Amino acids are the basic building blocks of protein, and your body requires 20 different kinds to make a complete, usable protein. Zinc is a trace mineral that is abundant inside your cell's nucleus, organelles and cytoplasm. It regulates cellular growth, DNA synthesis, and protects cells from free radical damage. Both of these of nutrients are abundant in meats and other animal sources. Dietitian Mary Grosvenor, former researcher at UCLA Medical Center, recommends that get both nutrients from lean meats and plant sources because of their lower saturated fat content.
Red Meat and Seafood
Meats, such as beef, oysters, crab, and shellfish have the highest zinc content in this food group. According to the Linus Paul Institute at Oregon State University, 6 medium-sized oysters has 76mg of zinc, which is almost 7 times the recommended daily intake for an adult. Also, 3 oz. of crab and beef contain 4 and 6mg of zinc, respectively. Too much zinc intake from animals sources can cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain.
Meats and seafood also contain the highest quality complete proteins that contain all essential amino acids. Note that 3 oz. of corned beef or fish contain about 20g of protein.
Yogurt, cheddar cheese, and milk are other animal sources of zinc and amino acids. They usually contain less saturated fat than meats per serving and have a fewer calories. Choose low-fat or nonfat dairy products to reduce calories and saturated fat intake. One cup of milk contain 1.8mg of zinc and 8g of protein.
Whole grain foods, including whole wheat bread, pasta, oats and barley, contain incomplete proteins that do not contain all essential amino acids. However, they are excellent sources of fiber, complex carbohydrates, and zinc. Two slices of whole wheat bread has 1.5mg of zinc and about 5g of protein. This food group should be the main source of your protein and zinc sources with meats and dairy products complementing your diet.
Legumes, Nuts and Seeds
These types of food are the best sources of plant-based foods that contain zinc and amino acids, as well as healthy unsaturated fats, fiber, B-vitamins and other minerals. They are energy dense with a high amount of calories in relation to their mass. Good sources include lentils, pumpkins seeds, sunflower seeds, baked beans, cashews, almonds and peanuts. Each serving contains between 0.9 to 1.6mg of zinc and 3 to 9g of protein.
- "Nutrition From Science to Life"; Mary Grosvenor; 2001
- "Linus Pauling Institute"; Zinc; December 2003