From a young age, we’re taught that we need vitamin D to keep our bones strong, vitamin A to keep our eyes healthy, and vitamin C to help our body heal. But how many of us missed the memo when it comes to zinc?; an essential mineral and micronutrient that helps our immune system heal and assists in maintaining our sense of taste and smell.
Zinc plays many crucial roles throughout our body including growth and development, it also brings with it a host of benefits for immune function, and fortunately, it’s possible to get just the right amount of zinc through diet alone. So to reap the full benefits of this mineral and to ensure you’re getting sufficient amounts,try incorporating some of the following sources of zinc into your diet:
- Dairy foods
- Cereal products
See also: The Role of Micronutrients in the Immune System
What foods are highest in zinc?
As a trace mineral, the body only needs small amounts of zinc - which is great news for those of us looking to ensure we’re getting just the right amount. According to Mayo Clinic, the recommended daily amount (RDA) of zinc intake for women is 8 milligrams and for men, it’s 11 milligrams. 
Although zinc deficiency isn’t common in the United States, those with certain digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, vegans and vegetarians following a plant-based diet, or pregnant women are at risk of developing a deficiency. So whether you fall under one of these categories or you simply want to make sure you’re taking advantage of all that zinc has to offer, there are some food sources of zinc that you should know about.
See also: How Does Zinc Help The Body? Benefits, Sources, and Intake
While experts recommend keeping consumption of red meat to a minimum, eating modest amounts a few times a week can provide a good source of not only zinc but other essential nutrients such as protein, iron, and vitamin B12 .
Do you follow a plant-based diet? No worries needed; tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, nuts, and seeds are all great plant sources of zinc and each can be added to almost any meal!
Shellfish such as muscles, shrimp, and oysters are all a great source of zinc. Oysters, in particular, are packed with the mineral - as a matter of fact, oysters have the highest zinc concentration of any food with it estimated that 6 medium-sized oysters providing 32 milligrams (about four times the recommended daily amount!)
While dairy products are typically associated with vitamin D and calcium - they boast a whole host of other important nutrients, including zinc. According to the US Department of Agriculture, one cup of low-fat milk contains around 9 percent of the daily value of zinc whereas one cup of low-fat Greek yogurt provides about 2.38mg or 20 percent of the RDA. 
Buckwheat, wholewheat bread, and oats are all foods high in zinc. As well as being delicious in their own rights, these foods are incredibly adaptable - think buckwheat pancakes, freshly baked bread, and overnight oats; try adding pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, or cashews to your pancakes or oats for another great plant-based source of zinc.
If you are curious about your nutrient levels, you can find out more with an at-home lab test.
What vegetables are high in zinc?
As nutrients go, zinc is an all-rounder! While animal-based products are sometimes higher in zinc, for those following vegan or vegetarian diets, there are many vegetables that we can all add to our plates to ensure we’re getting just the right zinc intake, these include:
Other plant-based foods that are high in zinc include:
- Kidney beans
- Hemp seeds
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Wholemeal bread
See also: Top Essential Vitamins and Minerals for Vegans
What are good animal-based food sources of zinc?
As mentioned above, there are a wide variety of foods that provide zinc including a number of plant foods. Still, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), animal sources provide the majority of zinc in the average American's diet. And while seafood such as shellfish have a higher zinc content than any other food, red meat and poultry tend to be the more popular choice in the United States.
Some of the best animal-based food sources of zinc include:
What blocks zinc absorption?
Having an inflammatory bowel disease, chronic liver disease, kidney disease or even being pregnant can all increase a person’s risk of developing zinc deficiency - as can decreased absorption.
According to the Journal of Nutrition , there are a handful of factors that we should know more about when it comes to evaluating zinc deficiency and zinc absorption, including:
- Phyates can negatively impact zinc absorption. These are typically found in foods that we likely eat almost every day such as cereals, corn, and rice.
- Iron supplements can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb iron. It’s important to note that the effect isn’t the same if the iron comes from food sources.
Remember, it's important not to take zinc supplements unless a zinc deficiency has been confirmed and you have spoken with a health professional. Just some of the symptoms to know include an impaired immune function and loss of appetite.
One of the most reliable ways to find out more about your nutrient levels at home is with an at-home lab test.
LetsGetChecked’s range of at-home Micronutrient Tests allows you to measure vital nutrient levels and potentially identify any imbalance from the comfort of home. Your online results will be available within 2-5 days and should you have any questions, our dedicated medical team is there to offer advice and help at every step.
You should consider taking a test if:
- You want to identify areas for improvement of your overall health
- You follow a vegetarian or vegan diet
- You have recently excluded a particular food group from your diet
- You are over 50 years of age
- You are experiencing symptoms of a deficiency
- You have a condition that may impact the absorption of nutrients such as celiac or Crohn’s disease
- You have problems absorbing nutrients from your diet
- You are taking certain medications that impact the absorption of some minerals