10 Zinc-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating Now

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Many athletes fail to consume adequate quantities of the essential trace mineral zinc. Zinc plays a role in nearly 100 enzyme activities within the human body, supports healthy immune system function, protein synthesis, skin and body tissue repairs, DNA synthesis, division of cells, and normal hormonal function. [1]

The body is unable to store zinc for long periods of time so both active and non-active individuals should consume it every day. Active individuals engaging in moderate or strenuous physical exercise metabolize zinc at a faster rate and as result require more of this trace mineral. Failure to consume enough zinc over a prolonged period of time may lead to a zinc deficiency which can lower natural testosterone levels, increase fat gain, and decrease lean mass. [2]

Related: Somatopause – The Decline of Growth Hormone and IGF-1 Levels With Age

While consuming zinc supports normal hormone function super-loading zinc will not increase testosterone levels above your natural baseline. Those previously consuming adequate amounts of zinc should consume 5 to 10mg per day whereas those concerned about zinc deficiency can consume up to 25 or 45mg per day short brief periods of time. [3]

The Food and Nutrition Board recommends a daily intake of 11mg for males and 8mg for females aged 19 and older. [1] It is not too difficult to consume the necessary amounts of zinc through food but some people also choose to supplement using zinc citrate, sulfate, gluconate, or Monomethionine. [3]

This article outlines 10 zinc-rich food sources; some of which you may already be consuming. If you’re looking to diversify your diet and increase your zinc intake then add one or more of these zinc-rich foods to your next shopping list.

Oysters

10 Zinc-Rich Foods

#1 – Wild Raw Eastern Oysters – 33.0mg per 6 oysters (64g)

Oysters contain more zinc than any other food. Unsurprisingly location and conditions in which the oysters are caught influences zinc content. Wild-caught contain more zinc than farm-raised oysters. Atlantic-caught oysters from the East Coast of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico contain more zinc than Pacific-caught oysters.

Six medium (64g) oysters contain a whopping 33mg of zinc and 4.8 grams of protein with only 43 calories, 1.4 grams of fat, and 2.3 grams of carbohydrates. [4] This complete protein source is also high in Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin B12, copper, iron, and selenium. [5]

While the raw consistency may not appeal to most, you can pile on the cocktail sauce, horseradish, and/or hot sauce and shoot them back relatively quickly. Alternatively you can throw them in to a seafood soup or stew. Those not consuming a low-calorie diet can lightly bread and fry the oysters for a savory zinc-packed treat.

#2 – Beef Sirloin – 5.2mg per 4 ounces (112g)

The sirloin cut of beef which comes from the back of the cow is an excellent animal-source of zinc. 4 ounces (112g) of roasted beef bottom sirloin trimmed to 0” fat contains 5.2mg of zinc, 29 grams of muscle-building protein, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 12.4 grams of fat, and 236 calories. [6] Although beef is relatively high in saturated fat compared to other protein sources, this fat supports normal hormonal function support without significantly impacting cardiovascular disease risk.

Cooked beef sirloin is also an excellent source of niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron, phosphorus, and selenium. [7]

Sirloin is a very versatile and relatively reasonably priced piece. If you’re a purist then add salt and pepper and grill, pan-fry, broil, or roast it. Those looking to add variety can marinate the meat or use it as part of a hearty stew.

#3 – Wheat Germ – 7.1mg per ½ cup (58g)

Wheat GermThe germ is the wheat’s embryo which has the ability sprout in to a new plant if germinated. [8] ½ cup (58g) of unprocessed wheat germ contains 7.1mg of zinc, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 7.6 grams fiber, 6 grams of fat, and 13 grams of protein. [9] Wheat germ has a robust complete amino acid profile that is also high in thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin B6, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium. [10]

You can sprinkle wheat germ in your yogurt, use it as a breadcrumb or flour replacement, dust it on to baked breads, or incorporate wheat germ in to your nutrient-dense smoothies. Most wheat germ is minimally processed so the essential oils can spoil; refrigerate immediately after opening to preserve flavor and freshness. Wheat germ is an affordable vegetarian food option to increase your zinc intake.

#4 – Baked Beans with Pork– 13.5mg per 1 cup (246g)

Beans are a nutrient powerhouse – packed with antioxidants, fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates. When combined with pieces of pork and tomato sauce the zinc content substantially increases. One cup of canned baked beans prepared with pork and tomato sauce has 13.5mg of zinc, 13 grams of protein, 2 grams of fat, 46 grams of carbohydrates, and 10 grams of fiber per serving. [11]

Baked beans with pork also have good levels of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, and manganese with minimal cholesterol. [12] Canned baked beans can have high amounts of sodium and sugar so read the ingredient label carefully.

When in doubt, prepare a batch yourself using minimally processed ingredients and no preservatives. Baked beans are inexpensive to prepare, chock-full of nutrients, and taste delicious in both cold and warm weather.

#5 – Watermelon Seeds – 5.8mg per 2 ounces (58g)

Seeds are calorically and nutrient-dense superfoods. If you love a big slice of refreshing watermelon during the dog-days of summer then keep reading.

Most people spit out the seeds of the watermelon but save them the next time. However, don’t immediately eat the watermelon seeds – sprout, shell, and dry them first. A 2-ounce (57g) serving contains 5.8mg of zinc, 16 grams of protein, and less than 9 grams of net carbohydrates but hefty 315 calories and 27 grams of fat. [13]

Watermelon seeds contain significant amounts of heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats. Watermelon seeds are also packed with iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese. [14] If you consume a low-carbohydrate diet then watermelon seeds are a great zinc-rich addition but ensure you portion carefully as they are very calorie-dense and easy to overeat.

Lamb Shank

#6 – Lamb Foreshank – 8.7mg per 4 ounces (113g)

Lamb is not a commonly consumed meat in the Standard American Diet but those looking to increase their dietary intake of zinc should incorporate at least once per week. Four ounces (113g) of braised lamb foreshank trimmed to 1/8” fat has 8.7mg of zinc, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 32 grams of protein, 275 calories, and 15 grams of fat. [15]

Lamb has a stellar amino acid profile and provides solid amounts of niacin, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and selenium. [16] Lamb is a higher cholesterol protein source so those on a cholesterol-restricted diet should consume lamb in moderation.

You can add spices like rosemary, sage, thyme, salt, or pepper and braise, bake, or use a slow cooker for the shanks. Lamb shanks are typically less expensive than other cuts of lamb but taste delicious when prepared correctly.

#7 – Ground Turkey – 4.0mg per 6 ounces (171g)

Ground turkey is a versatile poultry protein source used in chili, burgers, meatloaf, tacos, and many more dishes. Six ounces (171g) of raw ground turkey contain 253 calories, 4mg of zinc, 37 grams of protein, 13 grams of fat, and 0 grams of carbohydrates. [17]

Ground turkey is also a good source of iron, B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, and B6), phosphorous, potassium, copper, and selenium. [18] It has less saturated fat than ground beef.

However unlike ground beef, ground turkey must be cooked thoroughly before eating – ensure the internal temperature reaches 165oF/73.9oC. Raw or uncooked poultry may cause severe illness and if left untreated, hospitalization.

Great spices for ground turkey include chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic, sea salt, onion powder, pepper, and/or cayenne pepper.

#8 – Wild Rice – 9.5mg per 1 cup (160g) uncooked

Wild rice comes from semi-aquatic grass that grows in lakes, tidal rivers, and bays. [19] This gluten-free carbohydrate source has higher amounts of zinc than both white and brown rice. One cup of uncooked wild rice has 9.5mg of zinc, 10 grams of fiber, 24 grams of protein, 120 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fat, and 570 calories. [20]

Wild rice also has moderate amounts of B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, and B6), folate, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese. [21] When preparing wild rice use a one to 3 ratio of uncooked rice to liquid (e.g. water or broth).

Wild rice visually indicates when it’s ready to eat – the grains expand and bursts open. [19] This variety of rice is a stellar zinc-rich complex carbohydrate source you can consume post-workout to replenish glycogen stores.

#9 – Alaska King Crab – 6.5mg per 3 ounces (85g)

Alaskan king crab legs are often considered the golden standard for high quality seafood. This crustacean is low in fat, high in protein, and packed with zinc. 3 ounces (85g) of steamed Alaska king crab contains a stellar 6.5mg of zinc and 16.5 grams of protein with only 82 calories, 1.3 grams of fat, and zero carbohydrates. [22]

King crab offers substantial amounts of vitamin B12, phosphorus, copper, and selenium. [23] Unfortunately crab is naturally very high in sodium as well as contains a notable amount of cholesterol. Those on cholesterol or sodium-restricted diets should consult with their health care professional before consuming crab regularly.

Clarified butter often accompanies crab legs. While butter is a good source of hormone-supporting saturated fat when consumed in moderation, it is extremely calorie dense and does not fill up your stomach. If you choose to dip your crab in butter then portion according and enjoy this zinc-filled crustacean.

#10 – Dried Pumpkin Seeds – 4.4mg per 2 ounces (58g)

You may notice dried pumpkin seeds also made the list of 10 magnesium-rich foods you should be eating now. Dried pumpkin seeds also contain considerable amounts of zinc. Two ounces (58g) of dried pumpkin seeds contain 4.4mg of zinc, 17 grams of protein, 28 grams of fat, 3.4 grams of fiber, and just 6 grams of carbohydrates. Enforce portion control with this food as 2 ounces also contains 317 calories and 28 grams of fat. [24]

This complete protein sources also offers hefty amounts of heart-healthy polyunsaturated fat, vitamin K, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese. [25] To add variety you can coat pumpkin seeds with Old Bay seafood seasoning, sea salt and pepper, jerk spices, chili powder, or cinnamon-sugar. Pumpkin seeds are a great-tasting, portable, convenient, and inexpensive low-carbohydrate source of zinc.

Click here for an extensive list of magnesium-rich foods compiled by the United States Department of Agriculture. If you still find yourself struggling to consume adequate quantities of this vital mineral then consider using a high quality zinc supplement sold by a reputable retailer. When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle Tiger Fitness knows “It’s Not a Game!”

References

1) “Zinc — Health Professional Fact Sheet.” Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). National Institutes of Health, 11 Feb. 2016. Web. Apr. 2016.
2) Weisstaub, G., et al. “Plasma Zinc Concentration, Body Composition and Physical Activity in Obese Preschool Children.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Biol Trace Elem Res, Aug. 2007. Web. Apr. 2016.
3) Frank, Kurtis, et al. “Zinc.” Examine.com. N.p., 2016. Web. Apr. 2016.
4) “Basic Report: 15167, Mollusks, oyster, eastern, wild, raw.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.
5) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Mollusks, oyster, eastern, wild, raw.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
6) “Basic Report: 13953, Beef, bottom sirloin, tri-tip roast, separable lean and fat, trimmed to 0″ fat, all grades, cooked, roasted.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.
7) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Beef, bottom sirloin, tri-tip roast, separable lean and fat, trimmed to 0″ fat, all grades, cooked, roasted.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
8) “What is a Whole Grain?” The Whole Grains Council. N.p., 2013. Web. Apr. 2016.
9) “Basic Report: 20078, Wheat germ, crude.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.
10) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Wheat germ, crude.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
11) “Basic Report: 16011, Beans, baked, canned, with pork and tomato sauce.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.
12) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Beans, baked, canned, with pork and tomato sauce.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
13) “Basic Report: 12174, Seeds, watermelon seed kernels, dried.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.
14) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Seeds, watermelon seed kernels, dried.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
15) “Basic Report: 17229, Lamb, domestic, foreshank, separable lean and fat, trimmed to 1/8″ fat, cooked, braised.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.
16) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Lamb, domestic, foreshank, separable lean and fat, trimmed to 1/8″ fat, cooked, braised.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
17) “Basic Report: 05305, Ground turkey, raw.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.
18) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis Poultry food products, ground turkey, raw.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
19) “Wild Rice – September Grain of the Month.” The Whole Grains Council. N.p., 2013. Web. Apr. 2016.
20) “Basic Report: 20088, Wild rice, raw.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.
21) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Wild rice, raw.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
22) “Basic Report: 15137, Crustaceans, crab, Alaska king, cooked, moist heat.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.
23) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Crustaceans, crab, Alaska king, cooked, moist heat.” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
24) “Basic Report: 12014, Seeds, pumpkin and squash seed kernels, dried.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. Apr. 2016.
25) “Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Seeds, pumpkin and squash seed kernels, dried [pepitas].” NutritionData.com. Condé Nast, 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.

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Name: Nick Ludlow

Bio: When it comes to fitness I enjoy reading about historic weight lifters, non-conventional weightlifting approaches, nutritional protocols, and the science behind supplements.