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Zinc-rich Fruits, Vegetables, and Supplements

zinc rich foods

zinc-rich fruits vegetables nuts and supplements for diabetes obesity and sexual function

Zinc is being increasingly used nowadays because of its role in boosting immunity against COVID-19 infection. Zinc-rich fruits, vegetables, and supplements are commonly utilized. It is important to know the zinc content of each food so as to avoid toxicity. It is always advisable to avoid zinc tablets and capsules where possible and eat healthy zinc-containing foods.

Zinc Overview:

Zinc is an essential trace mineral. It is required in minimal amounts by the human body. Although it is required in small amounts, it is vital for the body and inadequate amounts of zinc can lead to deficiency symptoms.

The human body does not produce or store zinc, that’s why an adequate amount of zinc should be present in the diet for normal body function and to avoid deficiency symptoms.  This article explains everything about the health benefits of zinc, recommended dietary allowance, deficiency symptoms, and zinc-rich foods.

Why zinc is important?

Zinc is involved in numerous functions in the human body:

  • It is an important coenzyme for more than 300 enzymes and plays an important role in the functioning of various metabolic pathways. It plays a crucial role in cell metabolism.
  • Zinc is required for wound healing. It modulates the inflammatory and immune response that occurs after a trauma or injury. It also affects wound healing by playing a role in the activation and aggregation of platelets. It has been studied in critically ill patients and patients with severe burns, wounds, and injuries [Ref]. Zinc oxide is available as a topical gel formulation and is used for wound healing and treatment of diaper rash.
  • Zinc is commonly used to treat respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. It reduces the severity and duration of diarrheal episodes in children. It is an important component of protein synthesis, cell metabolism, differentiation, immune function, and epithelial regeneration [Ref].
  • It plays important role in the growth and development during childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy. In males, zinc deficiency has been associated with sexual dysfunction and hypogonadism.
  • Zinc is an important co-factor of metalloproteinases which are mostly present in the salivary glands. Zinc supplementation may have a role in the recovery from taste and smell dysfunction that occurs in patients with COVID-19 infection [Ref]. It also stimulates the sense of taste and smell in healthy individuals and those with frequent respiratory infections.
  • Zinc is involved in the synthesis of proteins and DNA. The deficiency of zinc is associated with growth retardation.
  • Zinc is used in the treatment of various skin conditions. It is required for healthy nails, skin, and hair. Zinc pyrithione is used to treat dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis).

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for zinc according to different age groups:

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is the average daily sufficient intake of a nutrient that meets all the requirements of nearly (97%-98%) healthy individuals. The current RDAs for zinc are listed in the table below.

Age Male Female Pregnancy
0–6 months 2 mg 2 mg
7–12 months 3 mg 3 mg
1–3 years 3 mg 3 mg
4–8 years 5 mg 5 mg
9–13 years 8 mg 8 mg
14–18 years 11 mg 9 mg 12 mg
19+ years 11 mg 8 mg 12 mg

Zinc-rich foods (Zinc-rich Fruits, Vegetables, and Supplements)

A variety of foods contain high amounts of zinc. Rich sources of zinc include

  • Eggs
  • Milk and milk products
  • Red meat
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Beans and nuts

Bioavailability of zinc

The bioavailability of zinc from plant food sources is lower than that of animal food sources. This is because of the presence of phytates in plant-based food products. Phytates bind to zinc and inhibit its absorption.  This is why vegetarians are at greater risk of zinc deficiency.


Zinc content in different food groups:

  • Zinc-rich Bread and Cereals
Food Item Serving Zinc content
White Bread 1 slice 1.8 mg
Whole Wheat chapatti 1 small 2.0 mg
Refined Wheat flour 100 g 2.0 mg
Whole wheat flour 100 g 2.9 mg
Corn flour 100g 1.7 mg
Barley whole grain flour 100g 2.0mg
Polished Rice ½ cup 1.2 mg
Brown Rice ½ cup 1.4 mg
  •  Zinc-rich Vegetables
Food item Zinc Content
Spinach 0.5 mg
Tomato 0.1 mg
Turnips 0.3 mg
Radish 1.1 mg
Onion 0.2 mg
Garlic 0.3 mg
Eggplant 0.6 mg
Cucumber 0.2 mg
Ginger 0.3 mg
Cauliflower 0.3 mg
Potato 0.4 mg
Corn 0.3 mg
  • Zinc-rich Fruits
Food Item Zinc Content
Apple 0.1 mg
Banana 0.2 mg
Mango 0.1 mg
Figs 0.2 mg
Dates 0.2 mg
Peach 0.1 mg
Orange 0.1 mg
Apricots 0.3 mg
Pineapple 0.1 mg
Raisins 0.3 mg
Pomegranate 0.1 mg
  •  Zinc-rich Milk and Dairy Products
Food item Serving Zinc content
Whole milk 1 cup 0.2 mg
Yogurt 8 oz 0.6 mg
Dry milk powder 1/3 cup 4.1 mg
  •  Zinc-rich Meats and Meat substitutes
Food Item Zinc content
Beef 1.0mg
Egg 1.1 mg
Egg whites 0.01 mg
Fish 1.3 mg
Goat meat 4.5 mg
Beef Kidney 1.9 mg
Beef liver 1 mg
Poultry 1.5 mg
  •  Zinc-rich Beans, peas, and lentils
Food Item Zinc Content
Kidney beans 3.1 mg
Chickpeas 3.4 mg
Lentils 3.9 mg
  •  Zinc-rich Nuts
Food item Serving Zinc Content
Peanuts 16 nuts 1.8 mg
Walnuts 4 halves 3.1 mg
Pistachio 16 nuts 2.2 mg
Cashews 16 nuts 3 mg
Almons 16 nuts 3.3 mg
  • Zinc-rich Supplements:
Zinc Supplements Elemental Zinc in mg
Zinconia 50 mg per tablet
Surbex Z 22.5 mg  per tablet
Polybion Z 22.5 mg per tablet
Zincovit 22 mg per tablet
Zinklet 20 mg per 5 ml syrup
Diazinc 20 mg per 5 ml syrup

The Daily Value of zinc:

Daily value helps the consumers to know the amount of a nutrient present in food products. It is mentioned on food labels. The daily value for zinc is 11 mg for adults and children aged 4 years and above.

  • Food containing 20% or more DV of zinc is considered a high source.
  • Foods Providing lower daily values also contribute to a healthful diet.

Diseases associated with Zinc Deficiency:

Zinc deficiency is characterized by

  • Growth retardation
  • Impaired immune function resulting in frequent gastrointestinal and respiratory infections.
  • Hair loss
  • Weight loss
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Eye and skin lesions
  • Taste abnormalities

Many of these symptoms are non-specific and also associated with other health conditions.  A proper medical examination is necessary to determine the presence of zinc deficiency.


Who is at Risk of Zinc Deficiency?

Zinc deficiency is not very common. When deficiency occurs, it is usually due to inadequate zinc intake, impaired absorption, excessive excretion, or increased requirements by the body. Generally, zinc deficiency is easily covered up by the consumption of a diet rich in zinc. Supplementation might be necessary for the following situations:

Gastrointestinal diseases:

Gastrointestinal diseases or digestive disorders (IBS, Ulcerative colitis, and short bowel syndrome) can decrease the absorption of zinc, as a result, there is an increased endogenous loss of zinc. Chronic diarrhea also causes excessive loss of zinc.

Vegetarians:

The bioavailability of zinc is lower in plant-based food products due to the presence of phytates, which bind to zinc and inhibit its absorption. That’s why vegetarians are at greater risk of zinc deficiency.

Pregnant and lactating women:

Due to high fetal requirements, pregnant and lactating women are at risk of developing zinc deficiency. For these reasons, the RDA of zinc for pregnant and lactating women is higher than other women.

Older infants:

Older infants who are breastfed are at risk of developing zinc deficiency because breast milk provides 2mg/day zinc while the RDA for older infants (7-12 months) is 3 mg/day. Infants should be fed Age-appropriate formula milk along with breast milk to avoid zinc deficiency and to improve growth and development.

Alcohol users:

Ethanol consumption decreases the absorption of zinc and increases its excretion in urine that’s why alcoholics are at risk of zinc deficiency.

Zinc deficiency in patients with Diabetes and Obesity (Diabesity):

Zinc is an important co-factor in the normal functioning of many enzymes. These enzymes are responsible for the utilization and cellular entry of glucose into the cells and cellular metabolism.

Zinc supplementation is usually required in patients with diabetes as chronic hyperglycemia can result in urinary losses of zinc. It has also been postulated that there is impaired absorption of zinc from the GI tract in diabetic patients.

In one study zinc deficiency was more common in individuals with diabetes especially those who were married, obese, and had long-standing diabetes [Ref].


What are the symptoms of Zinc Toxicity?

Excessive intake of zinc can lead to toxicity. Symptoms for zinc toxicity include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea

Chronic zinc toxicity affects iron function, low copper status, reduces immune function, and decreases the levels of HDL

Tolerable upper intake levels (Uls) for zinc

Age Male Female  Pregnant
0–6 months 4 mg 4 mg  
7–12 months 5 mg 5 mg  
1–3 years 7 mg 7 mg  
4–8 years 12 mg 12 mg  
9–13 years 23 mg 23 mg  
14–18 year 34 mg 34 mg 34 mg
19+ years 40 mg 40 mg 40 mg

Beyond these levels, zinc toxicity will occur*            

In Summary:

Zinc is present in most food items including fruits, vegetables, meat, nuts, and cereals. It is an important cofactor for many enzymes and its deficiency is associated with many diseases.

What do you think?

Written by Diabetes Doctor

I am an Internist practicing medicine for the last fifteen years. Over the years, I have learned that medicine is not about prescribing pills. True medical practice is helping people.
I do prescribe pills as well but the best results I get are when I motivate people to overcome their problems with little changes in their lifestyles.
Since most of my patients are obese, have diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, I am writing at dibesity.com when free.
Dibesity, I know the correct word is diabesity. Ignore this! Be with us.

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