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.

Unfortunately, it’s harder to get on vegan and vegetarian diets than a typical omnivorous diet.

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 severe zinc deficiencies, 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 also need more zinc because zinc from plants has a lower bio-availability than from meat (Source).

To make the problem even worse, many vegan sources of zinc contain phytates, which are anti-nutrients that can inhibit the absorption of zinc and other nutrients. 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.

FoodServingEnergy (kcal)Zinc (mg)
Pumpkin seeds1 cup2856.59
Oats1 cup6076.19
Sesame seeds0.5 cup4135.58
Rye grain1 cup5714.48
Pine nuts0.5 cup4544.35
Adzuki beans1 cup2944.07
Buckwheat groats1 cup5673.97
Cashew0.5 cup3933.84
Sunflower seeds1/2 cup4093.5
Hemp seeds3 tbsp1662.97
Wheat flour (whole-grain)100 g3322.96
Brazil nut0.5 cup4382.7
Lentils1 cup2302.51
Chickpeas1 cup2692.51
Peanuts0.5 cup4142.39
Pecans0.5 cup3422.24
Amaranth1 cup2512.12
Quinoa1 cup2222.02
Black beans1 cup2271.93
Kidney beans1 cup2251.89
Navy beans1 cup2551.87
Walnut0.5 cup3831.81
Spinach1 bunch781.8
Peas1 cup1171.8
Swiss chard10 leafs911.73
Fava bean1 cup1871.72
Cowpeas1 cup1601.7
Mung bean1 cup2121.7
Almonds1/2 cup3131.68
Hazelnut0.5 cup4241.65
Soybeans1 cup2541.64

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 (kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.) and nuts are good sources of zinc as well, although can be calorie-dense. Also note that they contain phytate, an antinutrient that can affect zinc absorption. Try to mix up your zinc sources to avoid issues.

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:

FoodServingEnergy (kcal)
Zinc (mg) per 100 calories
Bamboo shoot1 shoot174.0
Rapini5 stalks213.5
Asparagus4 spears132.8
Pumpkin seeds1 cup2852.3
Spinach1 bunch782.3
Swiss chard10 leafs911.9
Zucchini1 large551.9
Squash1 large521.8
Arugula1 cup51.8
Hemp seeds3 tbsp1661.8
Okra8 pods311.8
Radish2 large31.7
Lettuce (red leaf)0.5 head201.6
Peas1 cup1171.5
Bok choy1 cup91.4
Adzuki beans1 cup2941.4
Sesame seeds0.5 cup4131.4
Cucumber0.5 cucumber231.3
Blackberry1 cup621.2
Broccoli1 cup311.2
Napa cabbage1 cup131.2
Lentils1 cup2301.1
Cauliflower1 cup271.1
Kale2 cup151.1
Cowpeas1 cup1601.1
Artichoke1 large761.0
Oats1 cup6071.0
Watercress10 sprigs31.0
Cashew0.5 cup3931.0
Pine nuts0.5 cup4541.0

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.

The Very Best Plant-Based Sources of Zinc

From the data in the two lists above, we can find the very best overall zinc sources.

Foods that have a high amount of zinc per 100 calories AND per serving.

The easiest way to identify them is with a bubble chart, which you can see below. The most zinc-dense foods should rise to the top-right corner of it. Click it to see the full version.

best zinc sources bubble chart

This is one of the rare cases for nutrients where no foods really show up in the top right corner.

However, some are pretty close. If you’re trying to maximize your zinc intake while limiting calories and servings, try to eat a lot of:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Oats
  • Adzuki beans
  • Hemp seeds

Worried About Not Getting Enough Zinc?

Zinc is important, and although you should be able to get it through these plant-based foods high in zinc, it’s possible that you have further restrictions that make it difficult.

If you need alternatives to avoid zinc deficiencies, the 2 main ones are:

  • Supplements – A zinc supplement is convenient and easy.
  • 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.

Finally, if you are eating enough foods high in zinc or fortified foods, and are still experiencing symptoms of a deficiency (e.g. hair loss), see a doctor. You may have an underlying issue affecting zinc absorption that needs to be addressed first.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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