Zinc Deficiency Symptoms In Humans and 10 Best Foods With Zinc

  • Post last modified:August 11, 2021
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Zinc exists in every tissue, cell, organ, bone and body fluid. It is an essential nutrient for maintaining healthy cell division. It also acts as an antioxidant to fight free radical damage and helps to delay aging.

Zinc deficiency is one of the most common micronutrient deficiencies and the fifth largest risk factor for diseases in the world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that the global prevalence of zinc deficiency is 31%.

According to a research report published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, zinc deficiency is a common cause of stunted growth, mental retardation, perinatal complications and increased mortality.

What Are The Causes of Zinc Deficiency?

People with the following conditions are more prone to zinc deficiency:

  • malabsorption of nutrients
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • long-term excessive drinking
  • hemodialysis
  • premature babies and low birth weight babies
  • pregnant and breastfeeding
  • receive intravenous injection
  • malnutrition, including eating disorders
  • severe or persistent diarrhea
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • suffer from chronic liver and kidney disease
  • sickle cell anemia
  • older people (65 years and above)
  • strict vegetarian

15 Common Signs and Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency:

Most people are not aware of their lack of zinc. If you understand the main symptoms of zinc deficiency, you can take early measures to improve your health.

  • neurological dysfunction
  • inattention and poor memory
  • weak  immunity
  • low blood pressure
  • diarrhea
  • eye and skin lesions
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • hair loss
  • delayed wound healing
  • delayed sexual maturity
  • growth retardation
  • infertility
  • taste and smell disorders
  • loss of appetite
  • unexplained weight loss

Zinc deficiency can also cause the body to fail to produce enough testosterone. The result may lead to hypogonadism or impotence.

Top 10 Zinc-rich Foods:

Compared with plant-based foods (such as vegetables and fruits), animal-based foods are the best source of zinc. The bioavailability (the proportion of zinc retained and used by the human body) of zinc contained in animal source foods is the highest.

Plants contain a large amount of phytic acid (or phytate), which inhibits the absorption of zinc, thereby reducing their bioavailability.

Therefore, if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, you need to consume 50% more zinc in your diet to ensure your body’s needs.

To increase the absorption rate of zinc in vegetables and fruits, you can use methods such as soaking, heating, sprouting and fermentation.

The following are 10 foods that are high in zinc:

1.  Red meat

Red meats such as beef, lamb and pork are excellent sources of zinc.

For example, 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of raw beef contains 4.8 mg of zinc, which is 43% of the recommended daily intake [*]. It contains 176 calories, 20 grams of protein and 10 grams of fat, as well as many other important nutrients such as iron, B vitamins and creatine.

2. Shellfish

Oysters are extremely high in zinc. 6 medium oysters can provide 32 mg of zinc. Other types of shellfish contain less zinc than oysters but are still a good source.

Alaskan crab contains 7.6 mg of zinc per 100 grams (3.5 ounces). Every 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of shrimps or mussels contains approximately 14% of the recommended daily zinc intake.

However, if you are pregnant, make sure that the shellfish you eat is fully cooked to minimize the risk of food poisoning.

3. Legumes

Chickpeas, lentils and other legumes are also rich in zinc. Among them, 100 grams of cooked lentils contain about 12% of the recommended daily zinc intake.

However, they also contain phytate, which inhibits the absorption of zinc and other minerals. In other words, zinc in beans is not as easily absorbed as the zinc in animal-based foods.

Nevertheless, legumes can be an important source of zinc for vegetarians. They are also an excellent source of protein and fiber. You can easily add them to soups, stews and salads.

4. Seeds

Seeds are a good supplement to a healthy diet. The ones that contain the most zinc include hemp seeds, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds.

In addition to zinc, seeds are also rich in fiber, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.


5. Nuts

Consuming more nuts, such as pine nuts, peanuts, cashews or almonds can increase your zinc intake. Nuts also contain other healthy nutrients, including healthy fats and fiber, as well as many other vitamins and minerals.

Cashew nuts are particularly high in zinc.  One ounce (28 grams) of cashews contains about 14% of the recommended daily zinc intake.

6. Dairy

Milk, cheese and other dairy products provide a variety of nutrients to the body. These nutrients include a large amount of bioavailable zinc. That is to say, most of the zinc in dairy products can be easily absorbed by your body.

100 grams of cheddar cheese contains 28% of the recommended daily zinc intake. One cup of whole milk contains about 9% of the recommended daily zinc intake.

In addition, dairy products also contain some other nutrients important for bone health, including protein, calcium and vitamin D.

7. Eggs

Egg contains a moderate amount of zinc, especially the yolk. Eating eggs regularly can help you meet your body’s need for zinc

For example, one large egg contains about 5% of the recommended daily zinc intake. One egg also contains 77 calories, 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of healthy fats. Eggs also contain many other vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins and selenium.

In addition, whole eggs are an important source of choline, which is another nutrient that most people lack [*].

8. Whole grains

Whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice and oats also contain some zinc. However, similar to legumes, grains contain phytate, which reduces the absorption of zinc.

Compared with refined grains, eating whole grains is healthier. They are high in many important nutrients such as fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese and selenium.

9. Dark chocolate

100 grams (3.5 ounces) of 70-85% dark chocolate contains 3.3 mg of zinc, which is 30% of the recommended daily zinc intake.

However, the same amount of dark chocolate also contains 600 calories. Therefore, you should not use dark chocolate as your main source of zinc.

10. Certain vegetables

Generally speaking, fruits and vegetables are not good sources of zinc. However, some specific vegetables contain moderate amounts of zinc. Vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes or kale can help you meet your body’s daily needs for zinc. This is especially true for vegetarians.

Although vegetables are not very high in zinc content, eating more can reduce your risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease or cancer.


Zinc is an essential trace element for the human body. It plays a role in more than one hundred enzymatic reactions in the body. Zinc is necessary for healthy cell division and acts as an antioxidant, fighting free radical damage and slowing down the aging process.

Zinc deficiency is an important malnutrition problem throughout the world. Insufficient intake of zinc-rich food is one of the main reasons for this problem.

The best source of zinc is animal-based foods, such as grass-fed beef, lamb, chicken and shellfish. There are some plant-based foods that also contain zinc, including beans, seeds and potatoes.

Eating enough high-zinc foods can improve nervous system function, enhance eye health, reduce inflammation, promote heart and skin health, promote muscle growth and help balance hormone levels in the body.

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