The 30 Best Vegan Food Sources of Zinc

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Zinc is one of the most important minerals to get in your diet. It’s even harder to get as a vegan than as a non-vegan.

I compiled a list of 120+ vegan whole foods, along with their nutritional info. On this page, you’ll find a list of the top 30 vegan zinc food sources per serving.

But before I get to the foods, there’s a few things you should know about zinc.

How Much Zinc Do You Need, and What Does Zinc Do?

First, how much do you need?

According to the NIH, adult males should get at least 11 mg per day, while females should get 8 mg.

zinc rda chart

This is easy to do if you eat zinc-rich foods.

Second, why is zinc important?

Zinc is used for many parts of cellular metabolism. It’s needed for:

  • A strong immune system.
  • Protein synthesis
  • Wound healing
  • Cell division.

And more.

If you’re deficient in zinc, you’ll experience a loss of appetite and weak immune system that could lead to sickness. With a severe deficiency, you could experience hair loss, diarrhea, and other issues.

There’s one more important thing before we get to the foods.

Why Zinc is Harder to Get For Vegans

The body has no way of storing zinc, so you need to get it on a regular basis (Source).

Vegans alsoneed more zinc because zinc from plants has a lower bioavailability than from meat (Source).

To make the problem even worse, many vegan sources of zinc contain phytates, which are antinutrients that can inhibit the absorption of zinc and other nutritions. To combat that, I highly recommend looking into soaking your beans, which can eliminate a large percentage of phytates.

Overall, aim to get around 50% more of the RDA as a vegan (Source).

Finally, on to the foods!

The Best Vegan Zinc Food Sources (Per Serving)

These are the 30 best whole foods that I could find. It’s a thorough list based on data from the USDA’s food database.

Food Serving Energy (kcal) Zinc (mg)
Pumpkin seeds 1 cup 285 6.59
Oats 1 cup 607 6.19
Sesame seeds 0.5 cup 413 5.58
Rye grain 1 cup 571 4.48
Pine nuts 0.5 cup 454 4.35
Adzuki beans 1 cup 294 4.07
Buckwheat groats 1 cup 567 3.97
Cashew 0.5 cup 393 3.84
Hemp seeds 3 tbsp 166 2.97
Wheat flour (whole-grain) 100 g 332 2.96
Brazil nut 0.5 cup 438 2.7
Lentils 1 cup 230 2.51
Chickpeas 1 cup 269 2.51
Peanuts 0.5 cup 414 2.39
Pecans 0.5 cup 342 2.24
Amaranth 1 cup 251 2.12
Quinoa 1 cup 222 2.02
Black beans 1 cup 227 1.93
Kidney beans 1 cup 225 1.89
Navy beans 1 cup 255 1.87
Walnut 0.5 cup 383 1.81
Spinach 1 bunch 78 1.8
Peas 1 cup 117 1.8
Swiss chard 10 leafs 91 1.73
Fava bean 1 cup 187 1.72
Cowpeas 1 cup 160 1.7
Mung bean 1 cup 212 1.7
Almonds 1/2 cup 313 1.68
Hazelnut 0.5 cup 424 1.65
Soybeans 1 cup 254 1.64

The top 8 foods are a tier above the rest, although there’s zinc found in a lot of diverse vegan foods.

Seeds are a great source, with pumpkin and sesame seeds ranked at the top.

Grains are also a good source of zinc, with oats, rye grain, and buckwheat all in the top 8. Cereals may contain these grains, and often are fortified with even more zinc.

Finally, legumes and nuts are good sources of zinc as well, although can be calorie-dense.

The Best Vegan Zinc Sources if You’re Watching Your Calories

Just because there aren’t too many vegetables on the top of that list, doesn’t mean that they aren’t a good source of zinc.

When I adjusted the values and sorted by zinc per 100 calories, vegetables rose up the list:

Food Serving Energy (kcal) Zinc (mg) Zinc (mg) per 100 calories
Bamboo shoot 1 shoot 17 0.68 4
Rapini 5 stalks 21 0.73 3.476190476
Asparagus 4 spears 13 0.36 2.769230769
Pumpkin seeds 1 cup 285 6.59 2.312280702
Spinach 1 bunch 78 1.8 2.307692308
Swiss chard 10 leafs 91 1.73 1.901098901
Zucchini 1 large 55 1.03 1.872727273
Squash 1 large 52 0.94 1.807692308
Arugula 1 cup 5 0.09 1.8
Hemp seeds 3 tbsp 166 2.97 1.789156627
Okra 8 pods 31 0.55 1.774193548
Radish 2 large 3 0.05 1.666666667
Lettuce (red leaf) 0.5 head 20 0.31 1.55
Peas 1 cup 117 1.8 1.538461538
Bok choy 1 cup 9 0.13 1.444444444
Adzuki beans 1 cup 294 4.07 1.384353741
Sesame seeds 0.5 cup 413 5.58 1.351089588
Cucumber 0.5 cucumber 23 0.3 1.304347826
Blackberry 1 cup 62 0.76 1.225806452
Broccoli 1 cup 31 0.37 1.193548387
Napa cabbage 1 cup 13 0.15 1.153846154
Lentils 1 cup 230 2.51 1.091304348
Cauliflower 1 cup 27 0.29 1.074074074
Kale 2 cup 15 0.16 1.066666667
Cowpeas 1 cup 160 1.7 1.0625
Artichoke 1 large 76 0.79 1.039473684
Oats 1 cup 607 6.19 1.019769357
Watercress 10 sprigs 3 0.03 1
Cashew 0.5 cup 393 3.84 0.9770992366
Pine nuts 0.5 cup 454 4.35 0.9581497797

Rapini, spinach, and many more vegetables have high amounts of zinc with very few calories. The only issue is that for some of them you have to eat many servings to reach your RDA.

That being said, they should still play a big part in your diet.

Worried About Not Getting Enough Zinc?

Zinc is important, and although you should be able to easily get it through your diet, it’s possible that you have restrictions that make it difficult.

If you need alternatives, the 2 main ones are:

  • Supplements
  • Fortified foods – Zinc is often added to cereals, non-dairy milks and yogurts, and other packaged products.

I’d caution you not to overdo it, as zinc toxicity is a real thing.

About the author

Dale C.

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance writer. Trying to do my small part in making the world better by writing about the wonderful world of veganism.

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