is great to sprinkle on top of any food. Try it on salads, rice, or steamed vegetables. Toasted wheat germ provides 17mg (112% daily value) of zinc per 100g serving, which is 19mg (126% daily value) per cup, and 1.2mg (8% daily value) in a single tablespoon. Crude (untoasted) wheat germ provides 12mg (82% daily value) of zinc per 100g serving, 14mg (94% daily value) per cup, and 1mg (6% daily value) per tablespoon.
#3: Veal Liver
The liver of any animal is packed with vitamins and minerals and most commonly served as pâté or liverwurst. Veal liver has the most zinc with 12mg per 100g serving accounting for 81% of the daily value, that is 8.98mg of zinc (60% daily value) in a cooked slice of liver (80g). Liver is best prepared steamed or fried with onions and herbs.
#4: Low Fat Roast Beef
Low fat beef shoulder, shank, and chuck all contain about 10mg (70% daily value) of zinc per 100g serving, 18mg (119% daily value) per pound, and 9mg (59% daily value) in a 3 oz serving. If you buy pre-processed roast beef be sure to consult the nutrition facts about the cut and nutrients. Not all nutrition labels report zinc, so don't worry if you don't see it.
#5: Roasted Pumpkin and Squash Seeds
A popular food in the Middle East and East Asia pumpkin and squash seeds contain about 10mg (70% daily value) of zinc per 100g serving, 6.6mg (59% daily value) per cup, and 3mg (19% daily value) per ounce (~85 seeds). If you can't find these in your local supermarket you will surely find them in Middle Eastern or East Asian specialty stores. Alternatively, you can also save any pumpkin and squash seeds you have and roast them in your oven. The seeds are typically eaten by cracking the outer shell and eating the seed inside.
#6: Dried Watermelon Seeds
Much like the pumpkin and squash, watermelon seeds are popular in the Middle East and East Asia and they should be in specialty stores catering to those cultures. It is also possible to just eat the seeds raw with the watermelon. You can shell them, or just chew them up whole. Dried watermelon seeds provide 10mg (70% daily value) of zinc per 100g serving, 11mg (74% daily value) per cup, and 3mg (19% daily value) per ounce.
#7: Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder
Chocolate is showing more and more health benefits and dark chocolate is coming into vogue. Unsweetened baking chocolate provides 9.6mg (64% daily value) of zinc per 100g serving (most bars are 50-100 grams). Cocoa powder will provide 6.8mg (45% daily value) per 100g, or 5.4mg (39% daily value) per cup, 0.3mg (2% daily value) per tablespoon. Most milk chocolates provide around 2.3mg (15% daily value) per 100g serving or 1mg (7% daily value) per bar.
#8: Lamb (Mutton)
Lamb is a common meat in the Middle East, Mediterranean, and most of Europe, but is increasing in popularity in the Americas. Lamb provides between 4.2-8.7mg of zinc per 100g serving (28%-58% daily value) depending on cut. That is up to 7.4mg (49% daily value) in a 3 ounce serving (85 grams).
#9: Peanuts

Peanuts are a great source of zinc, 100 grams of oil roasted peanuts will provide 6.6mg (44% daily value) of zinc, or 8.8mg (59% daily value) in 1 cup chopped, 1.9mg (12% daily value) per oz (~39 peanuts). Dry roasted peanuts will provide half as much zinc at 3.3mg (22% daily value) per 100 gram serving, or 4.8mg (32% daily value) per cup, and 1mg (6% daily value) per oz.

#10: Crab
Almost any kind of crab will be a great source of zinc. Alaksa King crab in particular provides 7.6mg (51% daily value) of zinc per 100 gram serving, which is 10.2mg (68% daily value) in an average crab leg, and 6.5mg (43% daily value) in a 3 ounce serving.

Here are some more healthy, whole food sources of zinc:

Whole Food Sources Serving Zinc (mg)
Organic Beef 3 ounces 5.80
Beef Liver, cooked 100 grams 5.24
Lima Beans 1 cup 3.60
Organic / Wild Turkey, cooked 3 ounces 3.50
Chickpeas 1 cup 2.60
Split Peas, cooked 1 cup 1.96
Cashews, raw 1 ounce 1.60
Pecans, raw 1 ounce 1.28
Green peas, cooked 1 cup 1.08
Almonds, raw 1 ounce 1.00
Organic egg, poached 1 large 0.55
Ginger root, raw 1 teaspoon 0.34

The human body needs zinc

The beneficial effects of zinc have been known for a long time, especially in the healing of wounds. Our body rapidly concentrates zinc around a fresh wound and inside the newly formed scab. Zinc is active in the healing process.

The highest concentrations of zinc in the human body are found in our reproductive organs.

Zinc is present in more than 300 hormones and enzymes which contribute to the human body's life processes. No other metal is as important for these vital functions. These hormones and enzymes regulate wound healing, digestion, reproduction, sight, respiration, kidney function, sugar balance, taste and many other functions.

Zinc in man

Sperm 150 mg/l
Blood 7 mg/l
Mother´s milk 2 mg/l
Perspiration 1,1 mg/l
Gall 0,35 mg/l
Prostate 400 mg/kg
Muscles 220 mg/kg
Liver 210 mg/kg
Brain 70 mg/kg

But zinc deficiency can occur in people, animals and plants.

The symptoms of deficiency are retarded growth, lowered immunity, weakness, slow wound healing and hair growth, and skin disorders.

A typical adult needs about 15mg zinc every. Normally, this is obtained from food. Foodstuffs which are important sources of zinc are red meat, offal and wholemeal bread.

In a way zinc serves as a 'corrosion protection' of our body by keeping our skin intact.

For this reason zinc is common in medicines, skin creams, ointments for cuts and scratches, powders and sunscreens.

An adult human contains a total of about 2kg metal. Zinc makes up about 2.5g of this. Therefore, the population of Sweden consumes about 34 tonnes of zinc each year to supply its needs. Even this is not the best level. Forty tonnes might be better.

All living organisms need zinc – It is an essential element

  • Zinc enhances our memory and thinking by interacting with other chemicals to send messages to the sensory brain centre. Zinc can also reduce fatigue and mood swings.
  • Because zinc is used to generate cells, it is especially important during pregnancy, for the growing fetus whose cells are rapidly dividing.
  • In women, zinc can help treat menstrual problems and alleviate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
  • Zinc is vital for oue sense of taste and smell, it is needed for renewal of skin cells and to keep our hair and nails healthy.
  • We use zinc in shampoo and sun-block products. In men, zinc protects the prostate gland and helps maintain sperm count and mobility.
  • Zinc helps keep us going... and enjoying healthy active lifestyles. Among all the vitamins and minerals, zinc shows the strongest effect on our all-important immune system.
  • Zinc has proven effective in fighting infections and can even reduce the duration and severity of the common cold.
  • Zinc is vital in activating growth in infants, children and teenagers.

What Does Zinc Do in Your Body?

  • Supports a healthy nervous system and is therefore essential for mental and emotional balance.
  • Helps strengthen your immune system, which increases your capacity to deal with stress.
  • Helps keep your teeth and bones strong.
  • Helps control your blood sugar level.
  • Is involved in numerous chemical reactions that convert food into energy.
  • Helps to protect your body against free radical damage.
  • Helps to reduce your blood level of homocysteine, decreasing your risk of a variety of chronic, degenerative health conditions.

Zinc in nature

Animals and plants need zinc to exist. Zinc has the same role in plants as it has in human beings. It stimulates the hormones and enzymes which regulate the various functions of life.

The higher an organism is in the chain of nutrition, the bigger is its ability is to regulate its intake of zinc. In man, mammals and birds this regulation is so highly developed that abnormally high levels of zinc almost never appear.

In plants any excess zinc uptake is usually stored for use at a later date.

Zinc in our environment
Beef 170 mg/kg
Soil 70 mg/kg
Forest soil 55 mg/kg
Cod 22 mg/kg
Potatoes 20 mg/kg
Wheat flour 8 mg/kg
Rain water 0,010 mg/l
Ground water 0,010 mg/l
Milk 4 mg/l
River water 0,004 mg/l
The Baltic Sea 0,001 mg/l

On the other hand, zinc deficiency may retard growth in animals and bring about changes to the skin. Therefore, zinc is added to the food given to our domestic animals.

Many plants are known to develop symptoms of zinc deficiency quite easily. These include beans, onions, wheat, corn and some fruit trees.

Zinc deficiency is common in agricultural land which has been fertilised, but spreading manure on the fields creates a natural recycling of zinc. In some cases zinc serves to protect plants. For example, if the soil has a high cadmium content, zinc blocks the effect of cadmium intake. If the soil is deficient in zinc crops may have an elevated cadmium level, which is undesirable.

Zinc Toxicity

Getting too much zinc in your diet can actually weaken the strength of your immune system. Taking more than 45 mg of zinc per day can lead to a copper deficiency. 80 mg of zinc per day over the long term can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease via a decrease in blood levels of HDL. Greater than 150 mg of zinc per day can weaken your immune system. Nausea, an upset stomach, and vomitting are strong signs of zinc toxicity if you are taking a zinc supplement. For these reasons, I recommend that you stay away from zinc supplements and obtain zinc from a variety of whole, minimally processed foods.

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