Without zinc, you wouldn't be able to taste, smell or see properly. Zinc may also help keep you from getting sick, since zinc is involved in immune function, and it helps heal wounds and make DNA and protein. It isn't hard for most women to get the recommended 8 milligrams of zinc per day since it is found in lots of different foods.
Seafood is one of the better sources of zinc. Eating six raw medium oysters provides you with 76.3 milligrams, and 3 ounces of Alaskan king crab contain 6.5 milligrams of zinc. Blue crab contains 3.6 milligrams of zinc per 3-ounce serving, 3 ounces of lobster provide 2.5 milligrams and 3 ounces of canned clams contain 2.3 milligrams.
Meat and Poultry
Meat and poultry are also rich sources of zinc, with red meat providing more zinc than white meat. A 3-ounce serving of beef chuck blade roast provides all of your zinc for the day with 8.7 milligrams, 3 ounces of braised lamb shoulder contains 6.2 milligrams and 3 ounces of 85 percent lean hamburger provides 5.4 milligrams. Eating 3 ounces of pork shoulder will give you 4.2 milligrams of zinc, 3 ounces of dark meat turkey contain 3.8 milligrams and 3 ounces of dark meat chicken provide 2.4 milligrams.
Nuts and Legumes
You don't have to eat animal products to get your daily dose of zinc. Nuts and legumes are among the better vegetarian sources of zinc, along with fortified cereals. A cup of canned white beans provides 2.9 milligrams of zinc, the same-sized serving of lentils or chickpeas contains 2.5 milligrams and black beans or kidney beans provide 1.9 milligrams of zinc per cup. An ounce of pumpkin seeds has 2.1 milligrams of zinc, an ounce of sunflowers seeds provides 1.7 milligrams, cashews contain 1.6 milligrams of zinc per ounce and pecans provide 1.3 milligrams per ounce.
You can also find zinc in a number of dairy products. Part-skim ricotta cheese contains 3.3 milligrams of zinc per cup, an 8-ounce container of plain fat-free yogurt contains 2.2 milligrams, a cup of 1 percent milk provides 2.1 milligrams and an ounce of Swiss cheese contains 1.2 milligrams of zinc.
The zinc from plant foods isn't as well absorbed as that from animal foods, so vegetarians may need more zinc than non-vegetarians. Most plant foods that contain zinc, like beans, also contain substances called phytates which inhibit zinc absorption. Check with your doctor before taking zinc supplements, since they can interfere with some medications, and if you take these supplements ask your doctor if you should take copper supplement as well since high doses of zinc can cause a copper deficiency.
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.