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Top 10 Foods High In Zinc

By Liam McAuliffe Published on

Zinc is an essential mineral. In nutritional language, “essential” means that we need to get zinc from the food we eat in order to remain healthy. High zinc foods are the best way to get the zinc you need. 

Zinc is required for the proper function of over 300 enzymes. And it plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy immune system, metabolizing nutrients, and growing and repairing body tissues. It’s also proven protective against various diseases and disorders. 

Let’s explore the top 10 zinc foods and their powerful health benefits. 

Table of Contents

How much zinc do I need?

Zinc and other essential minerals

If you’re eating a diet high in animal-based whole foods, including red meat, eggs, and full-fat dairy, you’re probably getting plenty of zinc. 

For men, the RDV is 14 milligrams (mg), while for women, it’s 8 mg. So the standard rule-of-thumb RDV comes to 11 mg per day. 

However, elderly people, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people with gut conditions may need more.

Benefits of Zinc

Consuming foods high in zinc can benefit your health in various ways; let’s explore:

  • Zinc functions as a powerful antioxidant that helps fight oxidative stress and reduce inflammation associated with atherosclerosis and related cardiac disorders, cancer, neurodegeneration, immunologic disorders, and the aging process itself 1
  • In older people aged 55-87 with lower zinc levels, consuming more zinc has been shown to significantly lowered infection rates 2
  • Your body requires zinc to mobilize vitamin A into an active form that supports proper vision 4
  • Zinc also supports healthy eye function by reducing degenerative oxidation and inflammation.3 
  • Zinc is required to activate T-cells that play a critical role in immune response. People low in zinc are more likely to get numerous illnesses related to weak immune function 5
  • Zinc plays a key role in wound healing. While people who are low in zinc are slower to heal. 6
  • Zinc is plays an important role in the creation of numerous hormones, including estrogen and progesterone in women
  • In men, zinc has been shown to increase testosterone levels and improve sperm quality naturally 7
  • Zinc is also needed to balance insulin, the main hormone involved in the regulation of normal blood sugar.
  • Foods high in zinc stimulate testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor-1, all of which support muscle building and healthy metabolism. 8
  • Zinc helps you body turn amino acids into energy. Zinc deficiency can lead to low energy and chronic fatigue 6
  • Zinc is required to maintain healthy cells within the cardiovascular system, while lowering inflammation and oxidative stress that contribute to heart disease 
  • Zinc combines with fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, to regulate many critical body functions, from immunity to bone health. Traditional diets often featured these nutrients together. [7]

Zinc in animal products vs. Plant products

Plant foods, including some legumes, grains, and seeds, are touted as providing high amounts of zinc. However, this zinc from plant sources is far less useable. 

This difference is due to the presence of antinutrients, including phytates and lectins, that bind with zinc and inhibit digestive enzymes. 

Below is an image of the sticky, mineral-binding protein known as lectin.

Pea lectin protein. Carbohydrate binding protein isolated from Pisum sativum. Cartoon & stick representation with backbone gradient coloring.

In fact, the zinc we get from animal foods is 400% more bioavailable than the zinc we get from plant foods. 11

For this reason, our list includes only animal food sources, since these are the only zinc foods that provide reliable useable zinc. 

A treasure trove of tips for fertility and for a healthy body and mind

List of High Zinc Foods

Here’s our top 10 list of foods high in zinc. Below you can learn more details about the nutrition of each. 

Type of FoodZinc per 100 grams% RDV
Oysters90.8mg825%
Ribeye Steak11mg100%
Alaskan King Crab7.6mg69%
Spiny Lobster7.3mg66%
Lamb Shoulder7.3mg66%
Ground Beef (70/30) 6mg54%
Lamb Liver5.6mg51%
Dungeness Crab5.5mg50%
Beef Liver5.3mg48%
Pork Spare Ribs4.6mg42%

 

1. Oysters

are oysters good for you?

Oysters are enjoyed for their briny flavor and subtle textures, yet they are also one of the most nutrient dense foods on earth

And a major component of their nutrient abundance is their remarkably high zinc content. 

Just 100 grams of raw eastern oysters provide 90.8 mg of zinc for 825% of your RDV. Though zinc is rarely overertly toxic, the USDA suggested upper limit is 40 mg, so it’s best not to eat oysters too often. 

2. Ribeye Steak

fatty ribeye

Ribeye steak is so loaded with a complex of macro and micronutrients that it’s entirely possible to thrive on an elimination diet of ribeye, water, and salt. 

Just ask psychologist Jordan Peterson who popularized this minimalist approach to carnivore known as the lion diet. 

A 100 gram serving of ribeye steak provides 11mg of zinc for 100% or your RDV. 

In addition to zinc, ribeye is a fantastic source of healthy saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. 

Studies show that monounsaturated fatty acids are strongly anti-inflammtory , reduce blood cholesterol, improve insulin sensitivity, and can help shed excess bodyfat. [19] [20] [21][22] [23] 

diagram showing nutrients in ribeye steak

3. Alaskan King Crab

King crab claws

Alaskan king crab provides 7.6 mg or 69% of your RDV of zinc per 100 gram serving. 

King crab is also a decent source of magnesium (64 mg, 15% RDV) which can be challenging to get in sufficient quantities on keto and carnivore diets. 

Additionally, crab provides an abundance of various other important nutrients including  vitamin B12 (479%), copper (131%), and selenium (73%), 

4. Spiny Lobster

Expensive food: spiny boiled lobster with fresh tomato, lemon an

One of the only bugs worth eating, these crustaceans were once fed to prisoners but are now a rather pricey delicacy. 

If it’s zinc you’re after, then they may be worth it, with 7.3 mg (66% RDV) per 100 grams. 

Lobster is also loaded with protein (26.4g), vitamin B12 (168%), and selenium (108%).6 

5. Lamb Shoulder

Roasted lamb fillet on wooden background.

Lamb is another highly nutritious red meat offering 7.3mg (66% RDV) of zinc per 100-gram serving. 

In addition to zinc, lamb is nature’s most abundant source of a highly beneficial fat known as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)

Studies show that CLA supports numerous bodily functions, including healthy immune response, bone strength, heart health, and excess fat loss. [2] [3] [4] [5]

CLA has also been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer and tumors in the stomach, prostate, breast, and liver. [6]

6. Ground Beef

Ground beef is often overlooked as a health food, but the truth is, hamburgers are loaded in healthy macro and micronutrients. 

 

100 grams of 70/30 ground beef provides 6mg (54% RDV) of zinc, along with 117% of B12, 30% of B3, and 14% of choline. 

7. Lamb Liver

Lamb liver nutrition and benefits

Lamb liver, like many organ meats, is an incredible source of various nurtriens, and zinc is no exception. 

100g grams of lamb liver provides 5.6mg (51% RDV). 

But where lamb really shines is vitamin B12, with an amazing 3750% of your RDV–but don’t worry, you can’t overdose on B12. Your body stores excess vitamin B12 in your liver for later use. 

Lamb liver is also one of the most abundant sources of vitamin A (retinol) at 832% per 100 grams. 

8. Dungeness Crab

boiled dungeness crab image

If Alaskan crab legs prove too expensive, you can enjoy your dungeness crab cakes with the knowleddte that you’re getting a solid dose of zinc. 

Dungeness crab provides 5.5mg (50% RDV) of zinc per 100 grams. 

9. Beef Liver

Beef Liver on a slate

Beef liver is a bonafide superfood loaded with protein, vitamin B12 (3464%), vitamin A retinol (860%), and a healthy 5.2mg (48% RDV) of zinc. 

Beef liver is also famous for providing an, as yet to be identified, anti-fatigue factor. 

A 1975 study subjected three groups of rats to swimming tests. The first group was fueled by liver. The second, by B vitamins, and the third group got normal food.[8

After being fed for a few weeks the animals were put in a drum of cold water and literally forced to sink or swim. 

The rats with no supplementation swam for an average 13.3 minutes before giving up

The group on vitamin B swam for an average of 13.4 minutes.

And the liver-fed rats? Three of the twelve swam for 63, 83, and 87 minutes respectively. The other nine liver-fed rats were still vigorously swimming at 2 hours when the scientists decided to end the test. 

If you’re not a fan of the flavor but want all the benefits, you can always opt for a desiccated liver supplement. They’re tasteless, odor-free, and fit in the palm of your hand. 

10. Pork Spare Ribs

Grilled pork ribs

Fresh pork spare ribs are among the most scrumptious foods out there, and they’re also surprisingly high in nutrients, including zinc, with 4.6mg (42% RDV) per 100 grams. 

They also have over 30% RDV of b1, b2, b3, b12. While pasture-raised pork that is allowed to wallow in the sunshine is a good source of vitamin D. 

Foods High in Zinc: The Takeaway

Zinc is an important nutrient that plays an essential role in numerous bodily functions, from bone and heart health, to immune function and fertility. 

Since your body does not make zinc on its own, it is critical that you get enough zinc from the foods in your diet. 

Though both plant and animal foods contain zinc, the zinc in plant foods is far less useable in the body. Therefore it is best to rely on whole animal foods for your zinc needs. f

In addition to zinc, the foods on this list provide an abundance of vital macro and micronutrients and deserve a place at the center of any healthy diet.