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Blog - raw food tips

Zinc Grocery List for Raw Vegans

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A guest blog post by Andrea Lewis, from Holistic Health & Living. 

Zinc is an essential trace-mineral, without which one could not develop and grow properly. Zinc is not only essential for preventing birth defects, keeping hormones and neurotransmitters in check, preserving reproductive health and male fertility, but it also helps to maintain one's natural beauty. Despite popular belief, one doesn't need to consume red meat, poultry, shellfish or dairy products to get a sufficient amount of zinc in their diet. Most fruits contain some zinc and many vegetables do as well. Below, I have listed some of the whole foods richest in this vital nutrient.

Zinc-Rich Raw Whole Foods 

  • Dates – 0.1mg each, pitted 
  • Green peas – 1.8mg per cup 
  • Napa Cabbage – 4mg per cup 
  • Pumpkin – 0.4mg per cup 
  • Pumpkin and squash seeds – 6.6mg per cup 
  • Pomegranate – 1mg each (4” diameter) 
  • Avocado – 0.9mg per cup 
  • Blackberries – 0.8mg per cup 
  • Raspberries – 0.5mg per cup 
  • Loganberries – 0.5g per cup 
  • Asparagus – 0.7mg per cup 
  • Brussels sprouts – 0.4mg per cup 
  • Green beans – 0.3mg per cup 
  • Swiss chard – 0.1mg per cup 
  • Corn – 0.7mg per cup

As I said, most fruits contain zinc and many vegetables as well; but those listed above contain average to above average amounts and are easy to find in most parts of the country. Zinc Requirements RDA (recommended daily allowance) is determined according to age, sex and other considerations. In the case of infants 0-6 months there is no RDA, only an AI (adequate intake) amount of 2mg. Adequate intake amount means that the amount has been shown to be sufficient for maintaining the health of that particular group. Keep in mind that the same could also be said of the RDA, as RDA numbers for trace-minerals, like zinc, are fairly low, and it takes nearly 10 times the highest RDA for adults (and over a fairly long period of time) before zinc becomes harmful.

Infants 7-12 months 3mg 

Children 1-3 years 3mg 

Children 4-8 years 5mg 

Children 9-13 years 8mg 

Boys 14-18 years 11mg 

Girls 14-18 years 9mg 

Pregnant teens 14-18 years 

12mg Lactating teens 

14-18 years 13mg 

Men 19+ years 11mg 

Women 19+ years 8mg 

Pregnant women 19+ years 11mg 

Lactating women 19+ years 12mg

The RDA numbers are only a little lower than what many nutrition experts have recommended as “optimal” amounts for zinc consumption.

How Much Is Too Much? 

The tolerable upper intake level – the maximum amount of a nutrient that a human can consume without suffering potentially dangerous side effects – of zinc for healthy adult men and women over 19 years old is considered 40mg. The tolerable upper intake level for adolescents, male and female, 14-18 years old is 34mg, and for children, male and female, 9-13 years old it is 23mg. The symptoms of a zinc overdose include abdominal cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, severe headaches, nerve damage, nausea and decreased appetite. One of the more concerning side effects of consuming excessive amounts of zinc is a copper deficiency. Copper and zinc balance each other out, and excessive amounts of zinc will decrease your supply of copper. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements has stated that taking 150-450 mg of zinc has not only been linked to copper deficiency, but also lowered immune system function and a decrease in HDL “good” cholesterol levels. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to reach these excessive levels of zinc through diet, especially since most of the foods that contain zinc also contain copper. FYI, excessive copper intake will, in turn, lead to a zinc deficiency, with many of the same and even more alarming symptoms.

The possibility of excess is one important reason why we should all strive to get most, if not all, of our nutrients from our diet. We must also keep in mind that it's not just supplementation that one must be cautious of. Several years ago, it was discovered that a number of nerve damage cases, with no obvious cause, were the result of two commonplace personal care products for denture wearers: Poligrip and Fixodent. They both contained zinc, at the time, and users were getting excess amounts from using these products in addition to what they were getting in their diets. The extremely low levels of copper caused by the excess zinc, in addition to the toxic affects of the zinc itself, lead to bone marrow suppression and degeneration of the spinal cord, resulting in crippling nerve damage to some users of these products. The condition is commonly known as “human swayback disease”. Some of those affected by these products ended up in wheel chairs and at least one died. The manufacturer of Poligrip promptly removed the zinc from their denture adhesive and settled with complainants. Fixodent was not so quick to do either, and at least one lawsuit against the manufacturer was dismissed for “lack of scientific evidence”.

One lesson to take away from that unfortunate denture adhesive predicament is the importance of investigating the contents of any personal care product before use; even if there's no possibility of a product being swallowed, which is pretty much unavoidable with denture and dental products, one should still be cognizant of possible side-effects. Products applied to the skin have the potential to be just as harmful as those that are placed in the mouth, since the ingredients may be absorbed through the skin and into the blood stream. Something to consider.

Zinc Benefits 

Zinc is absolutely essential to human growth and development. Zinc is responsible for protein synthesis, cell division and DNA binding. Zinc is crucial to a healthy immune system and is necessary for no less than 300 chemical reactions in the body. Zinc prevents birth defects, controls development and growth, regulates mood altering neurotransmitters like dopamine and hormones that affect one's state of mind and reproductive health, improves PMS symptoms and protects male fertility. Zinc is also fundamental to good vision and the loss of it, in the retina, as we age, is the cause of AMD (age-related macular degeneration). AMD can lead to partial or complete loss of one's vision, if not treated in time, and zinc supplementation is often recommended to those at high-risk for the condition.

Zinc is also an anti-inflammatory agent that has been used to ease skin conditions like poison ivy, sunburn and blisters, as well as some gum diseases. There are several zinc creams on the market, for babies, that quickly soothe diaper rash and also heal cuts and wounds. Zinc has also been proven effective in treating acne is adolescents, and has been reported to be effective for psoriasis and neurodermitis (in some sufferers) as well. However, one of the most researched, superficial benefits of zinc is preventing hair loss. This is primarily because zinc, along with the minerals copper and selenium, are required for synthesizing thyroid hormones, and without sufficient amounts of thyroid hormones hair loss is all but guaranteed. One study on this topic appeared in the International Journal of Trichology, Jan-Mar 2013, 'Zinc Deficiency Associated with Hypothyroidism: An Overlooked Cause of Severe Alopecia'. It's a very interesting study and very positive results were achieved, using a zinc monohydrate supplement containing elemental zinc in dosages far above the tolerable upper intake level for adults, in addition to “other multivitamins”. Zinc plays literally hundreds of vital roles in the human body; so, getting enough of this essential trace-mineral in one's diet is necessary for maintaining good physical health and emotional well-being. And it's always nice to know that so many raw whole foods, far more than I've listed above, contain this important mineral, in addition to its co-balancer copper. The proper zinc to copper ratio is considered, by most nutrition experts (as it regards supplements), to be 10:1. However, most zinc-rich foods maintain a ratio averaging 4:1, with foods like prunes having a 1.2:1 ratio, Napa cabbage and bananas at 2:1, avocados at 3:1 and green peas at 6:1. When one considers how much of each of these foods one is likely to consume on any given day, at any given meal, it drives home the fact that Nature really does know best. 


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