Watch out for These Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency

meat cheese seeds and other foods high in zinc

As more of us move towards a plant-based diet we become at risk of not getting enough zinc into our bodies. Zinc is an essential mineral that helps keep our metabolism running smoothly and our immune system in tip-top shape

Most of the zinc in our diet comes from red meat, poultry, and certain kinds of seafood. Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food. 

Reducing meat consumption and integrating more vegetables and grains into our diets comes with many health benefits, but it also brings a higher risk of zinc deficiency.

What are the signs?

Although difficult to diagnose because zinc levels are not included in a standard blood test, there are signs you should look out for: 

  • White spots on fingernails
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight or hair loss
  • Skin rashes and ulcers
  • Prone to infections or colds
  • Difficulty concentrating

You may experience some or all of these symptoms or none at all, which is why it is important to deliberately incorporate zinc-rich foods into your diet

For those of us who are trying to move away from red meats or go all-in on a plant-based diet, there are ways of ensuring that we are giving our bodies enough zinc.

Most nuts and seeds are high in this valuable vitamin. Zinc levels in hemp, squash, and pumpkin seeds are particularly high and are delicious sprinkled on yogurts or added to your breakfast cereal. 

A further point to note is that soaking these seeds and grains for several hours to encourage sprouting can reduce the number of phosphates in the seeds, and therefore increase zinc absorption in your gut.

Many vegetables are a good source of zinc as well, with greens such as spinach at the top of the list and broccoli and Shitake mushrooms scoring high as well. There are many vegan and vegetarian recipes that incorporate mushrooms as a meat replacement.

Other good news is that Quorn and Mycoprotein also contain a certain amount of zinc. Check out our recipe for The Ultimate Vegan Lasagna with Veggie Mince.

This important vitamin should not be overlooked and it is vital you look for the signs of deficiency. Luckily, it is relatively simple to incorporate into your diet without needing to use supplements.

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