Prepare for a thrilling journey into the world of zinc – your body’s unsung hero! It’s the secret agent supporting your immune system, wound healing, and DNA synthesis.
But it doesn’t stop there; zinc is the co-pilot for countless enzymatic reactions and is vital for immunity, reproduction, skin health, digestion, cognition, antioxidants, and vision.
In this article, we’ll showcase the tools and charts that we used in the Micros Masterclass to reveal zinc-rich foods and recipes. Get ready to harness the power of this incredible mineral!
- Zinc-Rich Foods (Per Serving)
- Zinc-Rich Foods (Per Calorie)
- Zinc Food Chart
- How Much Zinc Do You Need?
- Zinc-Rich Recipes
- Why Zinc is Important
- Zinc Deficiency Symptoms
- Factors Contributing to Zinc Deficiency
- How do you know if you have a zinc deficiency?
- Zinc Deficiencies and Lines on Your Fingernails
- Will Zinc Boost Your Libido?
- Zinc Toxicity Level and Upper Limit
- Availability of Zinc
- What Factors Interfere with Zinc Absorption?
- Synergistic nutrients
- Storage and Processing Losses
- The Iron:Zinc Ratio
- The Zinc:Copper Ratio
- How Can I Calculate if I’m Getting Enough Zinc?
- Nutrient Density Starter Pack
- Nutrient Series
Zinc-Rich Foods (Per Serving)
If you find yourself falling short of the recommended calcium intake, it’s time to focus on foods that pack in more calcium per serving.
To help you get started, the infographic below shows the calcium provided by popular foods in the average serving sizes consumed by our Optimisers.
Seafood is arguably the best source of zinc, and they are well-absorbed. Seafood also contains copper and iron, which are synergistic nutrients to zinc. Animal foods are relatively bioavailable sources of zinc. In addition, certain dairy products have higher amounts of zinc.
Although nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, and beans contain some zinc, it’s often absorbed poorly from these foods because of their phytic acid content. Green vegetables have some zinc, although their levels are not as well-absorbed or high as animal foods.
Once you’re ready to revitalise your diet with a wider variety of high-zinc foods, download our printable list of foods with more zinc per serving here.
Zinc-Rich Foods (Per Calorie)
Once you know you’re getting the minimum amount of zinc your body needs, you can zero in on foods that deliver more zinc per calorie to increase your satiety and nutrient density. The infographic below shows popular foods that provide more zinc per calorie.
For more variety, check out our printable list of zinc-rich foods per calorie.
Zinc Food Chart
Curious about how your favourite foods stack up in the zinc game? Dive into our dynamic chart showcasing popular foods, comparing zinc content per calorie and per serving. For an immersive experience, explore the interactive Tableau version (on your computer).
Oysters are literally off the chart! Meanwhile, animal foods like beef, chicken and pork provide significant amounts of zinc, while non-starchy vegetables like mushrooms, spinach, endive and broccoli will help you get zinc with less energy.
How Much Zinc Do You Need?
Our satiety analysis reveals that your body craves at least 9 mg of zinc per 2000 calories, which is less than the Dietary Reference Intake of 20 mg for men. However, achieving the Optimal Nutrient Intake of 20mg per 2000 calories aligns with an impressive 19% reduction in energy intake. As you can see from the chart below, once we exceed this amount, we don’t appear to crave more zinc.
Elevate your culinary game with our chart, showcasing over 1400 NutriBooster recipes used in our Micros Masterclass. We’ve plotted these recipes based on zinc content versus protein percentage. The further right you go, the more zinc you can enjoy with fewer calories.
Dive into the details with our interactive Tableau chart on your computer. Click on each recipe to uncover the magic behind it and even feast your eyes on mouthwatering pictures!
Why Zinc is Important
- Immune system function: Zinc plays a crucial role in immune cells’ normal development and function. It is necessary to activate and increase T-cells, which are important for fighting off infections and diseases.
- Growth and development: Zinc is essential for the growth and development of the human body. It is particularly important for children, as it is necessary to grow and develop organs, bones, and muscles.
- Wound healing: Zinc is necessary for wound healing, as it is involved in the production of new cells and the synthesis of collagen, a protein that helps form connective tissue and promote healing.
- Taste and smell: Zinc is necessary for the proper function of taste and smell receptors. Zinc deficiency can lead to a decreased ability to taste and smell.
- DNA synthesis and protein production: Zinc is necessary for the synthesis of DNA and the production of proteins, which are essential for proper cell function and growth.
- Antioxidant function: Zinc is a powerful antioxidant and protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that can cause damage to cells and contribute to the development of diseases like cancer and heart disease.
A large portion of the population is at risk of becoming zinc deficient, particularly in developing countries with less access to animal-based foods. However, in Western countries, zinc availability is influenced by the overconsumption of processed foods, nutrient-depleted soils, and weakened digestion. Insufficient food availability affects an estimated two billion people worldwide.
Low zinc levels have even been linked to autoimmunity and cancer. In addition, because zinc is vital for the health of sperm in men and overall reproductive health in men and women, zinc deficiency can contribute to infertility.
Factors Contributing to Zinc Deficiency
Zinc is found readily in animal products, making deficiency more common in developing countries where these foods are harder to obtain regularly.
Plant foods like beans, legumes, nuts, and grains contain phytates (phytic acid) that bind to zinc and other similar minerals, blocking their absorption. Consumption of diets that are high in phytates and low in animal-based foods can further exacerbate zinc deficiency.
The human body requires a somewhat acidic environment in the stomach to kick off protein breakdown and absorb zinc. If stomach acid becomes weak, zinc uptake and protein digestion can decrease. Stress, certain medications, and eating too many processed foods can reduce stomach acidity.
How do you know if you have a zinc deficiency?
Zinc deficiency symptoms include:
- low testosterone,
- poor night vision,
- zinc-deficient acne,
- brittle nails,
- white spots on nails,
- loss of taste, smell, and appetite,
- decreased leptin levels,
- decreased immune function,
- low stomach acid,
- emotional disorders,
- hypogonadism, or the diminished production of sex hormones,
- low sperm counts,
- estrogen dominance,
- premenstrual disorder (PMS),
- slowed wound healing,
- stretch marks and increased scarring,
- increased susceptibility to infections,
- elevated histamine levels,
- hypercholesterolemia, and
- impaired cognitive function.
Interestingly enough, your fingernails are a great indicator of varying nutrient deficiencies. Ridges in your fingernails can indicate that your body is low in protein, calcium, zinc, or vitamin A. Small white dots on your fingernails can also hint that you may not be getting enough zinc in your diet.
Zinc supplements are often used as a treatment for erectile dysfunction because zinc is needed to produce sex hormones like testosterone and prolactin.
There is no evidence of any adverse effects from high amounts of zinc in foods. Hence, there are no real symptoms of toxicity or side effects. Nutrients like zinc are hard to ‘overdose’ from whole foods because of the natural balance of nutrients in whole foods. You will quickly excrete any excess zinc in the faeces. However, an Upper Limit of 40 mg has been set for supplemental zinc.
Zinc availability in the food system has increased since the fortification of breakfast cereals began in the 1930s. For example, the chart below shows a significant jump in zinc fortification in the mid-1970s (data from the USDA Economic Research Service).
While supplementation and fortification may be helpful if you have deficiency symptoms, our analysis indicates that zinc fortification of otherwise nutrient-poor foods will not provide greater satiety.
Although you may consume plenty of zinc on paper, your body might not absorb all of it. Several factors are known to inhibit or lessen zinc uptake in the body.
- The absorption of zinc can be decreased by excess sugar.
- Insufficient stomach acid, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and other disorders involving inflammation of the GI tract inhibit the absorption of various vitamins and minerals like zinc.
- Stress is perhaps one of the biggest inhibitors of stomach acid production and, therefore, can inhibit nutrient absorption across the board.
- Persistent infections like H. pylori are known to decrease stomach acid and inherently affect zinc uptake.
- Prolonged use of drugs like proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) that decrease stomach acid can similarly reduce the body’s ability to absorb zinc.
- Excess calcium intake impairs zinc absorption, as does the consumption of too many phytates from nuts, beans, grains, and legumes.
- Iron and zinc compete for absorption pathways, so excess iron supplementation or fortified foods can negatively impact zinc absorption.
- If your ratio of iron:zinc is greater than 2:1, then your absorption of zinc will be reduced.
- Like iron and zinc, copper can also decrease zinc levels if consumed in excess.
- If your ratio of zinc:copper is consistently greater than 10:1 to 15:1, zinc deficiency can appear.
- Absorption from animal sources of zinc is much more readily available than plant sources, so strict vegans should account for an additional 50% of zinc in their diet.
- Exposure to heavy metals like cadmium or mercury can deplete zinc levels.
Zinc works synergistically with vitamins A, B6, D, and E, cysteine, glutathione, copper, magnesium and manganese. Hence, getting your zinc from nutrient-dense whole food sources that typically come packaged with these other nutrients is crucial.
Storage and Processing Losses
Zinc is resistant to spoilage, so your food will go bad before the zinc content changes significantly.
Zinc is also heat-stable, meaning it will not be destroyed through most cooking processes. However, you will lose some zinc via the liquid when cooking vegetables.
The Iron:Zinc Ratio
Zinc and iron are two essential minerals, but their proportion to one another is important. Because the two minerals are antagonists (inhibit the absorption of one another), consuming too much of one can deplete the other. The two minerals are also synergists, meaning they need each other to support and reinforce one another’s roles.
Foods high in zinc, like seafood and meat, contain iron, too. Because these nutrients exist in near-perfect ratios in natural foods, it is harder to disrupt this ratio than if someone is consuming a supplement of either iron or zinc or fortified foods.
The optimal iron: zinc ratio is less than 2:1, which can be monitored if you are logging your food and supplements in Cronometer.
The Zinc:Copper Ratio
While getting enough dietary zinc is undoubtedly important, the amount of zinc you’re taking in relative to the mineral copper is just as necessary. Zinc and copper are also synergists and antagonists. Thus, overconsuming copper can contribute to lowered zinc levels.
Getting too much dietary copper and insufficient zinc is common in vegan and vegetarian diets because zinc is sparse, and copper is readily found in grains, nuts, and other plant foods. It’s also possible to get excessive amounts of copper from organ meats like liver and kidney.
Studies have shown that an optimal zinc:copper ratio of 10:1 to 15:1 supports optimal health. You can easily keep track of this ratio if you’re logging your food in Cronometer.
While these micronutrient ratios are difficult to manage in practice, chasing your priority micronutrients using Nutrient Optimiser ensures you do not prioritise more zinc in your diet if you already have enough copper.
For more details, see Nutrient Balance Ratios: Do They Matter and How Can I Manage Them?
How Can I Calculate if I’m Getting Enough Zinc?
Curious about your zinc intake? Take our Free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge and discover if you’re hitting the zinc sweet spot in your diet.
You’ll receive a curated list of foods and tantalising NutriBooster recipes that not only fill your magnesium gaps but also ensure you’re not missing out on critical nutrients.
Ready to unlock your nutrient potential? Join the challenge and embark on a journey towards a brighter, healthier you!
Nutrient Density Starter Pack
Ready to supercharge your nutrition? Get our Nutrient Density Starter Pack – your all-access pass to a healthier, more vibrant you!
In our quest to make Nutritional Optimization a breeze, we’re thrilled to offer you this treasure trove of tools and resources when you join our vibrant Optimising Nutrition Community:
- Food Lists: Discover our carefully crafted lists optimised for each essential nutrient, tailored to your goals, preferences, and unique conditions.
- The Healthiest Meal Plan in the World: Peek into a week of mouthwatering, nutrient-dense meals that’ll leave you satisfied and energised.
- Recipes: Download delectable samples from our NutriBooster recipe books, designed to elevate your nutrition while tantalising your taste buds.
- 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge: Unearth your priority nutrients and pinpoint the foods and meals that pack a nutrient punch so you can kickstart your journey to better health.
Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to transform your nutrition effortlessly. Join our community and unlock your path to a healthier, more vibrant you!
- Biotin (B7)
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Thiamine (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
- Vitamin B6
- Folate (B9)
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K1
- Vitamin K2