Zinc is a mineral that is extremely important for our health and metabolism. Zinc is present in cells throughout our body and has a direct role in several biological functions like DNA and protein synthesis and development and function of most body systems. For many enzymes in our body, zinc is used as a cofactor to help with metabolism. Zinc promotes wound healing, is needed in healthy pregnancies, boosts our immune function and helps us fight against infections that include pneumonia, malaria and infectious diarrhea .
Surprisingly, this micronutrient deficiency is common. A CDC study found that 17.3% of the global population deficient in it and this is even more prevalent in South Asia where more than 25% population is affected . The common reason for zinc deficiency is a lack of intake.
The daily amount of zinc that is needed depends on your age, but the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) is 8 mg for adult women and 11mg for adult men . While meats and seafood are rich sources of zinc, some of the plant-based sources like beans, legume and whole grains have decreased absorption of zinc due to presence of compounds called phytates that inhibit absorption of zinc. Vegetarians may need more than 50% of recommended daily values because of the limited absorption due to these compounds!
One of the best preventive methods to deal with zinc deficiency is consuming adequate amounts in our diet and the healthiest and tastiest ways to get your daily intake of zinc can be from foods that are rich in this micronutrient. We have made a list of Indian foods that are rich in this powerful proven immune boosting micronutrient. Foods providing 20% or more of the Daily Value (DV) are considered good sources of a nutrient. Here is a list of foods that are commonly used in Indian cooking and are rich in zinc and you can add this to your daily diet and supplement yourself naturally.
Whole Grains :
Amaranth or ‘rajgira’ is a highly nutritious gluten free ancient grain high in fiber and protein and 1 cup of amaranth has several micronutrients including 60% of the recommended daily intake of zinc and more than 100% of manganese.
Bajra or pearl millet is a pseudo-grain used in several delicious Rajasthani dishes. Bajra has a high amount of insoluble fiber and is an excellent choice for people looking to manage their diabetes, lose weight and improve gut health. Four bajra rotis will provide you one third of your daily zinc and are also rich in iron, magnesium and several types of vitamin B.
Maize or ‘makkai’ is a very popular food and used for making corn tortillas or ‘makkai di roti’ which pairs great with ‘sarson ka saag’. This is another versatile grain that can be consumed in different ways and 100 g maize flour will already fulfil 20% Daily Value (DV). Whole wheat ‘phulka rotis’ also provide you with this powerful micronutrient.
Legumes and Lentils:
Bengal Gram dal, chickpeas, Lens culinaris- ‘masoor dal’ and soya bean are all healthy sources of protein, fiber and rich in zinc, iron, magnesium and the B vitamins. Phytates in these plant-based sources can inhibit the absorption of zinc but studies have shown that with cooking processes like soaking, sprouting, heating or fermenting, the bioavailability of zinc can be increased . 100 g of lentils can provide up to one third of your daily zinc requirement.
Nuts and seeds:
100 g cashew nuts can suffice your entire daily requirement. Nuts like almonds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds are nutrient dense and can provide high amounts of zinc. They are also high in good fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber and have proven health benefits.
Dairy and Meats:
Milk and cheese have a fair amount of zinc but it is bio-available and easy to use and dairy provides a variety of other nutrients which are so helpful for bone health and. A cup of full milk provides about 10% DV of zinc.
Eggs and chicken have easily absorbable sources of zinc. Seafood like mollusks and oysters have some of the highest content of zinc.
Poppy seeds are obtained from the Papaver somniferum plant. Poppy seeds commonly known as ‘Posta’ or ‘Khus Khus’ in Hindi, are a type of oil seeds and used in baking and in curries. This spice has a whopping 7.9 g of zinc in 100 grams and provides more than 70%-of DV . Poppy seed paste used in curry preparations like ‘kormas’ adds a rich and creamy taste. It is important to know that while this is used in several Indian dishes, the spice opium poppy seed has restrictions on its use in some countries.
Sesame seeds used in making the spicy Idli podi/ spicy dry powder mix can provide a bulk of your zinc needs . Try toasting and sprinkling them over your salad, because 100 g sesame seeds provide your entire day's zinc requirement! They are also good sources of selenium, copper, iron, vitamin B6, and vitamin E.
Several spices providing more than 20% DV of zinc, include, cardamom/ ‘elaichi’, celery seed, ‘carom seed/ ‘ajwain, mustard seed/ ‘sarson’, caraway seed/ ‘kala jeera’, anise seed, fennel seed, cumin seed, coriander seed, turmeric, bay leaves and paprika. These values are for 100 g amounts and even though spices are used in much smaller quantities, it is important to know how that they are not only flavorful and aromatic but also provide important nutrients.
100g of 70-85% cacao dark chocolate has 30% DV of zinc. It is a high calorie food and it is best to consume this sweet treat in small amounts. When you are looking for a sweet treat you can always enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate.
By including these varieties of food groups and spices in your daily diet, you can now fully enjoy the health benefits !
Masoor Dal lentils, rich in Zinc
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