If you’re plant-based, you’ve probably heard that zinc is a nutrient you need to be aware of. But the truth is, there are plenty of zinc rich vegan foods making it easy for plant-based women like you to meet your needs! In this article we’ll talk about why getting enough zinc is important for your health in the first place, how much plant-based or vegan women need, the vest vegan sources of zinc, and easy ways to get enough zinc.
Why is Zinc Good For You?
You might be wondering why you need zinc in the first place. Zinc is a mineral involved in many different processes in the body, so while overt zinc deficiency is uncommon, it is possible that low zinc levels may indirectly contribute to other conditions. Getting enough zinc rich vegan foods is particularly important for women during pregnancy to help with fetal cell growth and brain development.
Zinc Rich Vegan Foods: Best Sources
Zinc is found in small amounts in plant-based foods. Top zinc rich vegan foods include whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
If zinc is found in plant-based foods, then why is it so important to make sure you’re getting enough? When it comes to getting enough zinc from plant-based foods, a plant compound called phytate can get in the way. Phytates interfere with zinc absorption, so it’s best to rely on foods that are lower in phytates and therefor more well-absorbed.
Sprouting helps improve absorption, so sprouted grains, sprouted grain breads, sprouted nuts, and sprouted beans are good sources. Whole grain breads are also good sources of zinc because the leavening process in bread making breaks the bond between phytates and zinc.
Protein also increases zinc absorption, so beans and tempeh are food good sources that contain both zinc and protein.
Foods High in Zinc:
- Fortified cereals
- Sprouted grains
- Sprouted beans
- Wheat germ
- Whole grain bread
How Much Zinc Do Vegans Need?
Because the zinc in plant-based foods is not as easily absorbed as in animal-based foods, it’s unclear whether plant-based and vegan women need to eat more zinc than omnivores. Below, I’ve included the standard recommendation for zinc and also the recommendation for vegan women (vegan recommendations are in parentheses). If you eat a completely vegan diet, it’s probably wise to aim a little higher than the standard, but it’s not totally clear if you have to aim as high as the plant-based recommendation.
Zinc Needs for Vegan Women
Here are the daily zinc needs for women, according to the National Institutes of Health. The recommendation for plant-based or vegan women is in parentheses.
Tips For Easily Meeting Zinc Needs with Zinc Rich Vegan Foods
- Choose leavened whole grain and sprouted grain breads or sourdough breads
- Sprinkle wheat germ on oatmeal or add to smoothies or baked goods
- Sprout beans, grains, and nuts to make zinc (and other minerals) easier to absorb, or buy these foods already sprouted
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consider a zinc supplement
What other nutrients are you missing?
Download the free Supplement Guide to see what you might be missing and how to get enough!