Vegetables rich in zinc

Top 25 Foods High in Zinc You Should Include In Your Diet Ravi Teja Tadimalla Hyderabd040-395603080 October 11, 2019

Not much spoken about, and not much bothered about. That pretty much sums up the life story of zinc. But let us tell you, if we don’t have enough of that mineral in our system, our life story would be summed up quite differently. Which is something we wouldn’t want. Not once. Not ever. And hence this post on foods high in zinc.

One question – why is it important? Keep reading to find the answers. Here you will learn about 25 zinc rich foods and much more.

Table Of Contents

  • Why Is Zinc Important
  • What Is The Recommended Daily Allowance Of Zinc
  • What Are The Foods High In Zinc
  • Are You Getting Enough Zinc
  • Who Is At A Risk Of Zinc Deficiency


Why Is Zinc Important?

The right time to ask the right question. Because what’s the point in knowing about the foods rich in zinc without first knowing the nutrient’s importance?

Zinc is a trace mineral. But it is found in cells throughout the body. The body’s immune system requires zinc to function optimally. And guess what – it also helps you use the senses of smell and taste.

Zinc helps in the production of about 100 types of enzymes in our body. It acts as an antioxidant and neutralizes the effects of free radicals, reducing risk of cancer. It also stimulates the production of blood in the body. Zinc promotes the synthesis of collagen, which is a necessary element in wound healing.

More importantly, zinc is a must during pregnancy, infancy, and childhood. The body needs zinc to grow and develop properly.

Simply put, it could be a trace mineral and your doctor would have forgotten to stress on its importance – but you would only be inviting illness without adequate levels of zinc.

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What Is The Recommended Daily Allowance Of Zinc?

This table (as per the Institute of Medicine, Nepal) will help you get an idea.

Age RDA of Zinc
Birth to 6 months 2 mg
7 months to 3 years 3 mg
4 to 8 years 5 mg
9 to 13 years 8 mg
14 to 18 years (girls) 9 mg
14 and above (boys and men) 11 mg
19 and above (women) 8 mg
19 and above (pregnant women) 11 mg
19 and above (lactating women) 12 mg

That’s with the dosage. But how do you ensure you are getting enough of it? Well, these foods rich in zinc can help.

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What Are The Foods High in Zinc?

Here are some of the richest sources of zinc:

  • Oysters
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Flax Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Oats
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Swiss Cheese
  • Egg Yolk
  • Lima Beans
  • Kidney Beans

1. Oysters

  • Serving size – 50 grams
  • Zinc – 8.3 milligrams
  • DV% – 55

Apart from zinc, oysters are also rich in protein. And the best part is they boost your protein intake without increasing your fat consumption. They are also rich in vitamin C – one serving covers about 15 percent of your daily requirement of the vitamin (1). Vitamin C is great for immunity while protein enhances muscle and cell health.

How To Include In Your Diet

You can have them broiled with herbs. Even raw oysters work wonderfully well, especially when combined with horseradish. But be careful where you get them as they also are a common cause of food poisoning.

2. Sesame Seeds

  • Serving size – 100 grams
  • Zinc – 7.8 milligrams
  • DV% – 52

Sesame seeds are also a great source of phytosterols, compounds that help lower cholesterol. Another compound in sesame seeds, called sesamin, helps balance hormones and boosts overall health. The seeds are also high in protein (2).

How To Include In Your Diet

You can use sesame seed butter in the place of peanut butter on your toast. The seeds also pair very well with salmon or chicken – you can make a delicious homemade granola.

3. Flax Seeds

  • Serving size – 168 grams
  • Zinc – 7.3 milligrams
  • DV% – 49

Flax seeds are also extremely rich in omega-3 fatty acids – nutrients that boost heart and brain health – in addition to offering numerous other benefits. The seeds also aid in the treatment of arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease (3).

You can add ground flax seeds to your breakfast smoothies or salads. You can also sprinkle the seeds on cooked vegetables.

4. Pumpkin Seeds

  • Serving size – 64 grams
  • Zinc – 6.6 milligrams
  • DV% – 44

Pumpkin seeds are also rich in phytoestrogens that improve cholesterol levels in postmenopausal women (4). The seeds are also rich in antioxidants that give your health a boost.

You can add the seeds to your bedtime salad – this nighttime snack can also boost sleep quality.

5. Oats

  • Serving size – 156 grams
  • Zinc – 6.2 milligrams
  • DV% – 41

One of the most popular breakfast choices, if you ask us. The most important nutrient oats contain is beta-glucan, a powerful soluble fiber. This fiber regulates cholesterol levels and enhances the growth of good bacteria in the gut.

Oats can also improve blood sugar control, and that’s something important, given the rise in diabetes cases across the globe (5).

You can simply have oats for your breakfast. That would be the easiest way to increase your zinc intake.

6. Cocoa Powder

  • Serving size – 86 grams
  • Zinc – 5.9 milligrams
  • DV% – 39

The zinc in cocoa powder enhances immunity, and given it’s something we all love (that finger-licking dark chocolate) – getting adequate amounts of zinc shouldn’t be a problem. Cocoa powder is also rich in flavonoids that boost immunity.

Add cocoa powder to your coffee or tea. You can also use unsweetened cocoa powder in gravy, protein shakes, and hot cereal.

7. Swiss Cheese

  • Serving size – 132 grams
  • Zinc – 5.8 milligrams
  • DV% – 38

It is important to note that cheese is one healthy source of calcium – the mineral you need for strong bones. And since it is an animal source, Swiss cheese is considered a complete protein – it contains all the amino acids your body requires to make protein.

However, practice moderation as Swiss cheese also contains saturated fat that may not be healthy if taken in large amounts.

You can add a slice of Swiss cheese to your sandwich or bowl of soup. Add shredded cheese to your vegetable salad. Or have it with scrambled eggs.

8. Egg Yolk

  • Serving size – 243 grams
  • Zinc – 5.6 milligrams
  • DV% – 37

Egg yolk is replete with other nutrients as well. It contains vitamins A, D, E, and K. The yolk is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. And more importantly, the yolk contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin – compounds that boost vision health (6).

Boiled egg yolk is a good option – you can add it to your salad.

9. Lima Beans

  • Serving size – 178 grams
  • Zinc – 5 milligrams
  • DV% – 34

Apart from zinc, lima beans are also rich in folate – a nutrient required for DNA synthesis and cell division. The beans are also rich in vitamins B1 and B6. And the fiber in the beans protects the colon and fights digestive cancers (7). It also can promote satiety and eventually encourage healthy weight loss.

You can add dried lima beans to your evening bowl of soup. A combination of bacon and eggs with lima beans just sounds so wonderful.

10. Kidney Beans

  • Serving size – 184 grams
  • Zinc – 5.1 milligrams
  • DV% – 34

Apart from helping you get adequate amounts of zinc, kidney beans also reduce the concentrations of C-reactive protein, which is known to cause inflammatory disorders (8). The beans also control blood sugar levels and invariably help in the treatment of diabetes.

They can be a simple addition to your regular fruit or vegetable salad. Or you can have canned beans as a healthy evening snack. Even adding them to hearty soups or stews can work well.

11. Peanuts

  • Serving size – 146 grams
  • Zinc – 4.8 milligrams
  • DV% – 32

Peanuts are also a host to a number of heart-healthy nutrients. These include niacin, magnesium, copper, oleic acid, and various other antioxidants (include the all-popular resveratrol).

Peanut consumption has also been linked to a reduced risk of gallstone development in both men and women. This could be attributed to the cholesterol-lowering effects of peanuts as gallstones are mostly made of cholesterol.

Eating them right out of the shell could be the best way. Cracking and snacking, as we can also call it. Grab a handful of peanuts as you sit to watch the evening sitcom – and yes, crack and snack.

Or wait, you can also add peanuts to granola bar recipes.

12. Lamb

  • Serving size – 113 grams
  • Zinc – 3.9 milligrams
  • DV% – 26

Lamb is primarily comprised of protein, and well, it is high-quality protein that contains all of the essential amino acids. Lamb protein can be especially beneficial to bodybuilders, recovering athletes, or even patients who are recovering from a surgery.

One important amino acid in lamb, called beta-alanine, improves physical performance (9).

Lamb chops or roasts or steaks can be a good addition to your dinner.

13. Almonds

  • Serving size – 95 grams
  • Zinc – 2.9 milligrams
  • DV% – 20

Almonds are the most popular of the nuts, and probably the tastiest too. They are loaded with antioxidants that relieve stress and even slow down aging. The nuts also contain high levels of vitamin E, a nutrient that protects the cell membranes from damage. The vitamin also decreases risk of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s (10).

Have a handful of almonds in the morning with breakfast and at night before hitting the bed. You can also add chopped almonds to your favorite smoothie.

14. Crab

  • Serving size – 85 grams
  • Zinc – 3.1 milligrams
  • DV% – 20

Just like most animal meats, crab is also a complete source of protein. And it also is an impressive source of vitamin B12 – which aids in the production of healthy blood cells. The vitamin also decreases risk of heart disease.

Simply sprinkle chopped crab onto a vegetable salad. You can also add it to your soup recipe. Even better, you can sauté crab meat with pea pods, mushrooms, and water chestnuts for a nutritious stir-fry.

15. Chickpeas

  • Serving size – 164 grams
  • Zinc – 2.5 milligrams
  • DV% – 17

As they are particularly high in fiber, chickpeas can help regulate your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. This can prevent diabetes and heart disease.

Chickpeas also contain selenium, a mineral that may help decrease the risk of cancer-related death.

You can toss chickpeas into a protein-packed bean salad. Or you can use chickpea flour to prepare baked products. Even adding chickpeas to any vegetable soup can greatly enhance its nutritional content.

16. Peas

  • Serving size – 160 grams
  • Zinc – 1.9 milligrams
  • DV% – 13

Apart from containing decent amounts of zinc, peas are free of cholesterol and extremely low in fat and sodium – and doesn’t that sound like heaven?

One antioxidant peas are particularly rich in is lutein. Our body deposits this antioxidant in the macular region of our retina, which helps filter light properly. This basically means that deficiency of lutein can cause eye ailments like macular degeneration and cataracts. Consuming peas can help prevent this situation.

You can simply add peas to your vegetable salad. Even eating them raw can be a nutritious delight.

17. Cashews

  • Serving size – 28 grams
  • Zinc – 1.6 milligrams
  • DV% – 11

Cashews are also rich in iron and copper that enhance blood circulation – they help the body form red blood cells and utilize them effectively.

These nuts make a great replacement for animal proteins and fats – this is because of the mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids present in cashews, which reduce the build-up of fat and cholesterol inside the heart.

Eating them raw as an evening snack is the simplest way to get your regular dose of zinc and other essential nutrients. Or you can also add cashew butter to your breakfast toast.

18. Garlic

  • Serving size – 136 grams
  • Zinc – 1.6 milligrams
  • DV% – 11

The greatest benefit garlic has is for the heart. This (along with its other benefits) can be attributed to allicin, a compound that exhibits potent biological effects. And despite being highly nutritious, garlic has very few calories. It can improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It can fight the common cold. Its antioxidants also help prevent cognitive decline (11).

More interestingly, garlic can also help detoxify the heavy metals within the body.

Garlic is best consumed raw – when you peel the cloves and eat them. This could be hard for most people, given its pungent flavor. You can also crush the garlic and mix it with honey and spread on your toast – and munch your way to glorious health.

19. Yogurt

  • Serving size – 245 grams
  • Zinc – 1.4 milligrams
  • DV% – 10

Yogurt, in addition to zinc, is also rich in calcium. In fact, one cup of yogurt offers you 49% of your requirement of the mineral. Calcium helps maintain teeth and bone health, and the B vitamins in yogurt (vitamin B12 and riboflavin) protect against certain neural tube birth defects (12).

Yogurt is also rich in protein, the importance of which doesn’t have to be reiterated.

You can have plain yogurt with lunch. Or add a few berries to a bowl of yogurt for a healthy evening snack.

20. Brown Rice (Cooked)

  • Serving size – 195 grams
  • Zinc – 1.2 milligrams
  • DV% – 8

Brown rice is also rich in manganese, which aids nutrient absorption and the production of digestive enzymes. Manganese also strengthens the immune system.

Brown rice is also known to regulate blood sugar levels and aid in diabetes treatment.

You can replace white rice with brown rice in your dishes.

21. Grass-Fed Beef

  • Serving size – 28 grams
  • Zinc – 1.3 milligrams
  • DV% – 8

Compared to other types of beef, the grass-fed variety fares better. It has less total fat and more of the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. This type of beef also has a higher amount of conjugated linoleic acid – which is known to cut the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Grass-fed beef is also rich in vitamin E (13).

You can toss sliced pieces of beef into your vegetable salad.

22. Chicken

  • Serving size – 41 grams
  • Zinc – 0.8 milligrams
  • DV% – 5

Chicken beats most foods when it comes to protein content. And it is also rich in selenium – another important nutrient that is known to combat cancer. The vitamins B6 and B3 it contains enhance metabolism and improve the health of the body’s cells.

You can add cut chicken pieces to your lunch or dinner.

23. Turkey

  • Serving size – 33 grams
  • Zinc – 0.4 milligrams
  • DV% – 3

Turkey is rich in protein, which can increase satiety and keep you full for long periods. This can discourage overeating. Getting enough protein can also keep insulin levels stable after meals.

And just like chicken, the selenium in turkey may help decrease the risk of numerous types of cancer

It’s always best to go for fresh, lean, pasture-raised turkey that is low in sodium. Eating whole turkey can be a good (and tummy-filling) deal.

24. Mushrooms

  • Serving size – 70 grams
  • Zinc – 0.4 milligrams
  • DV% – 2

Mushrooms are one of the rarest sources of germanium, a nutrient that helps your body utilize oxygen effectively. Mushrooms also provide iron and vitamins C and D.

Adding mushrooms to your soup can take it to a whole new level. You can toss a few mushrooms to your vegetable salad. Or even add them to your curry.

25. Spinach

  • Serving size – 30 grams
  • Zinc – 0.2 milligrams
  • DV% – 1

There was a reason Popeye relished this veggie. One of the antioxidants in spinach, called alpha-lipoic acid, lowers glucose levels and prevents oxidative stress – especially in patients with diabetes.

Spinach is also rich in vitamin K, a nutrient required for bone health.

You can add spinach to soups, pastas, and even casseroles. You can also add it to your breakfast sandwich.

That was the list of foods rich in zinc. But wait, how do you know you are getting enough zinc?

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Are You Getting Enough Zinc?

Following are the signs that tell you that you may not be getting enough zinc.

  • Poor immunity. You catch cold regularly and suffer from all kinds of infections.
  • Zinc blocks the release of histamine in the blood. When your body is deficient in zinc, you might suffer from allergy symptoms like rashes, sneezing, runny nose, etc.
  • Sleep disturbance. Zinc plays an important role in the production and regulation of melatonin, the sleep hormone. When you don’t have enough zinc in your system, you can’t sleep properly.
  • Hair loss. When your thyroid levels are low, it simply means your body is not absorbing zinc. And this causes hair loss.
  • Attention disorders. There is a link between low levels of urinary zinc and hyperactivity.
  • Poor skin health. Six percent of your body’s zinc is contained in your skin. Studies suggest that individuals with acne might have low levels of zinc.
  • Slow growth. This can be a common sign in your kids. Our bones need zinc for healthy growth.
  • Infertility or poor pregnancy results. Zinc plays a role in promoting the health of the reproductive system.

And talking about supplements, we advise you to consult your doctor. Zinc supplementation can alleviate your deficiency – but it is best to talk to your doctor or nutritionist first.

Wondering if you might have zinc deficiency? Well…

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Who Is At A Risk Of Zinc Deficiency?

Vegetarians or vegans, frequent dieters, individuals consuming too much of alcohol, or even elderly people. Pregnant women or lactating women, teenagers during puberty, and people with diabetes, celiac disease or recurring diarrhea are also at risk.

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Include these above foods high in zinc in your diet. That’s it.

And wait, tell us how this post has helped you. Do comment in the box below. Help us serve you better. Cheers!

  1. “Mollusks, oyster, Pacific, raw”. United States Department of Agriculture.
  2. “Value addition in sesame”. National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, India.
  3. “The benefits of flaxseed”. United States Department of Agriculture.
  4. “Improvement in HDL cholesterol…”. University of the West Indies, Jamaica.
  5. “The metabolic effects of oats intake…”. Sichuan University, China. 2015 December.
  6. “The Effect of Lutein on Eye and Extra-Eye Health” Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  7. “High Dry Bean Intake and Reduced Risk of Advanced Colorectal Adenoma Recurrence among Participants in the Polyp Prevention Trial” Journal of Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
  8. “Nutritional and health benefits of dried beans”. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  9. “Effect of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle…”. Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom. 2010 July.
  10. “Vitamin E and cognitive decline in older persons”. Rush Institute for Healthy Aging, USA. 2002 July.
  11. “Antioxidant health effects of aged garlic extract”. Tufts University School of Medicine, USA. 2001 March.
  12. “Riboflavin and health”. The University of Sheffield, United Kingdom. 2003 June.
  13. “Grass-fed beef: What are the heart-health benefits”. Mayoclinic.

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Ravi Teja Tadimalla

Ravi Teja Tadimalla is a Senior Content Writer who specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. He graduated from SRM University, Chennai, and has been in the field for well over 4 years now. His work involves extensive research on how one can maintain better health through natural foods and organic supplements. Ravi has written over 250 articles and is also a published author. Reading and theater are his other interests.

Foods that increase zinc level in the body

Zinc is an essential mineral for good health. It is required by the body for over 300 enzyme functions without which the body cannot function. Zinc is a mineral that’s essential for good health. It helps in maintaining the immune system and helps repair the body tissues. Men require a daily intake of 11 mg zinc per day and women need 8 mg daily. Here is a list of foods that increase zinc level in your body.

Some Vegetables
Generally, fruits and vegetables are not a good source of zinc but some exceptional ones do contain a reasonable amount in them. To name a few are kale, potatoes and green beans. Although these vegetables do not provide a very good amount of zinc to the body but eating those vegetables have been surely linked with reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Dairy Foods
Dairy food items like cheese and milk provide a storehouse of nutrients including zinc. This zinc is bioavailable which means it is easily absorbed by the body. These food items are also full of other nutrients that improve bone health and overall body health.
Eggs contain a nominal amount of zinc that helps you fulfil your daily target. Eggs are a rich source of choline too which people rarely get in other food items. A deficiency of choline may lead to fat and cholesterol buildup. It also helps to promote a healthy nervous system.
Whole grains
Wheat , rice, quinoa and oats contain zinc but they also contain phytates which reduce the absorption of zinc. Whole grains are a rich source of fibre, B vitamins, iron, phosphorous, and magnesium that keeps you very healthy. Eating whole grains is associated with a reduced risk of heart diseases and type 2 diabetes.
Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains a decent amount of zinc in it, A 100-gram bar of chocolate contains 3.3 mg of zinc if it is 70 to 80 per cent dark chocolate. Although it contains a sufficient amount of zinc, it also contains high calories so consume it like a treat not like a full-fledged meal you can rely on for your nutritious supply.
Red meat, in particular, is a rich source of zinc. Ample amount of zinc can be found in beef, pork and lamb too. Meat is also a great source of protein, other nutrients like iron, creatine and B vitamin and it has limited fat content. Despite the healthy properties, meat can be dangerous if over consumed as it leads to the risk of heart diseases and cancer.
Legumes like lentils, beans and chickpeas contain substantial amounts of zinc. Legumes are an important source of zinc for vegetarian and vegan people. Heating, soaking or sprouting these can increase the bioavailability of zinc.
Seeds of pumpkin, flax, sesame contain significant amounts of zinc that fulfill up to 33 per cent of daily zinc requirement. These seeds contain healthy vitamins, minerals and fiber that make your diet full of nutrition. These seeds also help in reducing bad cholesterol level and blood pressure.
Nuts are another healthy alternative for fulfiling your zinc requirement. Eating nuts like almonds, peanuts or cashews give you a good dose of zinc and keep you safe from heart diseases, cancer and diabetes. Did you know? People who eat nuts live longer than people who don’t.

Zinc is an essential mineral required for proper functioning of the various organs in the body. It is an essential trace element that benefits the digestive and immune systems, and has been used as an effective natural cold remedy for ages. It can also be used to control of diabetes, reduce stress levels, boost energy and metabolism, and to heal acne and wounds simply by eating zinc-rich fruits daily.

Since zinc is inherently a metal and our body needs it in small amounts. It is important to take zinc in some quantity every day, because our body doesn’t store zinc. So, a daily zinc intake is recommended to perform important bodily functions like hormone production, growth, and repair, as well as to improve immunity and facilitate digestion.

Zinc helps to produce testosterone in men, and its deficiency causes erectile dysfunction—one of the most common sexual problems in men. You can easily receive your daily recommended intake of zinc from eating these zinc-rich fruits.

15 Zinc-Rich Fruits

Fruits with zinc have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that benefit the human body in amazing ways. It helps to prevent free-radical damage of cells, maintains hormonal balance, and decreases the risk of diabetes and impotence in men. Zinc is also known to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne. It also boosts hair health by providing a healthy texture, shine, and vitality. Here are 15 zinc-rich fruits that you can eat for your daily dosage of zinc.

1. Avocados

These “single-seeded berry” fruits are excellent sources of zinc. One cup of cubed avocado offers almost one milligram of zinc. You can add guacamole dip often to your lunch meals for a daily and healthy portion of zinc.

Related: Avocado Juice Benefits

2. Apricots

They also contain a good amount of zinc, especially the dried variety. A cup of fresh apricot has 0.33 milligrams of zinc, while one cup of dried apricots contains almost half a milligram of zinc.

3. Prunes

One of the fruits that rich in zinc are prunes. A one-cup serving of these sweet-tasting, dried plums will provide you with 0.77 milligrams of zinc.

Related: Prune Juice for Constipation

4. Blackberries

A cup of fresh blackberries has .53 milligrams of zinc. You can have this zinc-rich fruit first thing in the morning with your daily bowl of cereal, or with a bowl of fresh yogurt.

5. Raspberries

Another zinc-rich berry variant, raspberries also supply zinc in good amount. They offer .52 milligrams of zinc per a one-cup serving.

6. Raisins

Another one among zinc-rich fruits are raisins. These are dried, seedless grapes and provide .32 milligrams of zinc to your daily value.

7. Dates

A high source of zinc, dates are another variety of dried zinc-rich fruit. Eating just three dates a day will provide .32 milligrams of zinc.

8. Kiwi

Characteristically green in color with an exotic taste, kiwis are loaded with vitamins and minerals. One of the important minerals in kiwi is zinc. One cup of sliced kiwi will give your body about 0.25 milligrams of zinc.

9. Bananas

Widely popular for its health benefits and easy availability, bananas also contain some amount zinc along with potassium. A nine-inch banana will give as much as 0.23 milligrams of zinc.

10. Strawberries

Attractively fragrant and tasty, strawberries also replenish zinc levels in the body. A one-cup serving of strawberries has 0.23 milligrams of zinc to offer.

11. Dried Figs

Belonging to the mulberry family, one cup of dried figs contains 0.82 milligrams of zinc.

12. Tangerine

Juiced or canned, tangerines will provide 0.53 milligrams of zinc for every 100-gram serving.

13. Pomegranate

This brilliantly red-colored fruit contains o.35 milligrams of zinc per 100-gram serving in its raw, unprocessed form.

Related: Benefits of Pomegranate Juice

14. Plantain

A bowl of cooked plantain offers 0.12 milligrams of zinc per 100-gram serving.

15. Cantaloupe

A variety of melon, raw cantaloupe contains 0.18 milligrams of zinc per a serving of 100 grams.

Do Bananas Have Enough Zinc?

Bananas may not be the best zinc-rich fruits out there, but they will contribute some amount of zinc to your diet. The nutritive values of banana include a 2% DV of zinc. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database, a seven-inch banana contains about 0.18 milligrams of zinc, while a nine-inch banana contains a slightly higher amount of the mineral, only 0.23 milligrams.

Studies reveal that average adult males should consume 11 milligrams of zinc per day, while adult females should consume eight milligrams of zinc per day. Additionally, a conceiving mother should aim for at least 11 milligrams per day, and those lactating should consume 12 milligrams of zinc per day. Although bananas can provide you with some zinc, it is not enough to meet the daily requirement. It is prudent to add other food sources of zinc.

The Health Benefits of Zinc

Zinc benefits skin and hair health tremendously. To help treat acne, 40 to 300 milligrams of zinc sulfate should be taken orally two or three times daily, with or without food, for four to 12 weeks. If the dosage is too much for your body, then try taking 30 to 200 milligrams of zinc gluconate prior to a meal daily for two to three months. Skin disorders like leishmaniasis and eczema can be treated orally with 2.5 to 10 milligrams of zinc sulfate per kilogram for 45 days.

Zincomed can be used to curb hair loss and improve its quality. Containing 220 milligrams of zinc sulfate, it could be taken by mouth twice daily for three months. To treat dandruff, use shampoos containing one percent zinc pyrithione (ZPT).

Other Zinc-Rich Foods

Zinc is present in small traces in most foods. Here’s a list of other zinc-rich foods that you can include in your daily meals for a regular supply of zinc.

1. Spinach

This is a good plant source of zinc. A serving of 100 grams of spinach will provide you with 0.53 milligrams of zinc containing 23 calories.

2. Wheat germ

Wheat germ is an excellent source of zinc. A serving of 100 grams of toasted wheat germ can provide you with 17 milligrams of zinc.

3. Pumpkin seeds

Seeds are excellent sources of essential minerals and vitamins. Pumpkin seeds contain 10.3 milligrams of zinc per a serving of 100 grams.

4. Sesame

Another zinc-rich food, sesame seeds contain 10 milligrams of zinc per 100 grams.

5. Mushrooms

Edible mushrooms are highly nutritious as well. In addition to other important minerals, mushrooms contain 1.4 milligrams of zinc per 100 grams.

6. Shellfish

Shellfish are rich in many minerals including zinc. Seafood like lobsters, clams, mussels, and crabs contain a good amount of the zinc mineral, too. A serving of six oysters will give you 76 milligrams of zinc.

7. Nuts

A healthy snack food, nuts are zinc-rich foods. For example, cashew nuts will give you about 5.6 milligrams of zinc per 100-gram serving.

8. Dark chocolate

A piece of dark chocolate daily can improve your zinc level. A serving-size of 100 grams of dark chocolate contains 6.8 milligrams of zinc, about 45% Daily Value (DV).

Zinc is an essential mineral that is required in traces. In some people, zinc ingestion may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, metallic taste, kidney and stomach damage, and other mild side effects. It is recommended to take a 40-milligram daily dosage zinc orally. However, routine zinc supplements shouldn’t be taken without consulting a physician first.


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“Zinc,” Mayo Clinic,, last accessed March 10, 2017

Zinc is necessary for many of the body’s processes and most people are chronically deficient in this vital mineral. It is an active agent in our body’s ability to metabolize food and nutrients. It assists with triggering over 100 differing internal enzymes required for many metabolic actions. Zinc is also crucial for the immune system. It supports growth through its role in protein building and synthesis and is therefore particularly needed by pregnant and lactating women.

It also plays a role in the body’s ability to heal itself after an injury. Zinc supports your sense of smell and is commonly linked to healthy eyes, skin, and hair. We must ensure that we get enough zinc in our diet, potentially from zinc supplements, as the body does not naturally have a zinc storage system.

Foods High in Zinc

Length: 2 minutes

8 Foods High in Zinc

Like most other nutrients, the best way to obtain zinc is through a healthy diet. There are many foods that contain zinc, but the following possess the most naturally-occurring zinc. These foods are a great addition to any diet.

1. Pumpkin seeds

Not only are they extremely high in zinc, pumpkin seeds also play a role in the prevention of prostate cancer. Pumpkin seeds also support immune system health. For maximum zinc-intake, the seeds should be eaten raw, as roasting them can deplete zinc intake.

2. Dark Chocolate

The occasional indulgence in a square of dark chocolate may offer a boost to your zinc levels. One hundred grams of unsweetened dark chocolate has up to 9.6 mg of zinc. Cocoa powder has 6.8 mg.

3. Garlic

This pungent bulb offers moderate levels of naturally occurring zinc and is easy to incorporate into almost any meal. Garlic is also a great food for detox that contains high levels of manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and selenium.

4. Sesame Seeds

Raw, toasted or ground into tahini butter, sesame seeds hold around 10 mg of zinc per 100g serving. Try incorporating more hummus (a tahini-butter-based Middle Eastern dip) into your diet, or even consider replacing wheat flour with sesame seed flour in your baked goods or bread.

5. Watermelon Seeds

It may seem strange, but dried watermelon seeds have 10 mg of zinc per 100g serving.

6. Wheat Germ

An excellent additive to sprinkle on your salad, toasted wheat germ offers 17 mg of zinc per 100g serving. This is over 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance.

7. Squash Seeds

Another popular Middle Eastern seed, squash seeds contain around 10 mg of zinc per 100 g serving. You can remove the seeds directly from the squash and eat them raw, or dry or roast them in your oven. I prefer raw.

8. Chickpeas

A 7-ounce serving contains about 2.8 mg of zinc. They also contain folate and are high in protein and dietary fiber.

Other Sources of Zinc

Aside from the foods listed above, there are other ways to get zinc in your diet. If you don’t eat many of the foods above, I recommend supplementing your diet with zinc.

If you decide to take a supplement, be sure to do your research on the different types of zinc supplements: They are not all created equal.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.


by Jack Norris, RD


  • Summary
  • Dietary Reference Intakes for Zinc
  • Zinc Content of Plant Foods
  • Zinc Deficiency
  • Zinc Absorption and Status of Vegetarians
  • Zinc Supplements


Zinc is not found in large amounts in plant foods, but as far as can be detected, vegetarians have similar zinc status to non-vegetarians (1). Zinc is important for immunity and if you find you’re easily catching colds, a modest zinc supplement of about the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) might solve the problem.

Dietary Reference Intakes for Zinc

See Daily Needs for the zinc DRI.

Zinc Content of Plant Foods

The common plant foods highest in zinc are legumes, nuts, seeds, and oatmeal. The table below shows the zinc content of selected plant foods (2).

Zinc in Plant Foods
Food Preparation Serving mg
Oatmeal cooked 1 cup 2.3
Tofu firm, raw 1/2 cup 2.0
Cashews dry roasted 1/4 cup 1.9
Sunflower seeds roasted 1/4 cup 1.7
Garbanzo beans boiled 1/2 cup 1.3
Lentils boiled 1/2 cup 1.3
Peanuts raw 1/4 cup 1.2
Almonds whole 1/4 cup 1.1
Pecans halves 1/4 cup 1.1
Tempeh raw 1/2 cup 1.0
Kidney beans boiled 1/2 cup 1.0
Peas boiled 1/2 cup 1.0
Chia seeds dried 1 oz 1.0
Walnuts chopped 1/4 cup 0.9
Peanut butter 2 tbsp 0.9
Corn yellow, boiled 1 cup 0.9
Pinto beans boiled 1/2 cup 0.8
Pistachios 1/4 cup 0.7
Miso 1 tbsp 0.4
Broccoli boiled, chopped 1/2 cup 0.4

Zinc Deficiency

Symptoms of zinc deficiency include poor growth and delayed sexual maturation in children, poor wound healing, hair loss, impaired immune function, and dermatitis—especially around body orifices (3).

Zinc Absorption and Status of Vegetarians

Phytates, which are commonly found in plant foods, reduce zinc absorption, and some researchers have suggested that this increases the zinc needs of vegetarians by up to 50% (4).

In contrast, a 2013 meta-analysis showed vegans to have only a slightly lower serum zinc level than non-vegetarians, a difference of 1.17 ± 0.45 µmol/l (1). Average serum zinc levels are from 10 to 15 µmol/l (5), so it’s doubtful that the differences are meaningful (absolute values for serum zinc were not given in the analysis).

Protein increases zinc absorption. Because of this, foods high in protein and zinc, such as legumes and nuts, are good choices (6). The leavening of bread (most bread is leavened) and fermenting of soyfoods (tempeh and miso) also enhances zinc absorption (6).

Zinc Supplements

A modest zinc supplement up to 100% of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) should be safe for those who are concerned or having symptoms of zinc deficiency. See Daily Needs for the DRI and Upper Limit for zinc.

Zinc gluconate and zinc citrate are two forms that are well-absorbed (7). There’s evidence, though weak, that zinc picolinate is also absorbed well (8).

Some people do not absorb zinc oxide (7).

Zinc gluconate may be the best choice due to lower levels of cadmium (9).

Last updated February 2014
1. Foster M, Chu A, Petocz P, Samman S. Effect of vegetarian diets on zinc status: a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies in humans. J Sci Food Agric. 2013 Apr 17.

2. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

3. Groff J, Gropper S. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, 3rd ed. Wadsworth: 2000.

5. Dietary reference intakes: the essential guide to nutrient requirements. National Academy of Sciences. 2006.

6. Messina V, Mangels AR. Considerations in planning vegan diets: children. J Am Diet Assoc. 2001 Jun;101(6):661-9.

7. Wegmüller R, Tay F, Zeder C, Brnic M, Hurrell RF. Zinc absorption by young adults from supplemental zinc citrate is comparable with that from zinc gluconate and higher than from zinc oxide. J Nutr. 2014 Feb;144(2):132-6.

9. Krone CA, Wyse EJ, Ely JT. Cadmium in zinc-containing mineral supplements. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2001 Jul;52(4):379-82.

Also Reviewed

Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Zinc. Office of Dietary Supplements. National Institutes of Health. Accessed 12/15/2010.

Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jun 18;6:CD001364.

Zinc is one of the most important minerals to get in your diet. It’s even harder to get as a vegan than as a non-vegan.

I compiled a list of 120+ vegan whole foods, along with their nutritional info. On this page, you’ll find a list of the top 30 vegan zinc food sources per serving.

But before I get to the foods, there’s a few things you should know about zinc.

How Much Zinc Do You Need, and What Does Zinc Do?

First, how much do you need?

According to the NIH, adult males should get at least 11 mg per day, while females should get 8 mg.

This is easy to do if you eat zinc-rich foods.

Second, why is zinc important?

Zinc is used for many parts of cellular metabolism. It’s needed for:

  • A strong immune system.
  • Protein synthesis
  • Wound healing
  • Cell division.

And more.

If you’re deficient in zinc, you’ll experience a loss of appetite and weak immune system that could lead to sickness. With a severe deficiency, you could experience hair loss, diarrhea, and other issues.

There’s one more important thing before we get to the foods.

Why Zinc is Harder to Get For Vegans

The body has no way of storing zinc, so you need to get it on a regular basis (Source).

Vegans also need more zinc because zinc from plants has a lower bio-availability than from meat (Source).

To make the problem even worse, many vegan sources of zinc contain phytates, which are anti-nutrients that can inhibit the absorption of zinc and other nutrients. To combat that, I highly recommend looking into soaking your beans, which can eliminate a large percentage of phytates.

Overall, aim to get around 50% more of the RDA as a vegan (Source).

Finally, on to the foods!

The Best Vegan Zinc Food Sources (Per Serving)

These are the 30 best whole foods that I could find. It’s a thorough list based on data from the USDA’s food database.

Food Serving Energy (kcal) Zinc (mg)
Pumpkin seeds 1 cup 285 6.59
Oats 1 cup 607 6.19
Sesame seeds 0.5 cup 413 5.58
Rye grain 1 cup 571 4.48
Pine nuts 0.5 cup 454 4.35
Adzuki beans 1 cup 294 4.07
Buckwheat groats 1 cup 567 3.97
Cashew 0.5 cup 393 3.84
Sunflower seeds 1/2 cup 409 3.5
Hemp seeds 3 tbsp 166 2.97
Wheat flour (whole-grain) 100 g 332 2.96
Brazil nut 0.5 cup 438 2.7
Lentils 1 cup 230 2.51
Chickpeas 1 cup 269 2.51
Peanuts 0.5 cup 414 2.39
Pecans 0.5 cup 342 2.24
Amaranth 1 cup 251 2.12
Quinoa 1 cup 222 2.02
Black beans 1 cup 227 1.93
Kidney beans 1 cup 225 1.89
Navy beans 1 cup 255 1.87
Walnut 0.5 cup 383 1.81
Spinach 1 bunch 78 1.8
Peas 1 cup 117 1.8
Swiss chard 10 leafs 91 1.73
Fava bean 1 cup 187 1.72
Cowpeas 1 cup 160 1.7
Mung bean 1 cup 212 1.7
Almonds 1/2 cup 313 1.68
Hazelnut 0.5 cup 424 1.65
Soybeans 1 cup 254 1.64

The top 8 foods are a tier above the rest, although there’s zinc found in a lot of diverse vegan foods.

Seeds are a great source, with pumpkin and sesame seeds ranked at the top.

Grains are also a good source of zinc, with oats, rye grain, and buckwheat all in the top 8. Cereals may contain these grains, and often are fortified with even more zinc.

Finally, legumes and nuts are good sources of zinc as well, although can be calorie-dense.

The Best Vegan Zinc Sources if You’re Watching Your Calories

Just because there aren’t too many vegetables on the top of that list, doesn’t mean that they aren’t a good source of zinc.

When I adjusted the values and sorted by zinc per 100 calories, vegetables rose up the list:

Food Serving Energy (kcal) Zinc (mg) per 100 calories
Bamboo shoot 1 shoot 17 4.0
Rapini 5 stalks 21 3.5
Asparagus 4 spears 13 2.8
Pumpkin seeds 1 cup 285 2.3
Spinach 1 bunch 78 2.3
Swiss chard 10 leafs 91 1.9
Zucchini 1 large 55 1.9
Squash 1 large 52 1.8
Arugula 1 cup 5 1.8
Hemp seeds 3 tbsp 166 1.8
Okra 8 pods 31 1.8
Radish 2 large 3 1.7
Lettuce (red leaf) 0.5 head 20 1.6
Peas 1 cup 117 1.5
Bok choy 1 cup 9 1.4
Adzuki beans 1 cup 294 1.4
Sesame seeds 0.5 cup 413 1.4
Cucumber 0.5 cucumber 23 1.3
Blackberry 1 cup 62 1.2
Broccoli 1 cup 31 1.2
Napa cabbage 1 cup 13 1.2
Lentils 1 cup 230 1.1
Cauliflower 1 cup 27 1.1
Kale 2 cup 15 1.1
Cowpeas 1 cup 160 1.1
Artichoke 1 large 76 1.0
Oats 1 cup 607 1.0
Watercress 10 sprigs 3 1.0
Cashew 0.5 cup 393 1.0
Pine nuts 0.5 cup 454 1.0

Rapini, spinach, and many more vegetables have high amounts of zinc with very few calories. The only issue is that for some of them you have to eat many servings to reach your RDA.

That being said, they should still play a big part in your diet.

The Very Best Plant-Based Sources of Zinc

From the data in the two lists above, we can find the very best overall zinc sources.

Foods that have a high amount of zinc per 100 calories AND per serving.

The easiest way to identify them is with a bubble chart, which you can see below. The most zinc-dense foods should rise to the top-right corner of it. Click it to see the full version.

This is one of the rare cases for nutrients where no foods really show up in the top right corner.

However, some are pretty close. If you’re trying to maximize your zinc intake while limiting calories and servings, try to eat a lot of:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Oats
  • Adzuki beans
  • Hemp seeds

Worried About Not Getting Enough Zinc?

Zinc is important, and although you should be able to easily get it through your diet, it’s possible that you have restrictions that make it difficult.

If you need alternatives, the 2 main ones are:

  • Supplements
  • Fortified foods – Zinc is often added to cereals, non-dairy milks and yogurts, and other packaged products.

I’d caution you not to overdo it, as zinc toxicity is a real thing.


With 1 in 4 Canadian diets low in zinc, zinc deficiency is something that should be on everyone’s radar. Populations that are especially vulnerable to deficiency include vegans, vegetarians, kids, pregnant ladies and breastfeeding moms. I’ve included some top recommendations and tips on how to get enough zinc for vegans and vegetarians and anyone else who thinks they may be at risk.

Healthy Mayo-Free Coleslaw with Crunchy Almonds. Add almonds to your salad to increase the zinc.

The bioavailability of zinc from vegetarian and vegan diets is likely to be less than that of non-vegetarian diets. Plant foods rich in zinc, such as legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, are also high in phytic acid, an inhibitor of zinc bioavailability (1). While vegans and vegetarians are more at risk for zinc deficiency, the wider Canadian population is also at risk, likely related to the depletion of this important mineral from our soils. Read on to find out more on how we can maximize our absorption of this important mineral.

Why Do We Need Zinc?

Zinc and Our Health

Zinc’s role in human health is often underestimated; zinc is needed for numerous aspects of cellular metabolism and is required for the activity of approximately 100 enzymes. Zinc has a strong role in immune function, as well as protein synthesis, wound healing, and DNA synthesis. Its role in allowing our body to use dietary protein as a building block for the regeneration of muscles is also so important.

Zinc In Pregnancy and In Children

Zinc is crucial at times of growth and reproduction and is therefore extremely important for normal growth during pregnancy, childhood and adolescence. Zinc deficiency in pregnancy can be dangerous and has been linked to higher odds of miscarriage, preterm delivery, stillbirth, placental inflammation, neural tube defects, and low birthweight (2). There is also concern that a low zinc status during pregnancy can carry over to the child, and predispose them to long-term health issues.

Zinc Is Important for Growth and Development, Children Playing in Myanmar

What Are The Symptoms Of Zinc Deficiency?

Some symptoms of zinc deficiency include but are not limited to;

  • Acne
  • Loss of taste
  • Poor wound healing
  • Retarded growth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Impaired immune function
  • Diarrhea
  • Delayed sexual maturation
  • Hair loss
  • Impotence and hypogonadism in males

Many of these symptoms are non-specific and often associated with other health conditions – therefore it is important to seek out a medical professional to ascertain whether a zinc deficiency is present.

Measuring Zinc Status

There are currently no reliable and readily available assessment tools for zinc status. Zinc levels in hair, saliva, and blood can be measured, however, all of these methods have limitations and should be used only with a proper nutrition screening. Plasma zinc is relatively insensitive to several weeks of severe dietary zinc restriction and is therefore not a reliable assessment marker.

How Much Zinc Do We Need?

What Is The Recommended Dietary Allowance For Zinc?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is an average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrients requirements of nearly all (97-98%) healthy individuals. Current recommendations are:

  • Adult males – 11mg per day
  • Adult females – 8mg per day
  • Pregnant women – 11mg per day
  • Breastfeeding women – 12mg per day

Do Vegans and Vegetarians Need More Zinc?

To account for the differences in absorption of plant-based zinc sources versus animal-based zinc sources, it is estimated that vegetarian’s zinc requirements are 50% higher than non-vegetarians (3,4). In one study, inadequate zinc status was found in 47% of vegans compared to only 11% of omnivores, despite the two groups consuming similar concentrations of zinc in their diets (5). The differences in absorption were attributed to phytic acid which can bind to zinc, decreasing its absorption by the body.

Assessment of the long-term effects of vegetarian diets will continue to be difficult because there are no generally accepted, sensitive clinical criteria for marginal zinc status (4).

Who Else Would Have A Higher Zinc Requirement?

Those with a condition that affects the absorption of nutrients in the gut may have a higher zinc requirement. This can include those with celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or an inflammatory bowel disease including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

The BEST Lentil Salad Recipe with Mustard Vinaigrette

What Foods Are High In Zinc?

Foods Highest In Zinc

The best and most available sources of zinc are meat and seafood. Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food.

How To Get Enough Zinc As A Vegetarian

Vegetarian sources such as beans, nuts, whole-grains, dairy products and eggs are also a good source of zinc. Phytates which are present in whole grains, breads, legumes and nuts inhibit the absorption of zinc by binding to the mineral and increasing excretion from the body. See below for more information on decreasing phytates in food, and my post How To & Health Benefits Of Sprouting Foods for more information on sprouting.

How To Get Enough Zinc As A Vegan

Taking care of the preparation of legumes, whole-grains nuts and seeds are even more important on a vegan diet as all of these zinc sources also contain phytates. Sprouting and soaking help to break down phytate, allowing our bodies increased access to the zinc. See below for more information on maximizing absorption of zinc.

Vegetarian Zinc Food List

Here is a list of some foods containing the highest density of Zinc per 100 calories.

*animal foods for comparison

The How-To And Health Benefits of Sprouting. Click photo for link to post.

Sprouting, Fermenting and Soaking To Increase Zinc

Sprouting Foods To Increase Zinc

Sprouting zinc-rich plant-based foods including lentils and mung beans greatly enhances the ability of our bodies to absorb zinc from these foods. Sprouting breaks down the phytates in these foods, making the zinc more bioavailable.

Fermenting Foods To Increase Zinc

Fermenting zinc-rich foods can help our bodies better access to zinc, and other minerals. The lactic acid formed when making sourdough is thought to aid with mineral absorption from properly fermented bread. Fermentation of soy products, such as with tempeh, also increases the bioavailability of zinc by breaking down the phytic acid.

Soaking Foods To Increase Zinc

Soaking nuts, seeds, and whole grains also help to break down the phytates, which allows our bodies to access the zinc more efficiently Soaking times vary depending on the food. My practices include:

  • Soak seeds, softer nuts, and lentils for a minimum of 4 hours (sunflower seeds, pepitas, red and green lentils, cashews)
  • Soak harder nuts for a minimum of 8 hours (almonds, hazelnuts)
  • Soak larger dry legumes and beans for a minimum of 24 hours (kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas)

How To Get Enough Zinc for Vegans and Vegetarians

If you follow a plant-based diet you may have an increased requirement for zinc due to the lesser bioavailability of zinc from plant-based foods. There are some simple steps you can take to ensure that you are getting the maximum amount of zinc from your diet for optimum health;

  • Sprout your lentils and mung beans and add to salads, wraps and sandwiches. See How To & Health Benefits Of Sprouting Foods for more information on sprouting,
  • Soak your nuts and whole grains before snacking on them or adding to baking,
  • Experiment with fermentation – the lactic acid formed when making sourdough aids with mineral absorption. Fermentation of soy products also increase the bioavailability of zinc such as in tempeh,
  • Expand your food horizons with yummy high zinc choices such as tahini, pumpkin seeds and mixed legumes,
  • Snack on a trail mix (nuts, seeds, and dried fruit) when you are at work or studying,
  • If you don’t think you are getting enough zinc, look for zinc fortified foods or talk to your health professional about supplementation.

References for How To Get Enough Zinc for Vegans and Vegetarians

  1. Maternal zinc deficiency during pregnancy elevates the risk of fetal growth restriction: a population-based birth cohort study. Scientific reports. 2015.
  2. Bioavailability of iron, zinc, and other trace minerals from vegetarian diets. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003.
  3. Dietary reference intakes for vitamin A, vitamin K, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. 2001.

Other References

Website: National Institute of Health
Book: Becoming Vegan – Brenda Davis, RD
Book: Becoming Raw – Brenda Davis, RD
Resource: Practiced-Based Evidence in Nutrition (PENN)

Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.

Active people don’t want to think about injury, but anyone who participates in sports knows that muscle pulls, sprains, broken bones, stress fractures or orthopedic surgery may sideline you for a while. What you eat after injury can help you recover from surgery, heal wounds and strengthen bones and muscles to get you back on your feet and back to an active lifestyle.

When injury strikes and you have to limit your physical activity, there is no need for the post-workout protein shakes or energy bars to fuel your workout. Instead, eat nutrient-rich foods three to four times a day to provide the needed vitamins and minerals without extra calories from pre- or post-workout snacks.


Focusing on high-quality protein foods aids wound healing and keeps your immune system strong. If you’ve had orthopedic surgery, it is normal for your appetite to be depressed. Try eating a small amount of protein at each snack and meal. Eggs, low-fat cheese or cottage cheese, yogurt and plain baked chicken all provide quality protein and are usually well-tolerated in the early days after injury or surgery. Vegetarians can get high-quality protein from soy-based foods. Almond milk is popular, but it is low in protein compared to cow or soy milk. Protein is not just for muscle building; it is a key nutrient in bone building. So, if you have a fracture, make sure to include protein with every meal and snack.

Vitamin C and Zinc

While all nutrients are important in healing, vitamin C and zinc are superstars for their roles in healing. Vitamin C is needed to make a protein called collagen and is needed for repairing tendons, ligaments and healing surgical wounds. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C; however, don’t overlook other sources of vitamin C, such as strawberries, kiwi fruit, baked potatoes, broccoli and bell peppers. Zinc is a mineral found mostly in animal foods — meat, fish, poultry and dairy foods — but it also is present in whole-grain breads and cereals, dried beans and peas (legumes) and nuts and seeds. It is better to get zinc from foods than supplements, especially because high-dose zinc supplements can cause nausea and vomiting.

Vitamin D and Calcium

Calcium and vitamin D are nutrients associated with healthy bones. So, if you have a stress fracture, make sure to get plenty of these two nutrients to strengthen your bones. Milk and fortified soy milk are good choices. Yogurt, also a good source of calcium, is not always fortified with vitamin D so check the nutrition label of your favorite yogurt to make sure you are getting vitamin D.


It may sound odd to mention fiber with healing foods, but pain medications commonly prescribed after injury or surgery can cause constipation. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds contain fiber. Prunes or prune juice (along with drinking plenty of water) have a natural laxative effect that can alleviate constipation while on pain medications.

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