Zinc

Why is it needed?

Zinc plays a crucial role in metabolism and affects the fundamental processes of life. It has a role to play in our immune system, wound healing, reproduction and sexual maturation. Zinc also affects our ability to taste. Zinc is important during childhood and adolescence because it supports normal growth and development. Children with diets low in zinc will have slower physical growth and poor appetites.

How much is needed?

The table below sets out the Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) for infants and children:

Age Micrograms per day
7-12 months 3
1 to 3 years 3
4 to 8 years 5
9 to 13 years 8

Do vegetarians need to be concerned about their zinc intake?

Vegetarians may have low zinc intakes because 1) zinc is not found in large amounts in plant sources and 2) the absorption of zinc may be inhibited. Compounds (called ‘phytates’) present in vegetarian sources of zinc such as whole grains and legumes (and very concentrated in wheat bran) can lower zinc absorption. Soaking or sprouting seeds, nuts, grains or legumes can increase the amount of zinc we are able to absorb from these foods. Vegetarians can also increase their zinc intake by eating more yeasted and leavened grain products (such as bread) because leavening starts to break down the zinc inhibiting phytate.

Sources?

Wholegrains: oats
Tofu
Legumes: baked beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, pinto beans
Nuts: cashews, almonds, pecans, pistachios, peanuts
Seeds: sunflower, chia
Eggs
Dairy products

This list is not comprehensive.

The table below illustrates the Zinc content of some common foods:

Food How much Micrograms of Zinc
Baked beans ½ cup 2.9
Oats, cooked 1 cup 2.3
Cashew nuts, roasted 25g 1.6
Lentils, cooked ½ cup 1.3
Chickpeas, cooked ½ cup 1.3
Peanuts 25g 1.2
Almonds, roasted 25g 0.9
Cheddar cheese 25g 0.9
Peas ½ cup 0.5
Broccoli ½ cup 0.4

Recipes

Aubergine and Chickpea Caponata

Carrot and Cashew Nut Pudding

Coconut and Oat Bites

Indian Spiced Lentils

Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Stew

References

British Nutrition Foundation – Zinc

Office of Dietary Supplements, Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Zin, National Institutes of Health

Vegan Health Org- Zinc

Vesanto, M et al  (2003) The new becoming vegetarian : the essential guide to a healthy vegetarian diet (Summertown, Tenn. : Healthy Living Publications)

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