Z is for Zinc


Monique Nelson

Founder at Choose to Cook
Monique Nelson is the founder, chief organizer and editor at Choose To Cook, and is highly motivated to help people of the world take charge of their health through simple and delicious nutritional changes.

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I wrote a post about Zinc and the benefits of this mineral, which you can read here, if you haven’t already: Z is for Zinc

Adding zinc to your diet may or may not help you ward off colds, but it is certainly classified as an “essential mineral”, which means that your body needs it to survive and thrive, but does not naturally produce it. For that reason, we need to get a certain level of zinc through our diet.

Fun Tool: In trying to find recommended Daily Values (DV) I found an Interactive Reference Intake calculator that allows you to plug in your own personal height, weight, age etc. details to find out the exact requirements of different nutrients and minerals that your body needs.

To give you an example, I am a 130 lb, 5’7″, 31 year old female and my DRI is 8 mg. In comparison, a 200 lb, 6′ tall, 30 year man requires 11 mg of zinc per day. In either case, the maximum recommended intake is 40 mg.  You can try it out yourself here: http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/fnic/interactiveDRI/

I have referred the USDA Agricultural Research Service National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28  to confirm the levels of zinc in each of the Top Ten food sources, which I share below. Please note that I have ONLY included whole foods – nothing processed, like “Kashi Cereal”, for example (which is actually quite high in zinc) – that are generally accepted as an edible food source.

  1. Mollusks, Oysters
    • There are a variety of oysters you can get, ranging from wild, raw oysters to eastern canned oysters, but regardless of the type you enjoy, they top the list of foods high in zinc with 30 -70 mg per 3 oz serving.
  2. Beef
    • Again, there are a variety of options, but a Ribeye fillet sounded the most likely for a single serving intake, and it contains about 14 mg of zinc.
  3. Wheat Germ
    • You get 14 mg per cup of crude wheat germ, which is a whole lot of wheat germ and probably not the best approach all at once
  4. Sesame Seeds
    • Toasted or dried, with or without salt, you’ll enjoy 11 – 13 mg of zinc per 1 cup of sesame seeds. Again, probably not best to have all in one sitting, but a good source to mix and match throughout your day.
  5. Turkey Breast
    • 1 Turkey Breast is going to help you with 11 – 13 mg of zinc. This alone is more than my DRI (which I consider the bare minimum!)
  6. Lamb
    • 1 braised lamb shank, about 1 lb of meat, will have about 11 mg of zinc in it. I don’t cook or eat lamb personally, but that sounds like a pretty big portion size to me, so keep that in mind!
  7. Crab
    • 1 single leg of Alaskan King Crab will give you 10 mg of zinc – a splurge item, for sure, but it’ll get you what you need in the zinc department!
  8. Pumpkin / Squash Seeds
    • 1 cup of dried pumpkin or squash seeds will also provide you with 10 mg of zinc, along with a variety of other nutrients (protein, iron, magnesium, potassium and more!) that make this snack much healthier for you than a bag of chips!
  9. Pine Nuts
    • 1 cup of pine nuts will cost you a small fortune these days, but are an oh-so-delicious way to get almost 9 mg of zinc into your diet
  10. Wheat, Durum
    • You can get about 8 mg of zinc per cup of Durum Wheat but, again, you are unlikely to consume that much in a single day, let alone a single setting! In fact, there is good reason not to have any at all and that is because you often don’t find whole grain durum wheat products. You might, but it is more likely you will simply get getting one part of the wheat, which is entirely less wholesome all around. Even though it may give you a boost of zinc, it lacks in many of the other important nutrients and minerals that you need to keep a healthy body.

These are not the only sources of zinc out there. When I went through this list I was honestly a little dismayed to realize that there is NOTHING on this list that makes a regular appearance in my meal planning. But, since you actually don’t need a lot of zinc to meet your DRI, you probably get there every day without even trying. Especially if you start your day with my Every Day Oatmeal! I used the nutrient database linked above to calculate almost 3 mg in my breakfast alone with ingredients not even close to landing in the Top Ten list here!

Do you concern yourself with getting enough zinc in your diet? If you have stories to tell, please share them in the comments below!

Post Author: Monique Nelson

Monique Nelson is the founder, chief organizer and editor at Choose To Cook, and is highly motivated to help people of the world take charge of their health through simple and delicious nutritional changes.

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