Foods Packed with Zinc to Help Improve Your Immune System Naturally

Zinc is a mineral that's important for many functions including maintaining a strong immune system.

Zinc is one of the most abundant trace elements in the human body, playing an important role in immune function, wound healing, your sense of taste and smell, and the production of key proteins and DNA.

Because the body can't store it in significant amounts, it's important to get enough zinc in your diet. ​​And that's sometimes harder said than done as an estimated 17% of the global population — and 40% of the elderly — is at risk for a zinc deficiency.

It's best to get this mineral through your diet rather than a supplement. With supplements, it's easier to consume too much zinc, which can cause problems like a copper deficiency, high cholesterol, and impaired immune function. With that in mind, below are some of the richest food sources of zinc.

Potatoes - One medium-sized russet potato contains 0.61 milligrams of zinc (5.5% RDA for men, 9.6% RDA for women). Sweet potatoes have slightly less than regular potatoes: 0.57 milligrams (3.4% RDA for men, 4.6% RDA for women). 

Chickpeas - A ½ cup serving of cooked chickpeas contains 1.66 milligrams of zinc (14.4% RDA for men, 20.7% RDA for women).  Chickpeas can be added to salads, wraps, soups, and pasta, or crushed into a hummus dip.

Lentil - A ½ cup serving of cooked lentils contains 1.26 milligrams of zinc (11.4% RDA for men, 15.7% RDA for women). Lentils are also low in fat and high in satiating protein and fiber.

Hemp Seeds - One tablespoon of hemp seeds contains 1 milligram of zinc (9% RDA for men, 12.5% RDA for women).  Hemp seeds add a nutty taste and subtle crunch to salads, grain bowls, smoothie bowls, oatmeal, and yogurt. You can also cook with hemp seed oil.

Cashews - A one-ounce serving of dry roasted cashews contains 1.59 milligrams of zinc (14.5% RDA for men, 19.9% RDA for women). Pecans, Brazil nuts, and almonds are other nuts that are good sources of zinc. 

It's also important to note, not to exceed the limit of 40 milligrams per day. Exceeding the daily limit of 40 milligrams can lead to a deficiency in Copper.

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