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Top 18 Zinc-Rich Foods For Vegetarians

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

After the recent re-surge of COVID-19 cases, people are again getting conscious about their diet. Their attention is diverting towards increasing immunity naturally. It is good to keep yourself healthy by boosting your immunity, but in this fight, vitamin C is not alone. Zinc also plays an essential role to enhance your immunity and keep you healthy. 

Zinc is a trace mineral that plays an essential role in many body functions. It is present in strong muscles of the body, skin, pancreas, liver, and kidney. The requirement of zinc is essential for healthy immunity because of its involvement with the T cells (a major component in your immune system). It is also vital for over 300 enzymes in the body, and plays a role in protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and is necessary for a proper sense of taste and smell. 

Though zinc requirement is minimal, it is essential for the normal development of the body. Zinc deficiency is common because your body doesn’t store it, so you need to get enough zinc from your daily diet. Low levels of zinc may cause diarrhoea, stunted growth, hair fall, eye, and skin lesions, loss of libido, and suppressed immunity. 

Recommended daily dose of zinc –

Only a small amount of zinc is needed to maintain good health. According to NIH, the recommended daily allowance of zinc is 8 mg for women and 11 mg for men. For pregnant women, the recommended daily intake of zinc is 11 mg, and for breastfeeding women, it is 12 mg. 

I may suggest a fantastic option for all the veggie lovers out there who want to ensure they’re getting enough zinc: raw green peas! These vibrant little green gems might not only be delicious but are also packed with this essential mineral. In fact, 100 g of raw green peas may provide you with approximately 1.24 mg of zinc.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Did you know?

  • Zinc deficiency affects at least 8.6% of males and 8.2% of females in the United States. source: CDC
  • Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food. source: NIH
  • Meat, fish, and seafood are rich sources of zinc. source: NIH
  • Zinc absorption from plant-based foods is lower due to the presence of phytates. source: NIH
  • Zinc deficiency can impair growth and lead to loss of appetite in infants and children. source: CDC

Best zinc-rich foods for vegetarians 

Animal foods are considered to be the best sources of zinc. Since there are only a few plant-based sources of zinc available, vegetarians are more likely to fall short on this mineral. However, there are some best plant-based sources of zinc available for vegetarians –

1: Chickpeas 

Indian people commonly use chickpeas in their meals. If you want to fill your zinc requirement without eating meat, then chickpeas are the best option. A cup of cooked chickpeas are high in fibres and proteins and contains 2.5 mg of zinc. You can use chickpeas in curries, salads, or snacks. 

2: Lentils 

Lentils are the best source of zinc. They are also low in fat, calories and contain essential nutrients like proteins and fibres. A cup of lentils contains almost 4.7 mg of zinc. Use them in regular meals in the form of curries. 

3: Pumpkin seeds

I would recommend boiled lima beans if you’re looking to boost your zinc intake. These mighty legumes might not only provide a burst of flavour but may also offer a valuable source of this essential mineral. They boast an impressive 1mg of zinc per 100 g of boiled lima beans!

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Pumpkin seeds are super versatile and easy to add to countless meals. A handful of pumpkin seeds contain 2.2 mg of zinc and 8.5 mg of plant-based proteins, too. Research suggests that eating a diet rich in pumpkin seeds could prevent the risk of cancer. 

4: Watermelon seeds 

While having fresh watermelon juice, don’t throw its seeds. Believe it or not, watermelon seeds are highly nutritious, containing zinc and other micronutrients. A handful of watermelon seeds contain 4 mg of zinc. You can dry them and eat them as a daily snack. These seeds enhance immunity and keep your heart healthy. 

5: Hemp seeds 

Based on my experience, if you’re on the lookout for a zinc-rich food, look no further than chia seeds. These tiny seeds might not only be versatile but also packed with nutrients, including zinc. Just 100 g of chia seeds may contain 4.58 mg of zinc, making them an excellent option for all the veg folks out there.

Dr. Smita Barode, B.A.M.S, M.S.

Hemp seeds are loaded with unsaturated fats and zinc. Three-tablespoon hemp seed contains 3 mg of zinc. Hemp seeds are also rich in amino acids arginine, which helps to reduce the risk of heart diseases. Try sprinkling them on yoghurt or salads. 

6: Beans 

Beans are another excellent source of zinc, especially kidney and black beans. These beans are also high in soluble and insoluble fibres, proteins, iron, phosphorus, and calcium that support overall health. A cup of cooked black beans contains 2 mg of zinc, and a half cup of cooked kidney beans contains 0.9 mg of zinc. 

7: Oatmeal 

Oats are the classic breakfast because it is a nutrient-dense food item. Oatmeal is loaded with zinc, fibres, folate, vitamin B6 and beta-glucan. About half a cup of oats contains 1.3 mg of zinc. Oats also regulate cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy. 

8: Cashew 

Cashews are one of the delicious options to get natural, plant-based zinc. Whether you eat them raw or roasted, you will get about 1.5 mg of zinc. They are rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, copper, folate, and healthy unsaturated fat. Eating cashews can reduce the risk of getting heart diseases and promote healthy cholesterol. 

I may have a great recommendation for all the vegetarians. Did you know that pecans might be an awesome choice to get your zinc fix? These tasty nuts might not only make a delightful snack but may also pack a punch when it comes to getting your zinc dosage. Only 100 g of pecans may contain a whopping 4.53 mg of zinc!

Dr. Anuja Bodhare, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

9: Curd 

A low-fat curd or yoghurt gives us good bacteria for a healthy gut and also provides enough amount of zinc. A cup of curd or yoghurt contains 1.5 mg of zinc. It is best for digestion and for boosting your immunity. 

Also Read: Zinc Rich Fruits: A Comprehensive Nutritional Guide

10: Dark chocolate 

Dark chocolate is loaded with zinc. A hundred grams of dark chocolate contains 3.3 mg of zinc. But dark chocolate is also rich in calories and sugar, therefore do not rely on dark chocolate only. 

I may advise incorporating flax seeds in your diet if you’re looking to up your zinc game. These tiny wonders are not only packed with goodness but also happen to be a fantastic source of zinc. With a generous 4.34 mg of zinc per 100 g, they may be an excellent choice to fulfil your nutritional requirements.

Dr. Ashok Pal, BAMS

11: Tofu

Tofu is a popular vegetarian as well as vegan food option that offers a good amount of zinc per serving. About 100 grams of a firm and freshly made tofu can contain up to 2 mg of zinc. Moreover, tofu can be used for several different kinds of recipes, making it a versatile source of zinc.

Also Read: Are Oysters Good For You? A Research-Based Nutrition Guide

12: Tempeh

It is similar but not exactly the same as tofu. It is prepared by fermenting half-cooked soybeans in a rhizopus mould. There is about 1.14 mg of zinc in 175 grams of tempeh, making it a reasonably satisfying vegetarian source of zinc.

13: Brown Rice

Any type of unprocessed rice, be it brown, red or black is a good source of zinc for vegetarians. This type of rice is also known as wild rice and it provides 1 mg of zinc in every 100 grams.

14: Spinach

This list is incomplete without this green leafy vegetable that is often considered the best source of vitamins and minerals for vegetarians. It provides up to 7 mg of zinc in every 200 calories of serving, making it one of the healthiest foods on this list.

15: Mushrooms

Last but not least, button mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms are also high sources of zinc. In a 100 calorie serving of white button mushrooms, there is about 8 mg of zinc. In a similar 200 calorie serving of shiitake mushroom, there is 5 mg of zinc. Along with an attractive umami flavour, these mushrooms can also be considered a great vegetarian source of zinc.

16. Whole Wheat

The wheat germ is the top part of the wheat grain, it is one of the most mineral-rich parts of the seed. Typically, during the production of wheat flour or white flour, the germ is removed. Look for whole wheat flour, and use it in your regular cooking. Apart from having a good amount of zinc, it also contains numerous vitamins, minerals and ample fibre making it a healthy food choice. 

17. Moong 

Moong is a type of bean also called moong dal and consumed widely across India. It can be eaten raw, boiled, sprouted or whole. Moong has a zinc content of about 2.6mg per 100g. This makes it an excellent source of zinc, a daily serving can provide up to 24% of your daily requirement. Sprouted moong is the healthier option, it contains fewer amounts of antinutrients, these antinutrients can reduce your intake of minerals like zinc. 

18. Almonds

Almonds are not just excellent sources of energy, they’re also jam-packed with nutrients. Almonds are great sources of zinc, protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and fibre. A handful of almonds can be a healthy, energy-rich snack as well as an easy way to boost your zinc levels. Almonds can also be added to a variety of dishes, from desserts to Mughlai cuisine.

Zinc is an essential mineral, present in many natural sources such as meat, seafood, beans, legumes, seeds, and nuts. If you are vegetarian or vegan, then you need to increase your intake by eating plant-based sources like cereals. These foods are easy to available and delicious in addition to your diet. 

Read more about: 4 Healthy Eating Tips For Women

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