Zinc is an essential trace mineral that is needed for health.
Over 300 of the body’s enzymes require zinc to function and carry out reactions.
Zinc is not readily stored in the body, so the diet must supply adequate levels of this mineral.
There are also certain populations who are more at risk for zinc deficiencies.
Without enough zinc in your diet, the body cannot grow, develop or function.
Check out our list of top 10 Paleo foods that are rich in zinc. Be sure to give our zinc recipes a try, as well.
What is zinc?
Zinc is a trace mineral. Trace minerals, or microminerals, are ones that we need less than 100 mg of every day.
In contrast to other minerals like iron, zinc does not have any specific storage sites in the body. There is only a small, exchangeable amount of zinc found in the bone, liver and blood. If this minimal zinc pool is not replaced, then a zinc deficiency can result.
Zinc is needed to assist in enzymatic reactions, regulate genes, boost immunity, and aid in growth and sexual maturation. Additionally, zinc also supports antioxidant function, which protects the body from harmful invaders and lowers chronic disease risk.
Meat, fish and poultry are the best dietary sources of zinc because they are the most absorbable forms. Phytates found in vegetables, fruits or grains actually inhibit the absorption of zinc rendering them as insufficient sources.
What are the health benefits of zinc?
- Boosts immune function
- Fights off illness and infection
- Needed for wound healing
- Lowers inflammation
- Helps with normal growth and development
- Increases antioxidant function
Why is it good for the heart?
- Zinc is an antioxidant that helps to fight off oxidative stress and inflammation
- Zinc is needed to support healthy cardiac cells1
- Adequate intracellular zinc is needed for normal nitric oxide levels and blood pressure regulation2
- It has also been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides3
- Increased intracellular levels of zinc are protective and are associated with a decreased risk of cellular damage following heart attack or ischemia1
How much zinc do we need?
The RDA’s for adults is 8 mg of zinc for females and 11 mg of zinc for males per day.
Who is most at risk for low zinc levels?
Pregnancy and lactation status increases zinc needs. Infants, children and adolescents are also at risk for zinc deficiency and thus need more.
Additionally, zinc absorption can be inhibited by non-heme iron food sources (i.e. plant based iron).
Signs of low zinc levels include increased illness and infection, hair loss, skin lesions, growth retardation.
Should I supplement?
If you don’t get enough zinc in your diet due to a lack of meat/ shellfish consumption or are pregnant or lactating, you may need to supplement.
Try our Zinc supplement for immediate support. 1 capsule provides a bioavailable 25 mg serving of zinc.
Another great option would be to try our Multi Vitamin with exceptional amounts of zinc and other nutrients for health. 4 capsules of our multi provide 25 mg zinc!
What are the 10 best foods that contain zinc?
Zinc tends to be highest in meat and shellfish. It’s not predominant in fruit or vegetable sources.
- Oysters – 3 oz. serving 74 mg zincShellfish like oysters are a nutritious, low-calorie, zinc food source. Oysters have one of the highest amounts of zinc you will find in food. They also deliver a lot of other nutrients like vitamins C and B12, selenium, iron and protein.
Try it: Paleo Oyster Chowder
- Grass-fed beef chuck roast- 3 oz. serving 7 mg zincGrass-fed beef is another great source of zinc. Red meat is one of the best sources of zinc. Grass-fed beef also contains protein, B vitamins, healthy fats and other essential minerals like iron.
Try it: Beef Roast and Veggies
- Grass-fed lamb – 3 oz. 6.7 mgLamb is another great meat source of zinc. It is also a good source of high-quality protein, essential B vitamins (like B12) and minerals like iron and phosphorous.
Try it: Paleo Gyros
- Grass-fed ground beef – 5 oz. serving 4.8 mgGrass-fed beef has many nutritional benefits. It is a rich source of zinc. It also contains the essential vitamin B12, which is needed to keep the nerves and blood cells healthy. Beef is a complete protein source with all nine of the essential amino acids needed for health. Grass-fed organ meat is also another great source of zinc.
Try it: Ground Beef Zucchini Sweet Potato Skillet
- Shrimp – 12 large shrimp serving 3.2 mg zincAnother good shellfish option is shrimp. These contain a relatively good amount of zinc per serving. Another benefit is they contain essential omega 3 fatty acids and heart-healthy pigments.
Try it: Shrimp Scampi with Zucchini Noodles
- Grass-fed pork chop – 3 oz. serving 2.9 mgPork is the other white meat that is rich in zinc. It is also low in fat and high in protein making it a good protein source for weight management. Pork also contains healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and choline.
Try it: Pork Chops with Herbed Butter
- Pumpkin seeds – 1 oz. serving 2.9 mgSeeds are a great nutritional addition to any meal and also make great snacks. They contain adequate amounts of fiber, protein, healthy fats and antioxidants like vitamin E. Pumpkin seeds contain a relatively good amount of zinc, as well. Try sprinkling on salads and soups!
Try it: Acorn Squash Salad with Pumpkin Seed Chili Dressing
- Pasture-raised eggs – 2 egg serving 2.8 mgEggs are a good food staple to add in every day to meet your zinc needs. They are also rich in protein, essential B vitamins, choline and selenium, which are all needed for health. Have a few eggs for breakfast or enjoy hardboiled eggs as your midday snack.
Try it: Scrambled Eggs Masala
- Grass-fed dark meat chicken- 3 oz. serving 2.4 mgChicken is a lean, nutritious source of zinc. The dark meat has more zinc that it’s white meat counterpart. Chicken is a great source of protein, B vitamins, and minerals that are needed for building and maintain healthy muscle.
Try it: One Pan Chicken Thighs with Roasted Peppers
- Cashews – 1 oz. serving 1 .6 mgEating nuts regularly can help to boost your daily intake of zinc. Another great benefit is that they are good for your heart! Nuts are a healthy snack, which contain protein, healthy fats, and key vitamins (like vitamin K) and minerals (like magnesium) to support your health and heart.
Try it: Paleo Cashew Chicken
Summary of information:
- Zinc is an essential trace mineral needed for health. It participates in most of the enzymatic reactions in the body and is needed for proper growth and development.
- Zinc is also a nutrient needed for heart health. It has been linked to reducing blood pressure, increasing nitric oxide and promoting healthy heart cells.
- Meat and shellfish are the best dietary sources of zinc. Seek out grass-fed meat options. Be sure to give our Paleo-approved zinc recipes a try!
- Little et al., 2010: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20950764
- Tomat et al., 2005: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16189192
- Ranasinghe et al., 2015: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4523910/