Zinc plays a big role in your body, from wound healing to your perceptions of taste and smell to the synthesis of protein and DNA. The mineral can even affect your libido: Zinc aids the production of testosterone, a sex hormone. But the nutrient is most famous for its immune-boosting perks. It helps balance your body’s response to infection, preventing out-of-control inflammation, according to the findings of a Cell Reports study. And a 2013 review suggested it may even help treat a common cold.
Read on to learn how much zinc you need—and how to get it.
How much zinc do you need?
The body doesn’t readily store zinc, so you need to get some every day—but only a small amount. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 8 mg per day for women. That number rises to 11 mg for pregnant women, and 12 mg for nursing mothers. Meanwhile, vegetarians may need to take in as much as 50% more than the RDA—the body absorbs less zinc from plant-based foods than from meat sources (a term called bioavailability).
Others at risk of deficiency: People who have had GI surgery (such as lap band) or who have digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
To make sure you’re consuming enough of this crucial nutrient, enjoy more of these zinc-rich foods in your diet.
Zinc: 32 mg in 6 raw oysters (400% of your RDA!)
Other body benefits: These slippery bivalves also offer a dose of protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. They’re also rich in iron, a mineral needed to transport oxygen throughout the body.
Best ways to eat them: No matter how you have them, oysters are one of the best sources of zinc you can eat. We recommend them broiled with herbs and parmesan or tossed into a seafood chowder. They’re also delicious raw with horseradish and mignonette sauce, but eat with caution—they’re a common cause of food poisoning.
2.Beef (chuck roast)
Zinc: 7 mg in 3 ounces braised
Other body benefits: In addition to loads of protein (one serving provides about half of your daily need), beef is packed with B12, a vitamin that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy. It also boasts the B vitamin riboflavin, which is thought to alleviate symptoms of PMS.
Best ways to eat it: Grind up the meat for hamburgers, roast it in the oven at 350 degrees, or slow cook a hearty beef stew. Eating lots of red meat is linked to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other health issues, so limit yourself to about one serving a week.
Zinc: 4.7 mg in 1 can blue crab meat
Other body benefits: A lean source of protein, crab meat also contains vitamins A, B, and C. It’s also rich in magnesium, the powerhouse nutrient that helps your heart and muscles function properly, as well as phosphorous.
Best ways to eat it: Sprinkle crab meat into a tossed green salad, add it to a veggie stir-fry, or use it as a tasty sandwich filling.
4.Fortified breakfast cereal
Zinc: 3.8 mg in 3/4 cup (fortified with 25% of the daily value)
Best ways to eat it: Look for a cereal brand that also has a good helping of vitamin D and iron. A USDA study shows that most women consume just 13 mg of iron a day, 5 mg short of the advised amount.
Best ways to eat it: By pouring on a low-fat cup of milk you’ll up your zinc uptake by another milligram. Add some vitamin C-rich strawberries to your bowl to help your body absorb the cereal’s iron.
Zinc: 3.4 mg in 3 ounces cooked
Other body benefits: Aside from seriously succulent meat, a serving of lobster offers 20% of the daily recommended amount of B12, 32% of your protein needs, and 8% of your calcium requirement.
Best ways to eat it: Add the meat to a salad, combine it with mayo for a classic lobster roll, or enjoy it directly from the shell.
Zinc: 2.9 mg in 3 ounces cooked
Other body benefits: Low in fat and high in protein, pork chops also contain choline, an essential nutrient that may improve long-term memory.
Best ways to eat it: Baked, slow-cooked, grilled, roasted, or pan-seared—pork can be a nice alternative to chicken.
Zinc: 1.6 mg in 1 ounce dry roasted
Other body benefits: The nuts contain healthy fats, folate—a B vitamin that helps the body make new cells—and vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting. Plus: Cashews satisfy 10% of your daily iron needs.
Best ways to eat them: Unsalted cashews are a satisfying snack on their own—but they’re also tasty in a stir-fry or salad.
Zinc: 1.3 mg in 1/2 cup cooked
Other body benefits: One serving of chickpeas boasts 2 grams of resistant starch—along with protein, fiber, and healthy fats. These legumes can help lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar levels.
Best ways to eat them: Enjoy hummus with raw veggies, sauté chickpeas with spinach,or add the beans to a lentil salad.
Zinc: 2.4 mg in 3 ounces of cooked dark meat
Other body benefits: A heaping serving of filling protein helps your body build more muscle. Chicken is also a good source B6, a nutrient necessary for estrogen metabolism and vital for normal brain function.
Best ways to eat it: The possibilities are practically endless. For a light, healthy meal, try curried chicken salad made with yogurt.
Zinc: 1.2 mg in 1 ounce
Other body benefits: With only 55 mg of sodium, Swiss has less salt than many other cheeses. It’s also low in calories—but still high in calcium and protein.
Best ways to eat it: Add another boost of flavor to an ALT (avocado, lettuce, and tomato) or other sandwich.