Unless you’re a die-hard nutrition buff or an expert in biochemistry, you likely only associate zinc with those old-school sticks of sunscreen your mom made you use at the beach. But zinc is also an essential mineral key to a healthy diet.
Zinc is necessary for immune function, it helps your blood clot when you’re injured, and it helps regulate your blood sugar, says Amy Gorin, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area.
Zinc is indeed crucial to your health, but you only need small quantities. “Women 19 years old and older need 8mg of zinc daily, a pregnant woman needs 11mg, and a breastfeeding woman needs 12mg,” says Gorin.
While it’s easier for your body to absorb zinc from animal sources like meat, eggs, and seafood, there are plenty of zinc-rich, plant-based foods as well. Read on for the best zinc-rich foods for any diet.
Per gram, oysters have the highest zinc concentration of any food. Three ounces of raw oysters contain 32mg of zinc, more than three times your recommended daily intake.
Per 85g serving: 50 calories, 1g fat (0g saturated), 4.5g carbs, 0g sugar, 151mg sodium, 0g fibre, 4g protein
Read more: 10 best fitness foods for women
2. Lean sirloin steak
Love digging into a tender cut of meat on occasion? Opt for lean sirloin with most of the fat trimmed, and you’ll get five mg of zinc per four-ounce (113g) serving.
Per 113-gram serving: 144 calories, 4g fat (1.5 g saturated), 0g carbs, 0g sugar, 63mg sodium, 0g fibre, 25g protein
Swap beef for lamb to switch things up during stew season. A 113g serving of lamb contains just under four mg of zinc, almost half of what the average woman needs in a day.
Per 113g serving (fat trimmed): 168 calories, 9g fat (3g saturated), 1g carbs, 0g sugar, 121mg sodium, 0g fibre, 21g protein
4. Hemp seeds
Looking for plant-based sources of zinc? Hemp seeds are your best bet. Try sprinkling these seeds on your yogurt or salad to mix things up. They’re loaded with healthy fats, and a three-tablespoon serving contains 3mg of zinc.
Per tablespoon serving: 166 calories, 14.5g fat (1.5g saturated), 2.5g carbs, 0.5g sugar, 2mg sodium, 1g fibre, 9.5g protein
Beans and legumes are another great plant-based option if you want to up your zinc intake without meat. A cup of cooked chickpeas is high in fibre and protein, and contains 2.5mg of zinc.
Per 1-cup serving: 269 calories, 4g fat (0.5g saturated), 45g carbs, 8g sugar, 11mg sodium, 12.5g fibre, 14.5g protein
Read more: 13 foods with more protein than an egg
6. Black beans
Another excellent plant source of zinc is black beans. Toss a cup of cooked black beans on top of a salad and you’ll get 2mg of zinc.
Per 1-cup serving: 227 calories, 1g fat (0g saturated), 41g carbs, 0.5g sugar, 2mg sodium, 15g fibre, 15g protein
7. Greek yoghurt
Greek yoghurt has so many stellar health benefits, and here’s another one to add to the list: a 200g container of plain, low fat Greek yogurt packs 1.5mg of zinc, nearly a quarter of your daily need.
Per 200g serving: 146 calories, 4g fat (2.5g saturated), 8g carbs, 7g sugar, 68mg sodium, 0g fibre, 20g protein
Cashews are one of the most affordable nuts –and, in my totally biased opinion, the most delicious – so there’s no reason not to keep a container in your pantry. You can eat them roasted or raw, since minerals aren’t affected by heat, and get just over 1.5mg of zinc per ounce.
Per 28g serving: 157 calories, 12g fat (2g saturated), 8.5g carbs, 1.5g sugar, 3mg sodium, 1g fibre, 5g protein
9. Cheddar cheese
28g of sharp cheddar has 1mg of zinc, which is decent if you want a little extra boost. Melt it on top of a burger made with lean ground beef, and you have a meal that meets more than half your zinc needs for the day.
Per 28g serving: 115 calories, 9.5g fat (5g saturated), 0.5g carbs, 0g sugar, 180mg sodium, 0g fibre, 6.5g protein
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com