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After the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases, people have become more conscious about their diet and are looking for ways to naturally boost their immunity. While vitamin C has been in the spotlight, it’s important not to overlook the role of zinc in enhancing our immune system and keeping us healthy.

Zinc is a trace mineral that plays a crucial role in various body functions. It can be found in our muscles, skin, pancreas, liver, and kidneys. Zinc is essential for a healthy immune system as it is involved in the functioning of T cells. It also plays a vital role in over 300 enzymes, contributes to protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and even affects our sense of taste and smell.

Although the body only requires a small amount of zinc, its deficiency is quite common. Since our bodies don’t store zinc, we need to ensure we get enough of it from our daily diet. Low levels of zinc can lead to various health issues such as diarrhea, stunted growth, hair loss, eye and skin lesions, loss of libido, and suppressed immunity.

Recommended Daily Dose of Zinc

Maintaining good health doesn’t require a large amount of zinc. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends a daily allowance of 8 mg of zinc for women and 11 mg for men. For pregnant women, it’s 11 mg, and for breastfeeding women, it’s 12 mg.

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Best Zinc-Rich Foods for Vegetarians

As vegetarians, it can be challenging to find good plant-based sources of zinc since animal foods are considered the best sources. However, there are still several options available to ensure an adequate intake of zinc.

1: Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a common ingredient in Indian cuisine and are a great option for vegetarians to meet their zinc requirements. A cup of cooked chickpeas contains 2.5 mg of zinc. You can incorporate them into curries, salads, or snacks.

2: Lentils

Lentils are another excellent source of zinc for vegetarians. They are low in fat and calories and packed with essential nutrients like protein and fiber. A cup of lentils provides almost 4.7 mg of zinc. Use them in regular meals, such as curries.

3: Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are not only rich in zinc but also versatile and easy to add to countless meals. A handful of pumpkin seeds contains 2.2 mg of zinc and 8.5 mg of plant-based proteins. Research suggests that including pumpkin seeds in your diet could even reduce the risk of cancer.

4: Watermelon Seeds

Don’t throw away watermelon seeds! They are highly nutritious and contain zinc along with other micronutrients. A handful of watermelon seeds contains 4 mg of zinc. Dry them and enjoy them as a daily snack. These seeds also enhance immunity and promote heart health.

5: Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are not only loaded with unsaturated fats but also a good source of zinc. Three tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 3 mg of zinc. They are also rich in amino acids arginine, which helps reduce the risk of heart diseases. Sprinkle them on yogurt or salads.

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6: Beans

Beans, particularly kidney and black beans, are excellent sources of zinc. They are also high in soluble and insoluble fibers, proteins, iron, phosphorus, and calcium, supporting overall health. A cup of cooked black beans contains 2 mg of zinc, while a half cup of cooked kidney beans contains 0.9 mg of zinc.

7: Oatmeal

Oats are a classic nutrient-dense breakfast option. Oatmeal is loaded with zinc, fiber, folate, vitamin B6, and beta-glucan. Half a cup of oats contains 1.3 mg of zinc. Oats also help regulate cholesterol levels and promote heart health.

8: Cashew

Cashews are a delicious option for natural, plant-based zinc. Whether eaten raw or roasted, they provide about 1.5 mg of zinc. Cashews are also rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, copper, folate, and healthy unsaturated fats. Including cashews in your diet can reduce the risk of heart diseases and promote healthy cholesterol levels.

9: Curd

A cup of low-fat curd or yogurt not only provides good bacteria for a healthy gut but also contains 1.5 mg of zinc. It aids digestion and boosts your immunity.

10: Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is a tasty treat that also offers a good amount of zinc. A hundred grams of dark chocolate contains 3.3 mg of zinc. However, remember that dark chocolate is also high in calories and sugar, so enjoy it in moderation.

11: Tofu

Tofu, a popular vegetarian and vegan option, is a good source of zinc. Around 100 grams of firm tofu can contain up to 2 mg of zinc. Tofu is versatile and can be used in various recipes.

12: Tempeh

Similar to tofu, tempeh is a fermented soybean product. It contains approximately 1.14 mg of zinc per 175 grams, making it a satisfying vegetarian source of zinc.

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13: Brown Rice

Unprocessed rice, such as brown, red, or black rice, is a good vegetarian source of zinc. Wild rice provides 1 mg of zinc per 100 grams.

14: Spinach

Spinach is a green leafy vegetable known for being a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals. It offers up to 7 mg of zinc in every 200 calories of serving, making it one of the healthiest foods for vegetarians.

15: Mushrooms

Button mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms are high sources of zinc for vegetarians. In a 100-calorie serving of white button mushrooms, there is about 8 mg of zinc. In a similar 200-calorie serving of shiitake mushrooms, there is 5 mg of zinc. These mushrooms also provide an attractive umami flavor.

16: Whole Wheat

Whole wheat, including the germ, is a mineral-rich option. It provides a good amount of zinc, along with numerous vitamins, minerals, and ample fiber.

17: Moong

Moong, also known as moong dal, is a type of bean widely consumed across India. It contains about 2.6 mg of zinc per 100 grams. Sprouted moong is a healthier option as it contains fewer antinutrients that can interfere with zinc absorption.

18: Almonds

Almonds are not only a great source of energy but also packed with nutrients. They are rich in zinc, protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and fiber. Including a handful of almonds in your diet is an easy way to boost your zinc levels.

Zinc is an essential mineral found in various natural sources, including meat, seafood, beans, legumes, seeds, and nuts. As vegetarians, we can increase our zinc intake by incorporating plant-based sources like cereals into our diets. These foods are not only easy to find but also delicious additions to our meals.

To learn more about healthy eating tips for women, click here: 4 Healthy Eating Tips For Women

Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is for educational purposes only and not a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. As individual needs may vary, it is essential to consult with a physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for one’s specific situation.

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