Need More Zinc? Foods To Enrich Your Diet

A diet low in zinc is important to address quickly in order to avoid the symptoms associated with an unhealthy zinc deficiency. Enriching your diet with zinc foods is a simple way to get your body’s zinc content back on track. If you are suffering from a zinc deficiency, there are many foods that increase your zinc intake without having to take supplements.  It is also important to pay attention to your niacin intake if you are feeling vitamin deficient, as a proper amount of niacin helps with your energy level, digestion, and circulation.

Zinc Deficiency

If you think you are suffering from a severe zinc deficiency, you should seek medical attention immediately. This is crucial because many of the symptoms can be associated with other illnesses so they are difficult to diagnose. Some signs that your case is severe are:

  • diarrhea
  • taste abnormalities
  • hair loss
  • lesions on the skin and eye
  • impotence

Less severe symptoms you may notice if you have a minor zinc deficiency are:

  • fatigue
  • white spots or bands under the finger nails
  • rough skin patches
  • longer healing time for minor cuts and scrapes
  • low immunity to colds

Zinc Requirements

Incorporating zinc rich foods into your diet is a low maintenance way to rejuvenate your body’s zinc content without having to remember to take supplements and time your doses between meals. Adult females need an average of 8 mg of zinc per day (this number varies with pregnancy and lactation) and adult males need an average of 11 mg of zinc per day. Certain foods rich in zinc have extremely high concentrations so it is important to avoid eating those foods daily for extended periods of time. Some foods rich in zinc are:


Oysters are, hands down, one of the best sources of zinc available for consumption. 6 normal sized oysters contain approximately 77 mg of zinc.
Yes, eating 6 oysters means you are consuming an excess of your daily recommended zinc requirement, but your body absorbs the amount of zinc it needs and it can store a surplus (up to a certain point) without dangerous side effects. Remember, there will be other days that you do not eat enough zinc, so oyster days make up for those days. If you consume more than 60 mg of zinc every single day for 3 months, you are in danger of experiencing unhealthy symptoms associated with zinc toxicity.   Beef, Pork, Dark Meat Chicken

Beef, pork, and even dark meat chicken have a higher zinc concentration than fish.

  • 3 oz serving of beef contains approximately 9 mg of zinc
  • 3 oz serving of pork contains approximately 4 mg of zinc
  • 1 chicken leg contains approximately 2.8 mg of zinc
  • 3 oz serving of lean fish contains approximately 0.5 mg of zinc

Proteins like red and white meats are how most people in the US unknowingly get their daily recommended zinc requirement. These proteins are also a good source of niacin, although niacin deficiency is rare in the US due to its high content in many common American foods such as peanut butter, chicken, turkey, and niacin enriched whole grains (found in breakfast cereal).

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are a delicious, vegetarian snack rich in zinc. A single 1 oz serving of pumpkin seeds contains approximately 2 mg of zinc. You can toast your own pumpkin seeds at home (and burn some calories carving a pumpkin while you’re at it!) and salt and season the seeds to your liking, or you can buy ready to eat pumpkin seeds at your local health food store. Remember, if you are not a vegetarian, your body absorbs more zinc from animal based food than plant based food due to the phytates found in grains and oats.   Fortified Breakfast Cereal

When whole grains are processed into cereal and bread, they are stripped of their natural nutrients and then fortified with essential vitamins and minerals by the manufacturers. 3/4 cup of breakfast cereal, enriched with 25% of zinc’s recommended daily value, contains approximately 4 mg of zinc. Breakfast cereals are also fortified with niacin, which helps to lower cholesterol and promote healthy skin. Since the highest levels of niacin are found in grain based food products, and a high grain diet can decrease your body’s zinc absorption, it is important to pay attention to your zinc intake versus your niacin intake. Make certain days more zinc rich and other days more niacin rich, so they do not interfere with one another.


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