Iron and zinc are essential minerals in your diet. Iron is a component of healthy red blood cells, and zinc is necessary for a strong immune system. Eating a variety of foods can help you meet your daily requirements for both minerals. The daily value for iron is 18 milligrams, and the daily value for zinc is 15 milligrams.
Beef and pork are sources of iron and zinc. A 3-ounce portion of lean beef tenderloin provides 2.6 milligrams of iron and 3.2 milligrams of zinc, and a 3-ounce portion of pork tenderloin supplies 3.1 milligrams of iron and 4 milligrams of zinc. Meat and other animal-derived food products contain heme iron, which is highly absorbable. Choose lean meats and trim away visible fat to limit your intake of saturated fat, which raises your unhealthy low-density lipoprotein, or "bad" cholesterol, levels and increases your risk for heart disease.
Soy Products and Beans
Soy products, such as tofu and roasted soybeans, and beans, such as navy, black, pinto, garbanzo, kidney and white beans, provide iron and zinc. A half-cup of cooked navy beans has 2.2 milligrams of iron and 1.9 milligrams of zinc. The iron in beans is in its nonheme form, which is more difficult for your body to absorb than heme iron. Increase absorption by consuming a source of vitamin C, such as bell peppers, tomatoes or oranges, at the same time that you consume nonheme iron, such as from beans, spinach and raisins.
Shellfish are among the top sources of zinc, according to the Linus Pauling Institute, and they also provide heme iron. A 3-ounce portion of oysters supplies 7.8 milligrams of iron and 28.3 milligrams of zinc. Seafood is a source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your risk for heart disease and reduce your blood pressure, according to the University of Michigan. Try scallops tossed with spinach and whole-wheat pasta for a high-iron, high-zinc dinner.
Whole grains contain the bran, germ and endosperm components of the entire grain kernel, making them higher than refined grains in natural nutrients such as iron. A cup of cooked barley provides 2.1 milligrams of iron and 1.3 milligrams of zinc, and a cup of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti supplies 1.5 milligrams of iron and 1.1 milligrams of zinc. The zinc in whole grains is less absorbable than the zinc in meat and other animal-based foods due to the high content of a plant compound called phytate. Enriched grains contain extra iron.
- Linus Pauling Institute: Iron
- Linus Pauling Institute: Zinc
- University of Michigan: Legumes
- University of Michigan: Lean Meats
- University of Michigan: Soy
- University of Michigan: Seafood
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database
- USDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
- Food and Drug Administration: Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide (14. Appendix F: Calculate the Percent Daily Value for the Appropriate Nutrients)