10 Foods High In Zinc, Plus Brain And Health Benefits

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Zinc, an essential trace element, serves multifaceted roles in the human body. Within the brain, zinc plays a crucial part in neurotransmission, affecting learning and memory, particularly within the hippocampus, a region integral for memory formation (1). Additionally, maintaining optimal zinc levels is paramount for cognitive function, as a deficiency can lead to impaired concentration and attention deficits (2).

Research has also revealed zinc's significance in mood regulation, illustrating its potential to modulate the brain's response to stress and possibly reduce symptoms of depression (3). Moreover, it's shown promise in providing neuroprotection, which might play a role in reducing the risk of age-related diseases like Alzheimer's (4).

Beyond the brain, zinc's health benefits are vast. It underpins the immune system's development and function, playing a key role in inflammatory response and mediating innate immunity (5). It's also essential for skin maintenance, aiding in collagen synthesis, immune function, and inflammatory response, crucial components of wound healing (6).

Acting as a cofactor for myriad enzymes, zinc is indispensable for protein synthesis. Furthermore, it's vital for DNA synthesis, cell division, and the formation of free radicals (7). Its influence is evident in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, emphasizing its metabolic importance (8).

For our senses, zinc is necessary for developing and maintaining cells responsible for taste and smell (9). In ocular health, it's essential for the retina's wellbeing and may help deter age-related macular degeneration (10).

Zinc's role isn't confined to soft tissues either; it's pivotal for bone tissue renewal and mineralization (11). Lastly, reproductive health leans on zinc, given its involvement in testosterone production in males and egg maturation in females (12). Foods high in zinc include:

1. Oysters

  • Serving Size: 3 ounces
  • Zinc Content: ~74 mg
  • RDA: 672% for men; 925% for women
  • Health & Brain Benefits: Boosts immune function, improves wound healing, supports neurotransmission and brain development.

2. Grass-Fed Beef

  • Serving Size: 3 ounces (varies by cut)
  • Zinc Content: ~7 mg
  • RDA: 64% for men; 88% for women
  • Health & Brain Benefits: Promotes muscle growth, supports metabolism, helps in maintaining cognitive function.

3. Pumpkin Seeds

  • Serving Size: 1 ounce
  • Zinc Content: ~2.2 mg
  • RDA: 20% for men; 28% for women
  • Health & Brain Benefits: Supports immune function, promotes skin health, enhances memory and thinking skills.

4. Lentils

  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Zinc Content: ~1.3 mg
  • RDA: 12% for men; 16% for women
  • Health & Brain Benefits: Beneficial for digestion, supports immune system, promotes brain health and function.

5. Cashews

  • Serving Size: 1 ounce
  • Zinc Content: ~1.6 mg
  • RDA: 15% for men; 20% for women
  • Health & Brain Benefits: Supports immune system, promotes healthy skin and eyes, essential for neurotransmitter functions.

6. Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)

  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Zinc Content: ~1.3 mg
  • RDA: 12% for men; 16% for women
  • Health & Brain Benefits: Beneficial for heart health, supports immune function, contributes to cognitive health.

7. Quinoa

  • Serving Size: 1 cup (cooked)
  • Zinc Content: ~2 mg
  • RDA: 18% for men; 25% for women
  • Health & Brain Benefits: Aids in tissue formation, supports metabolism, helps in maintaining brain health.

8. Eggs

  • Serving Size: 1 large egg
  • Zinc Content: ~0.6 mg
  • RDA: 5% for men; 8% for women
  • Health & Benefits: Supports immune function, promotes cell division, contributes to neurotransmitter functions.

9. Dark Chocolate

  • Serving Size: 100 grams (70-85% cocoa)
  • Zinc Content: ~3.3 mg
  • RDA: 30% for men; 41% for women
  • Health & Benefits: Antioxidant properties, promotes heart health, improves mood and cognitive performance.

10. Yogurt

  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Zinc Content: ~1.7 mg
  • RDA: 15% for men; 21% for women
  • Health & Benefits: Promotes digestive health, supports immune function, essential for brain neurotransmitter functions.
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2. Bhatnagar, S., & Taneja, S. (2001). Zinc and cognitive development. British Journal of Nutrition, 85(S2), S139-S145.
3. Swardfager, W., et al. (2013). Zinc in depression: a meta-analysis. Biological Psychiatry, 74(12), 872-878.
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10. Newsome, D. A., et al. (1988). Oral zinc in macular degeneration. Archives of Ophthalmology, 106(2), 192-198.
11. Yamaguchi, M. (2010). Role of zinc in bone formation and bone resorption. Journal of Trace Elements in Experimental Medicine, 13(3), 119-135.
12. Fallah, A., et al. (2018). Zinc is an Essential Element for Male Fertility: A Review of Zn Roles in Men's Health, Germination, Sperm Quality, and Fertilization. Journal of Reproduction & Infertility, 19(2), 69-81.