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Zinc-rich Fruits, Vegetables, and Supplements

zinc rich foods

Zinc is being increasingly used nowadays because of its role in boosting immunity against COVID-19 infection. Taking Zinc-rich fruits and vegetables may cut down the use of supplements and herbal products.

It is important to know the zinc content of each food to avoid toxicity. It is always advisable to avoid zinc tablets and capsules where possible and eat healthy zinc-containing foods.

About Zinc:

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:

  • Zinc is a co-enzyme:

    • 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:

    • 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 for chest and gut infections:

    • 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].
  • Zinc for growth and development:

    • It plays an 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 for taste and smell:

    • 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.
    • It also stimulates the sense of taste and smell in healthy individuals and those with frequent respiratory infections.
  • Zinc for skin and growth:

    • 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%) of healthy individuals. The current RDAs for zinc are listed in the table below.

Age

Male

Female

Pregnancy

0–6 months2 mg2 mg
7–12 months3 mg3 mg
1–3 years3 mg3 mg
4–8 years5 mg5 mg
9–13 years8 mg8 mg
14–18 years11 mg9 mg12 mg
19+ years11 mg8 mg12 mg

Zinc-rich foods (Zinc-rich Fruits and Vegetables):

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 Bread1 slice1.8 mg
Whole Wheat chapatti1 small2.0 mg
Refined Wheat flour100 g2.0 mg
Whole wheat flour100 g2.9 mg
Corn flour100g1.7 mg
Barley whole grain flour100g2.0mg
Polished Rice½ cup1.2 mg
Brown Rice½ cup1.4 mg
  •  Zinc-rich Vegetables

Food item

Zinc Content

Spinach0.5 mg
Tomato0.1 mg
Turnips0.3 mg
Radish1.1 mg
Onion0.2 mg
Garlic0.3 mg
Eggplant0.6 mg
Cucumber0.2 mg
Ginger0.3 mg
Cauliflower0.3 mg
Potato0.4 mg
Corn0.3 mg
  • Zinc-rich Fruits

Food Item

Zinc Content

Apple0.1 mg
Banana0.2 mg
Mango0.1 mg
Figs0.2 mg
Dates0.2 mg
Peach0.1 mg
Orange0.1 mg
Apricots0.3 mg
Pineapple0.1 mg
Raisins0.3 mg
Pomegranate0.1 mg
  •  Zinc-rich Milk and Dairy Products

Food item

Serving

Zinc content

Whole milk1 cup0.2 mg
Yogurt8 oz0.6 mg
Dry milk powder1/3 cup4.1 mg
  •  Zinc-rich Meats and Meat substitutes

Food Item

Zinc content

Beef1.0mg
Egg1.1 mg
Egg whites0.01 mg
Fish1.3 mg
Goat meat4.5 mg
Beef Kidney1.9 mg
Beef liver1 mg
Poultry1.5 mg
  •  Zinc-rich Beans, peas, and lentils

Food Item

Zinc Content

Kidney beans3.1 mg
Chickpeas3.4 mg
Lentils3.9 mg
  •  Zinc-rich Nuts

Food item

Serving

Zinc Content

Peanuts16 nuts1.8 mg
Walnuts4 halves3.1 mg
Pistachio16 nuts2.2 mg
Cashews16 nuts3 mg
Almonds16 nuts3.3 mg
  • Zinc-rich Supplements:

Zinc Supplements

Elemental Zinc in mg

Zinconia50 mg per tablet
Surbex Z22.5 mg  per tablet
Polybion Z22.5 mg per tablet
Zincovit22 mg per tablet
Zinklet20 mg per 5 ml syrup
Diazinc20 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 results 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 for other women.

Older infants:

Older infants who are breastfed are at risk of developing zinc deficiency because breast milk provides 2mg/day of 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 of zinc toxicity include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea

Chronic zinc toxicity affects iron function, and 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 months4 mg4 mg 
7–12 months5 mg5 mg 
1–3 years7 mg7 mg 
4–8 years12 mg12 mg 
9–13 years23 mg23 mg 
14–18 year34 mg34 mg34 mg
19+ years40 mg40 mg40 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 Dr. Ahmed

I am Dr. Ahmed (MBBS; FCPS Medicine), an Internist and a practicing physician. I am in the medical field for over fifteen years working in one of the busiest hospitals and writing medical posts for over 5 years.

I love my family, my profession, my blog, nature, hiking, and simple life. Read more about me, my family, and my qualifications

Here is a link to My Facebook Page. You can also contact me by email at contact@dibesity.com or at My Twitter Account
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