Article Series

  1. Zinc: Health Benefits, Immune System, Absorption
  2. Vegan Zinc Foods - Zinc-Rich Diet

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Vegan Zinc Foods - Zinc-Rich Diet

Vegan Zinc Foods - Zinc-Rich Diet
Table Of Contents
  1. Acids influence Zinc Absorption positively and negatively
  2. Zinc in Seeds and Nuts
  3. Legumes with Zinc
  4. Zinc-Rich Grains
  5. Zinc in Mushrooms
  6. Herbs and Spices that contain Zinc
  7. Zinc-rich Vegetables
  8. Zinc-Rich Fruits
  9. Zinc in Processed Products

Zinc is one of the most important trace elements and is present in every human cell. It is involved in the immune system, sense of taste, and numerous metabolic processes. Zinc is needed, among other things, for cell division, wound healing, and nerve signaling.

Zinc, like other minerals, is also lost through cooking the corresponding foods 1. Therefore, plant-based foods high in zinc should be cooked for as short a time as possible.

Click here for the table of zinc-rich foods.

Acids influence Zinc Absorption positively and negatively

In order to meet the daily requirement of zinc effectively, a few details should be considered beforehand. Some plant-based foods contain certain acids that can both hinder and positively influence the absorption of zinc from the diet. Approximately one-third of the zinc in plant-based foods is absorbed by the body 2 3.

Therefore, foods rich in zinc contain higher levels of phytic and oxalic acid. These acids bind biochemically to zinc, forming an unabsorbable complex 4. Consequently, the bioavailability of zinc is low. Vegans should aim to consume particularly zinc-rich foods.

Nevertheless, the bioavailability of zinc can be slightly increased through certain factors. These include processing methods such as soaking, heating, roasting, sprouting, fermenting, and acidifying, which reduce the negative effect of phytic acid 5 6.

Certain acids such as malic acid, citric acid, and tartaric acid, predominantly found in fruits and belonging to the group of hydroxycarboxylic acids, enhance zinc absorption 7. The following foods are recommended for simultaneous consumption with zinc-rich foods: pineapples, apples, kiwis, cherries, plums, grapefruits, grapes, and lemons. You can find tables of malic acid foods and citric acid foods here.

In addition, the absorption rate can also be increased when zinc-rich foods are consumed together with protein-rich foods 8.

Good plant-based foods with zinc are listed below. These should be regularly consumed in a zinc-rich diet.

Zinc in Seeds and Nuts

Pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of zinc. They contain extremely high amounts of this important trace element, with 7.81 mg per 100 g. Other good sources of zinc are sesame seeds (7.75 mg), cashew nuts (5.78 mg), pecans (4.53 mg), brazil nuts (4.06 mg), almonds (3.12 mg), and pistachios (2.2 mg). Hemp seeds (9.9 mg), sunflower seeds (5 mg), chia seeds (4.58 mg), and flaxseeds (4.34 mg) are also extremely good sources of zinc.

Hazelnuts and walnuts contain relatively high amounts of zinc, with 2.45 mg and 3.09 mg respectively. However, according to a study, it is not easily absorbed by the body 9. The absorption rate was 1.9% for hazelnuts and 11.4% for walnuts. Higher absorption rates were achieved with cashew nuts (52.4%) and brazil nuts (20.6%), as mentioned in the linked study. Nevertheless, it is important not to overlook the health benefits of walnuts, as they are a good source of essential fatty acids.

You can find other nuts and seeds that contain zinc in the table.

Legumes with Zinc

Pulses should be soaked for better zinc absorption, and the soaking water should be discarded. Red lentils (3.6 mg), chickpeas (2.76 mg), and beans such as white beans (3.67 mg), kidney beans (2.79 mg), and mung beans (2.68 mg) are rich in zinc. However, the aforementioned absorption-enhancing measures, such as sprouting, should also be considered. Additionally, peanuts contain a significant amount of zinc at 3.27 mg.

According to an in vitro study, 92.2% of the zinc in green lentils was absorbed 10. The zinc from peeled peas was absorbed at a rate of 69.7%, and from red kidney beans at 52%.

Additional legumes rich in zinc can be found in the list view.

Zinc-Rich Grains

Unprocessed grains contain a relatively high amount of zinc. However, due to the high phytic acid content, only 15% of the zinc can be absorbed by the body 11. Therefore, measures should also be taken to improve zinc absorption in a grain-rich diet. The grains with the highest zinc content are oats (3.97 mg), spelt (3.28 mg), rye (2.65 mg), millet (1.68 mg), wild rice (5.96 mg), and brown rice (2.02 mg). However, sprouts from rye and wheat contain fewer acids and can contribute effectively to meeting zinc requirements.

Pseudocereals such as quinoa (3.1 mg), amaranth (2.87 mg), and buckwheat (2.4 mg) also contain a considerable amount of zinc and can contribute to meeting zinc requirements. However, like true grains, they also contain higher levels of phytic acid and oxalic acid.

The table showcases the grains and grain products that also contain zinc.

Zinc in Mushrooms

Regular consumption of mushrooms can help meet a portion of the daily zinc requirement. Button mushrooms (0.52 mg), oyster mushrooms (0.77 mg), shiitake mushrooms (1.03 mg), and portobello mushrooms (1.1 mg) are rich in zinc. 100 g of dried shiitake mushrooms contain 7.66 mg of zinc.

Herbs and Spices that contain Zinc

Fresh herbs and spices such as parsley (1.07 mg), dill (0.91 mg), basil (0.81 mg), chives (0.56 mg), as well as garlic (1.16 mg) and fresh ginger (0.34 mg) should also be consumed regularly due to their other beneficial plant compounds. We also have a table for the zinc content in herbs and spices.

Zinc-rich Vegetables

Vegetables provide only small amounts of zinc. The best representatives here are parsnips (0.59 mg), lamb's lettuce (0.59 mg), okra (0.58 mg), kale (0.56 mg), asparagus (0.54 mg), and broccoli (0.41 mg).

Swiss chard (0.36 mg) and spinach (0.53 mg) are not recommended for raw consumption as they contain high amounts of acid inhibitors. They should be prepared and consumed according to the tips mentioned above.

Additional zinc-rich vegetables can be found in the table.

Zinc-Rich Fruits

Fruits, like vegetables, contain little zinc. The best sources here are avocado (0.64 mg), apricot (0.2 mg), peach (0.17 mg), bananas (0.15 mg), plums (0.1 mg), berry fruits like blackberries (0.53 mg) and raspberries (0.42 mg), as well as dried figs (0.55 mg) and dates (0.6 mg).

The table provides information on other fruits that contain zinc.

Zinc in Processed Products

Whole grain products such as sourdough or whole wheat bread (1.77 mg), tahini (4.62 mg), peanut butter (2.79 mg), oatmeal (2.51 mg), tofu (1.57 mg), almond butter (1.48 mg), tempeh (1.14 mg), seitan (0.85 mg), and couscous (0.83 mg) are a good choice. They provide relatively high amounts of easily absorbable zinc, thus helping to avoid zinc deficiency. However, an varied vegan diet always takes precedence, as it naturally excludes a variety of possible deficiency conditions.