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Top 35 Vegan Foods Rich in Zinc

May 19, 2022
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Meat, seafood, and dairy are good sources of zinc, but when you’re on a vegan or vegetarian diet, foods like that won’t work for you. Why should you care about zinc though?

It helps your body create DNA, supports your immune system and digestion, heals wounds, and aids in your body’s overall growth and development. Not getting enough can lead to zinc deficiency, which around 12% of the United States population is at risk for.

Fortunately, there are plenty of vegan foods rich in zinc out there to fit any plant-based lifestyle.

What Is Zinc Exactly?

Zinc is an essential nutrient (or trace mineral), meaning your body can’t produce it on its own. That means you’ll have to get it through your diet, which you can do with either whole foods or supplements.

In addition to creating DNA and helping your body maintain a healthy immune system, zinc is especially important during pregnancy and early childhood development.

Research suggests that zinc may even help with acne. Face breakouts have been linked to lower levels of zinc and studies show that zinc supplements may reduce symptoms by decreasing inflammation and stopping P. acnes bacteria from spreading.

When you don’t get enough zinc, it can lead to zinc deficiency, which includes symptoms like hair loss, sexual dysfunction, feelings of fatigue, and problems with your taste or smell senses.

How Much Zinc Do You Need?

According to the NIH, males should consume at least 11 mg of zinc per day, while females need at least 8 mg. Pregnant women should aim for 11 mg, and the needs for breastfeeding women jump up to 12 mg per day.

Here’s the full chart below, courtesy of the NIH:

Helping Your Body Absorb Zinc

A lot of vegan foods rich in zinc have phytates in them, which is a compound that obstructs zinc and other nutrients from being absorbed in the body.

Here are 4 of the best methods for counteracting phytic acid and helping your body absorb more zinc:

  • Fermentation: Fermented foods include bread, tempeh, and sauerkraut. One animal study found that a fermented diet increased zinc absorption by 240%.
  • Soaking: You can soak beans, nuts, or grains prior to cooking, and it’s the first step you take prior to sprouting (which we’ll talk about below). Just make sure to rinse off your foods before you actually get started cooking your meal.
  • Sprouting: Sprouting takes soaking to another level. Also referred to as germination, it’s when you repeat the process of soaking, draining, and rinsing your food over many days. With sprouting, you want the food to germinate (or sprout) like you would with vegetables and fruits in your garden.
  • Leavening: Think of the yeast you use for bread to make it rise. That’s leavening. Make sure you’re going with whole grain products to ensure there’s sufficient zinc in the food to actually be absorbed.

Another thing that’s been shown to aid in zinc absorption is consuming protein. A lot of vegan foods rich in zinc are also high in protein but certain vegetarian foods may present some problems. For example, casein, which can be found in dairy products like yogurt or milk, can impair zinc absorption.

35 Vegan Foods Rich in Zinc

Vegan foods rich in zinc include fortified cereals (cereals that have added minerals and nutrients), legumes (such as chickpeas), tofu, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. As a side note, a lot of vegan foods that are high in zinc are also good sources of calcium.

Here’s a list of the best plant-based foods to fit your zinc needs:

Food Serving Size Calories Per Serving Zinc Per Serving (m/g)
Oats 1 cup 607 6.2 mg (56% DV)
Oatmeal 1 cup 166 2.3 mg (23% DV)
Adzuki Beans 1 cup 294 4.1 mg (37% DV)
Lentils 1 cup 230 2.5 mg (23% DV)
Black Beans 1 cup 227 1.90 mg (18% DV)
Lima Beans 1 cup 209 1.3 mg (12% DV)
Kidney Beans 1 cup 225 1.8 mg (16%) DV
Pinto Beans 1 cup 245 1.7 mg (15% DV)
Chickpeas 1 cup 280 2.4 mg (22% DV)
Tofu 1 cup 363 4.0 mg (36% DV)
Tempeh 1 cup 319 1.9 mg (17% DV)
Edamame 1 cup 188 2.1 mg (19% DV)
Buckwheat 1 cup 583 4.1 mg (37 DV)
Whole Wheat Pasta 1 cup 174 1.6 mg (14 DV)
Whole Wheat Bread 2 slices 161 1.1 mg (10% DV)
Wheat Germ 1 oz 108 4.7 mg (43% DV)
Wild Rice 1 cup 166 2.2 mg (20% DV)
Brown Rice 1 cup 218 1.2 mg (11% DV)
Quinoa 1 cup 222 2 mg (18% DV)
Pumpkin Seeds 1 oz 150 2.7 mg (24% DV)
Sesame Seeds 1 oz 160 2.0 mg (18% DV)
Hemp Seeds 1 oz 157 2.8 mg (26%)
Chia Seeds 1 oz 138 1.3 (12% DV)
Flax Seeds 1 oz 152 1.2 mg (11% DV)
Sunflower Seeds 1 oz 164 1.4 mg (13% DV)
Cashews 1 oz 157 1.6 mg (15% DV)
Pecans 1 oz 196 1.3 mg (12 % DV)
Pine Nuts 1 oz 179 1.2 mg (11% DV)
Almonds 1 oz 164 0.9 mg (8% DV)
Walnuts 1 oz 186 0.9 mg (8% DV)
Green Peas 1 cup 134 1.9 mg (17% DV)
Shiitake Mushrooms 1 cup 81 1.9 mg (18% DV)
White Mushrooms 1 cup 44 1.4 mg (12% DV)
Avocados 1 whole avocado 322 1.3 mg (12% DV)
Miso Paste 1 cup 372 2.8 mg (25% DV)

Summary on Zinc

Zinc is an essential nutrient that plays a pivotal role in helping your body grow and keeping it healthy. It’s good for your immune system and supports digestion. Not only that, but zinc has wound-healing capabilities and helps your body produce DNA.

To ensure you’re getting enough zinc as a vegan or vegetarian, plant-based foods like legumes, nuts, seeds, oats, whole grains, and tofu are all great options. Keep in mind that a lot of vegan foods rich in zinc contain phytates, which can negatively impact your body’s ability to absorb zinc. Employ the use of fermenting, soaking, sprouting, or leavening to neutralize the phytic acid and help your body better absorb the zinc you consume.

Now that you know all about zinc, be sure to check out our blog post on the benefits of iron. It's the most abundant trace mineral in our bodies, even ahead of zinc and selenium.

About the Author:

Chad Richardson is a freelance writer from Cincinnati, OH. When he’s not behind his computer, you can find Chad at the gym doing his best Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation, or out at a game rooting on his hometown teams.

Read more about Chad on his business website.

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