Zinc is commonly associated with shellfish, but did you know it’s found in these plant foods, too?
Zinc is like the nutritional equivalent of the seventh track on a Taylor Swift album—criminally underrated and deserving of more recognition. Well, zinc finally gets its turn in the spotlight in the latest episode of Well+Good’s series You Versus Food, when registered dietitian Tracey Lockwood Beckerman, RD, breaks down the many benefits of the mineral.
“Zinc plays a vital role in immune cell functioning by making proteins, DNA, and turning on enzymes that act as first responders against bacteria and viruses,” explains Beckerman. However, she emphasizes that it is not recommended to help against COVID-19—just to help fight against colds and flus. “COVID-19 is a relatively new disease that shares many symptoms with the cold and flu, but there is no concrete evidence that proves that zinc has any impact on the treatment or prevention of COVID-19.” (So keep wearing your mask and washing your hands, fam.)
Zinc is an essential mineral, which means our bodies cannot create it or store it—so we have to get plenty of it in our diets. The expert recommendation is eight milligrams of zinc per day for adult women, and 11 milligrams per day for adult men. (People who are pregnant or breastfeeding should take in a bit more.) While you can take zinc supplements, Beckerman recommends getting as many of your vitamins and minerals as possible through food. There are many animal foods that are high in zinc, like shellfish and red meat, but if you don’t eat meat (or are trying to cut back on your animal product consumption), there are a few plant foods high in zinc worth noting, too.
“Nuts and seeds can also be great sources of the mineral,” says Beckerman. For example, just a 1 ounce serving of cashews contains 15 percent of your recommended daily value of zinc. She also says one and a quarter cups of cooked lentils contain 1 milligram of zinc, which might not sound like much but is actually 12 percent of your daily value of zinc. Not too shabby, eh?
Watch the video above to see other plant foods high in zinc worth trying, along with some other key factoids about the mineral.