foods with high zinc vegan
Medically reviewed by Sara Osman,RD,PT

Introduction

Zinc is an important trace mineral involved in cellular metabolism[1].

It is present in all body tissues and fluids and necessary for almost 100 enzymes to carry out vital chemical reactions[3,4].

Zinc facilitates several enzymatic processes related to the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates, and fats[2].

  • Zinc is absorbed by the small intestine during digestion [2].
  • Zinc when consumed in liquid form on an empty stomach has a high absorption rate of around 60-70% whereas absorption from solid diets is less efficient and varies depending on zinc content and diet composition [3].
  • Small amounts of zinc are more efficiently absorbed by the body than large amounts [2].
  • Also, the bioavailability of zinc from plant sources is lower than that from animal foods, as phytates present in plant sources inhibits its absorption [1]
  • More than 85% of zinc is stored in skeletal muscle and bone[2].
  • The total body zinc content is estimated to be 2-3 g [3].
  • The body has no specialised long term zinc storage system and hence daily intake of zinc is needed to maintain steady levels[1].
  • Zinc is primarily excreted through faeces and losses may range from less than 1 mg/day with a zinc-poor diet to greater than 5 mg/day with a zinc-rich diet [2].
  • Less than 10% of the excretion happens through urine [2]. Starvation and muscle catabolism increase zinc losses in urine[3].
  • Also, rigorous exercise and high temperatures can lead to high losses through perspiration[3].

Body Functions

Recommended Daily Intake

how much zinc is recommended daily
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Deficiency Symptoms

Zinc Food Sources

foods high in zinc vegan
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Excessive Intake/ Toxicity Side Effects

Groups At Risk of Zinc Deficiency

Zinc Interaction With Other Nutrients

  • IronHigh supplementary iron intakes might decrease zinc absorption if both are taken without food. It is therefore advised to take iron and zinc supplements with food [1,2]. However, iron-fortified foods are not known to significantly affect zinc absorption [1].
  • CopperIncreased zinc intake can reduce copper absorption. Doses of 60 mg/day (50 mg from supplements and 10 mg from food) for 10 weeks or more have shown this effect [2].
  • Phosphorus Certain dietary sources of phosphorus, including phytate and phosphorus-rich proteins, such as milk casein may reduce zinc absorption [2].
  • Calcium – High dietary calcium phosphate supplementation (1360 mg calcium/day) may decrease zinc absorption but there is no definitive evidence yet [2,3].
  • Phytic acid – Foods that are rich in phytic acid, found in plant-based foods including grains and legumes, can bind to zinc and inhibit its absorbtion[2].
  • Folate – Low zinc intake may decrease folate absorption. However, other studies have found that low zinc intake did not affect folate nutriture and that folate supplementation does not adversely affect zinc status so researchers are still working on this point [2].

Nutrient Profiles For Food Groups

Fruits ( i )

Raw or frozen – 0.15 mg
Canned – 0.13 mg
Dried 0.16 mg
Juice – 0.16 mg

Legumes ( i )

Flour – 3.57 mg
Dry – 3.37 mg
Raw- 2.19 mg
Cooked – 1.14 mg
Canned – 0.80 mg

Nuts & Seeds ( i )

Nuts – 2.22 mg
Seeds – 3.50 mg

Veggies ( i )

Dried – 1.01 mg
Raw or frozen – 0.53 mg
Cooked – 0.60 mg
Canned – 0.53 mg

Cereal grains & Flour ( i )

Flour – 1.88 mg
Raw grains – 2.51 mg
Cooked – 0.76 mg

Oils ( i )

Cooking oil – 0 mg
Other edible oils – 0 mg

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Medically reviewed by Sara Osman,RD,PT

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