By Sheela Prakash
Zinc, which is important for keeping your immune system happy and metabolism functioning, is a mineral that doesn’t hang around your body waiting for you to use it. While the requirements aren’t high for zinc — 8 milligrams of zinc a day for females, 11 milligrams of zinc a day for males and pregnant women, and 12 milligrams of zinc a day for breastfeeding women — whatever you take in throughout the course of a day isn’t stored for future use. That means meeting you daily requirements is important. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet usually covers it but it’s always good to know which foods in particular boost your intake. Here are 5 great ones:
1. Hemp Hearts
Hemp hearts, also known as hulled or shelled hemp seeds, are worth getting to know. Just a few tablespoons contain almost half of your daily zinc needs. They’re also full of plant-based protein and healthy fats. Hemp hearts have a nutty taste that’s a bit like sunflower seeds with a softer texture. Sprinkle them on everything from yogurt and oatmeal to salads and avocado toast, or blend a few spoonfuls into your morning smoothie. You can even use them in place or bread crumbs to make crispy baked chicken tenders.
2. Shiitake Mushrooms
All mushrooms contain zinc but shiitakes have the highest amount. A cup of cooked shiitake mushrooms contains 18% of your daily requirement. While this type of mushroom is most commonly used in Asian cuisine, there’s no need to limit it to stir-fries and Asian noodle dishes. Use them just as you would cremini or button mushrooms: add them to frittatas, soups, and even risotto.
3. Chicken Thighs
While chicken breasts may be more of a crowd favorite, chicken thighs are well worth making part of your everyday dinners. Not only are they generally cheaper at the grocery store and much more flavorful, they contain more of certain micronutrients, including zinc. A serving of chicken thigh meat contains 15% of your daily needs while a serving of chicken breast meat contains just 6%. Try swapping them in for your usual chicken breast dinner — whether baked, grilled, or pan-roasted — and you may find yourself converted.
1 cup of cooked chickpeas contains 23% of you daily zinc needs. That means you’re getting a dose of zinc every time you dip that pita chip or carrot stick into hummus. Turn chickpeas into a colorful hash for breakfast, make a tuna-like salad that’s actually tuna-free for lunch, and cook a comforting one-pot pasta for dinner. Or try roasting chickpeas for a crunchy snack.
All shellfish is a great source of zinc. While I wanted to call out oysters because just 6 contain almost 300% of your daily needs, oysters aren’t exactly something that are eaten everyday. Shrimp, on the other hand, is something you’ll find in my freezer at almost any given time because it makes for some of the fastest dinners around (that are also pretty affordable).They can’t compete with oysters — a 4 ounce serving contains about 15% of your daily needs — but they’re still a good source. Try tossing them into stir-fries and pastas, swapping them in for your usual filling on taco night, or making a saucy Thai curry.