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Eating Nuts Can Deplete Zinc

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 05/19/2021

Zinc is an essential mineral involved in more enzyme systems than all other trace minerals combined.

Your body doesn’t store excess zinc, so if you don’t get enough from your diet, you can easily become deficient. In fact, over 2 billion people around the world are deficient in zinc.

Find out how nuts may affect zinc absorption—and the best way to support healthy zinc levels.

Zinc trace element

Benefits of zinc

Zinc is necessary for some of your body’s most critical functions. Let’s take a look at some of the many health benefits of zinc.

1. Stabilizes insulin

Zinc is vital to the function of the beta cells in your pancreas, which are responsible for producing insulin. If you don't have enough zinc, your beta cells can become fatigued and won’t produce enough insulin.

2. Repairs muscles

Zinc is essential for muscle regeneration and repair. If you are deficient in zinc, you could put yourself at risk for injury. Zinc also plays a major role in wound healing and promoting deep sleep.

3. Supports a healthy immune system

Zinc is incredibly important for the function of the thymus gland, which is an integral part of your immune system. Without enough zinc, your thymus can atrophy, which will lead to low T-cell production and diminished antibodies. This puts you at risk for infections and viruses, like the common cold. 

4. Maintains healthy testosterone levels

Zinc controls many key hormones. The most concentrated amount of zinc is located in the prostate gland. Zinc plays an essential role in healthy testosterone levels, which is important for sperm production.

5. Supports healthy vision

Zinc is just as important as vitamin A when it comes to your vision, especially at night. Zinc is critical to the transportation of the active form of vitamin A, known as retinol.

6. Promotes healthy skin

Insufficient zinc intake can lead to dry, rough, and flaky skin. Acne is also a common symptom of zinc deficiency. 

7. Prevents intestinal inflammation

Zinc helps combat inflammation all over the body, especially in the digestive tract. Zinc can help to reduce the incidence of ulcers in your stomach and small intestine.

Are nuts a good source of zinc?

Although nuts are high in zinc, they’re also high in phytic acid. Phytic acid has the ability to bind to zinc and prevent it from being absorbed by your body. 

Phytic acid can bind to other minerals too, including iron, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, chromium, copper, and manganese.

Diets high in whole grains are high in phytic acid, which can significantly reduce zinc levels.

Phytic acid also inhibits certain enzymes that help your body digest protein and starch, including pepsin, trypsin, and amylase. Excess phytic acid consumption may cause digestive issues like gas, bloating, and gastrointestinal inflammation.

Some of the best nuts for keto are unfortunately also high in phytic acid. Brazil nuts contain 1719 mg of phytic acid—the most phytic acid of any nut. Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and hazelnuts contain 1400 mg, 982 mg, 952 mg, and 648 mg of phytic acid, respectively. 

Although phytic acid binds to some important minerals, it can also be beneficial. Check out this study that examines the good and bad of phytic acid.
 

soaking nuts

How to reduce phytic acid in nuts

If you want to consume nuts as a source of zinc, there are a few things that you can do to reduce phytic acid.

1. Germinate nuts before eating

Germinate nuts by soaking them in water overnight to mimic the natural germination process, which reduces phytic acid levels. You can dry the nuts by roasting them at a low temperature.

2. Boil/pressure cook nuts

Boiling or pressure cooking nuts can greatly reduce their phytic acid content. Roasting nuts at a high temperature has a similar effect.

3. Eat nuts after a meal

For phytic acid to bind with zinc, they have to be consumed at the same time. If you eat a meal that is high in zinc and eat nuts with your next meal, the phytic acid won’t have much of an effect. 

While this doesn’t directly reduce the phytic acid in nuts, it does reduce its effects.

zinc-rich nuts

Nuts with the most zinc

According to the FDA, you need about 11 mg of zinc each day. If you want to increase your daily zinc intake, nuts and seeds can be an excellent choice—especially after germination.

Here are the best nuts and seeds for replenishing zinc. 

Pine nuts

One cup of pine nuts contains around 8.7 mg of zinc. This is more than half of the recommended daily value of zinc. Pine nuts are also a great source of protein.

Cashews

One cup of cashews has about 6 mg of zinc. If you don’t want to eat cashews by themselves, you can chop them up and add them to a salad or a dish like cashew chicken.

Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts contain many essential vitamins and minerals. They’re especially high in zinc and selenium.

Seeds

Although they are not nuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds contain significant amounts of zinc. 

You can add pumpkin seeds to salads or eat them alone as a snack. One cup of pumpkin seeds has about 6.5 mg of zinc.

Hemp seeds can be added to smoothies and smoothie bowls for a little extra crunch. You can also top your oatmeal with hemp seeds. A quarter cup of hemp seeds has around 4 mg of zinc.

Chia seeds are great in overnight oats, smoothies, and chia seed puddings. One ounce of chia seeds has around 1.5 mg of zinc. 

animal products high in zinc

Other foods high in zinc

Seafood, meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, and other animal products are excellent sources of zinc. Out of all foods, oysters are considered the richest source of zinc—a single raw oyster is packed with 5.5 mg of zinc. 

Having eggs every day is an easy way to help meet your daily requirement for zinc and other essential minerals. Four eggs provide 2.6 mg of zinc.

Regularly consuming a wide variety of zinc-rich foods is the best way to combat zinc deficiency. 

Zinc foods on blue background

Key takeaways

If you want to consume nuts to meet your daily zinc requirements, it can be helpful to reduce their phytic acid content.

You can also try getting your zinc from other sources. Animal products—including seafood and meat—are some of the best sources of zinc.

FAQs

1. What are the best nuts to replenish zinc? 

Pine nuts, cashews, and Brazil nuts all provide a good source of zinc. Although not a nut, pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of zinc as well. If you add these nuts and seeds to your diet, always soak or roast them to help reduce their phytic acid content.

2. Can phytic acid cause a zinc deficiency? 

Foods high in phytic acid can have a negative effect on zinc absorption and can even lead to zinc deficiency. A diet high in whole grains, sugars, and carbohydrates can deplete zinc due to the high levels of phytic acid in these foods. In addition to foods high in phytic acid, gastric bypass, digestive issues, absorption issues, GMO foods, diabetes, and liver issues can all contribute to zinc deficiency. 

3. How can I reduce phytic acid in nuts?

Try soaking your nuts overnight before consuming them. You can also boil, roast, or pressure cook your nuts.

4. What are the benefits of eating nuts high in zinc? 

Consuming foods high in zinc or zinc supplementation is necessary to ensure that you get your recommended daily value of zinc. Zinc has no storage system in the body, so you need to get it from your diet each day. Eating nuts that provide zinc can support your immune system, keep your skin healthy, and improve your vision at night.

5. Are peanuts rich in zinc?

A single cup of peanuts provides a rich source of plant-based protein and is a good source of zinc. Be sure to soak your peanuts to reduce the phytic acid content. You can also enjoy boiled peanuts, which contain less phytic acid.

6. What is the best source of zinc?

Foods high in zinc include oysters, red meat, and other meats like lamb chops, pork tenderloin, and venison. Eggs, milk, cheese, and other dairy products provide many vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy body, including zinc and calcium.

7. Which nuts and seeds have the most zinc?

Pine nuts, cashews, and Brazil nuts contain the most zinc.

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