High-Zinc Foods That Will Boost Your Immunity

zinc foods
Photo Credit: Foodie Crush

March 29, 2021

By Sheela Prakash

In the past year, you may have heard conflicting information about zinc. Some argue that zinc may help prevent coronavirus, or at least shorten the duration. Others say that there is no evidence that zinc works this way. What we do know? Zinc is important for keeping your immune system healthy. And there is a correlation between zinc deficiency and increased risk for certain diseases, including deep respiratory infections, but also infectious diseases, autoimmune disorders, and cancer. We also know that zinc isn’t a mineral that hangs around in your body waiting for you to use it. Whatever you take in throughout the course of a day isn’t stored for future use. That means means meeting your daily requirements (8 to 12 milligrams) 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 high-zinc foods:

1. Shrimp

All shellfish are a good source of zinc and oysters are a great source. A half dozen oysters contain almost 300% of your daily needs! But oysters aren’t exactly something you eat everyday. Shrimp, on the other hand, is something you’ll always find in my freezer because it makes for fast, cheap, and healthy dinners. A 4-ounce serving contains about 15% of your daily needs. Try tossing them into stir-fries and pastas, swapping them in for your usual filling on taco night, or making a saucy Thai curry.

Get a recipe: Citrus Shrimp and Avocado Salad from Foodie Crush

2. Hemp Hearts

Hemp hearts, also known as hulled or shelled hemp seeds, have a nutty taste that’s a bit like sunflower seeds with a softer texture. Just a few tablespoons contain almost half of your daily zinc needs. They’re also full of plant-based protein and healthy fats. 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.

3. 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.

5. Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs are generally cheaper than chicken breasts. They’re also more flavorful and 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 thighs in for your usual chicken breast dinner — whether baked, grilled, or pan-roasted — and you may find yourself converted.

5. Chickpeas

A single 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.