Zinc is very important for a healthy immune system. Many vegans and vegetarians wonder if they are getting enough zinc through their plant based diet and if they need to supplement.
Are VEGANS LOW IN ZINC?
The National institutes of Health notes that vegans and vegetarians might need up to 50% more zinc per day.
“The bioavailability of zinc from vegetarian diets is lower than from non-vegetarian diets because vegetarians do not eat meat, which is high in bioavailable zinc and may enhance zinc absorption. In addition, vegetarians typically eat high levels of legumes and whole grains, which contain phytates that bind zinc and inhibit its absorption”. (Source)
In general, adult females should consume 8 mg and adult men 11 mg of zinc per day. Vegan or vegetarian females would need to increase the daily amount to about 12 mg of plant based zinc and men to about 16.5 mg zinc. Signs of a zinc deficiency can show through a weak immune system and loss of appetite.
High Zinc Plant Foods
Foods high in zinc include:
- 3 tbsp hulled hemp seed: 3 mg
- 1 cup oats: 2.9 mg
- 1 cup boiled chickpeas: 2.5 mg
- 1 cup cooked lentils: 2.5 mg
- 1 cup cooked quinoa: 2 mg
- 1 cup cooked black beans: 1.8 mg
- ¼ cup cashews: 1.7 mg
- 3 tbsp pumpkin seeds: 1.7 mg
- 1 cup cooked brown rice: 1.4 mg
- ¼ cup peanuts: 1.2 mg
- ¼ cup chopped almonds: 1 mg
High Zinc Vegan Meal Plan
A high zinc meal plan would look like this:
- Breakfast: 1 cup oats, 1 cup almond milk, 2 T hemp seed, 2 T peptitas (pumpkin seeds), 1 cup berries (5.6 mg zinc)
- Lunch: 1 cup chickpeas cooked in BBQ sauce, 2 tomatoes + 1/2 avocado seasoned with salt and pepper (3.5 mg zinc)
- Dinner: 2 servings of the mushroom stroganoff (8.7 mg zinc)
All in all, this meal plan contains almost 2200 calories, 106 g protein, and 17.8 g zinc. It even contains more than your RDA of all other minerals.
In general, it is not hard to get enough of all vitamins and minerals from a plant based diet, as long as it is well-planned. You can grab one of my meal plans HERE.
If you would like to learn more about all micro and macro nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbs, protein, fiber, and fat) on the vegan diet, check out the book Plant Powered Health on Amazon. In it, you will find the full plant based nutrition guide, transition guide, recipes, and meal plans with shopping lists!
What about a vegan zinc supplement?
You only need a supplement if your doctor has diagnosed you with a zinc deficiency. Your health care provider can tell you exactly how much zinc to take on a daily basis based on your needs.
If you can’t consume enough zinc through your diet and have symptoms of a zinc deficiency you can consider taking a vegan zinc supplement. Please talk to your doctor before starting any diet change or taking supplements. When I tried zinc supplements I experienced bad stomach pains, so I chose to get zinc through diet alone.
I use a free tool called “Cronometer” where I enter all the foods I eat during the day and see if my daily need of all vitamins and minerals are met. Typically, the more whole foods I eat, the better my vitamin and mineral profile. It is a great tool if you want to take a look at your diet and adjust as needed.