Top 9 Foods High in Zinc for Healthy Pregnancy
Zinc is an essential trace element that’s often overlooked when we talk about the health of the body – especially the health of a pregnant body.
Being extremely deficient in zinc is rare. But a mild deficiency is extremely common, especially among pregnant women. Around 8 in 10 pregnant women do not have the right amount of zinc.
But as we will soon find out, zinc is extremely important when it comes to fertility, the health of a pregnant woman, and the health of an unborn baby.
So it’s time to boost that zinc content way up.
As always, one of the best ways to get enough of a nutrient is to fill up on dietary sources. So I’m going to focus on all the top foods high in zinc for pregnancy. We will finish up with some thoughts on supplementing your zinc through a prenatal.
Why You Need Zinc
Even though you don’t need very much of it, zinc is a powerhouse nutrient. It’s essential for fighting off illness, keeping your heart and liver healthy, preventing digestive issues, and even growing muscle.
But there are very specific ways that is plays a vital role when you are pregnant (or trying to become pregnant).
How Zinc Helps Fertility
Before you even become pregnant, getting plenty of zinc is essential for your eggs. You actually need zinc for your eggs to mature – this means they are ready to be fertilized. Then the zinc even improves your follicular fluid so the egg can get into the uterus.
Zinc also plays a role in balancing your hormones, which you need in order to properly ovulate each month.
Here’s one more interesting note: zinc can possible shrink fibroids. Since fibroids are one of the many causes of infertility, this could be a big lifesaver.
How Zinc Helps You During Pregnancy
Once you get pregnant, zinc continues to help you with the following:
- Helps keep your immune system strong
- Prevents intra-uterine infections
- Keeps hormones in check
How Zinc Helps Your Developing Baby
You’re not the only one needing all that zinc; your baby does too. Zinc can:
- Help with DNA production
- Play a role in the growth of cells
- Synthesize protein
If you don’t have enough zinc, there may be issues with the baby’s delivery – including low birth weight. There are also some connections between low zinc levels and miscarriage.
So now you see why getting adequate zinc is so important, now let me show you how to get it.
The One Food Missing From This List
Before we get to our list of foods high in zinc for pregnancy, let me mention the one I left off.
Oysters (and other seafood) are extremely high in zinc.100g of oysters give you 524% of your daily value of zinc). But since pregnant ladies often avoid or greatly limit seafood, I’m going to give you non-fishy options for boosting that zinc.
Once you’ve had your baby, you can enjoy this zinc-rich food once again.
The Best Foods High In Zinc For Pregnancy
There are many different foods that have zinc, but here are some of the top choices. Make sure to add some of these foods to your daily rotation while trying to have a baby and while pregnant.
1. Lamb and Beef
Outside of that seafood you won’t be eating while your pregnant, meat is probably your go-to zinc choice. In fact, this is such a high source of zinc that meat-eaters are less likely to have a zinc deficiency than vegetarians.
I know most of you meat-eaters have probably cooked beef many times, but home cooks rarely try to cook lamb. Here is video of Gordon Ramsay showing you how to cook grilled lamb chops with a few tasty sides:
2. Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Seeds, and Flax Seeds
All of these seeds are high in zinc and make wonderful additions to meals you are already making. Pumpkin seeds are also high in magnesium and omega-3s. Sesame seeds are high in calcium and fiber. And flax seeds are high in fiber and antioxidants.
In other words, get plenty while you’re pregnant!
Here are a few ideas for incorporating them:
- Toss pumpkin seeds into salads or baked goods
- Add flax meal (ground flax seeds) into a smoothie, oatmeal, or baked goods
- Include sesame seeds into any stir-fry or sautéed vegetable you make
3. Wheat Germ
Wheat germ is full of nutrients ideal for pregnant woman. On top of the zinc, wheat germ also offers about a 1/5 of your daily folic acid needs. Then it’s a great source of iron too. (In many ways, these could be considered three of the most important nutrients for pregnancy.)
But how do you get it into your diet?
- Use it as a topping – over yogurt, cereal, oats, or even a fruit salad
- Add it right into a smoothie
- Use it to replace some of your breadcrumbs when you are breading meat or making meatballs
This is obviously not a good option for those with celiac or a gluten sensitivity. But there are plenty of other great sources of zinc on this list for you.
4. Dark Chocolate
This one shouldn’t be a hard one to enjoy more of, right?
Having one or two squares of dark chocolate is a great way to kill off your sweet tooth while getting plenty of nutrients (like zinc). The dark chocolate is lower in sugar than other milk chocolate or chocolate candies.
Here’s one more reason to enjoy. A few years ago, a study came out that showed pregnant women who eat dark chocolate regularly were nearly 70% less likely to develop preeclampsia. This is a condition that could be harmful to both you and the baby.
5. Pine nuts and Cashews
Nuts are also a great source of zinc… and these two in particular are top of the list. Nuts are a great snack for pregnant women for many reasons:
- They are filling: the protein and fat help keep you fuller longer
- They are full of omega 3s: These fatty acids are essential for keeping your baby and you healthy all during your pregnancy
If you get board with just eating a handful of nuts, try experimenting with different nut butters. Almond butter gets a lot of glory, but cashew butter is delicious and decadent. It’s great for dipping apple slices.
6. Chickpeas and Kidney Beans
Both of these are fabulous sources of both protein and fiber (which makes them great options for the vegetarians/vegans who are not eating beef or lamb.
Here are some ways I like to add them into my meals:
- Hummus is made out of chickpeas; make that your go-to dip for veggie sticks or crackers
- Make a big batch of bean chili with your kidney beans and other beans, and then freeze the leftovers into portion-size containers. When you are having days that you don’t feel very good, you’ll appreciate the healthy convenience.
- Toss both into a salad
7. Fortified Cereals or Oats
Many cereals are fortified with extra nutrients we need. Zinc is often one of the minerals added to these fortified cereals.
Remember that cereals can sometimes be some of the unhealthiest food on the shelves. Pay attention to sugar content. Make sure you can pronounce the ingredients. Just because something is fortified with iron does not make it necessarily healthy for you.
Another great zinc-rich breakfast food is oatmeal. Instead of the sugary instant oatmeal, just make your own quick-cooking oats with almond milk. Add a drizzle of honey, some fresh berries, chopped nuts, and a little flaxseed or wheat germ for a zinc-rich morning.
Lentils are a great way to get plenty of protein, fiber, and zinc in a plant-based way during your pregnancy.
If you are not sure how to prepare them, here’s a short video that shows you how to make a delicious lentil soup:
Spinach may have the lowest zinc content on our list, but it really is one of the most fabulous choices for pregnancy health.
First off, spinach is high in folate – one of the most important nutrients for a healthy pregnancy. Then you have just about every other important vitamin and mineral in one little leaf.
Go spinach crazy!
- Eat it raw in a salad
- Blend it into a smoothie
- Sautee it with garlic, salt, and avocado oil
- Toss it into any stir-fry
Taking a Zinc Supplement
Getting proper nutrition from food is key. But sometimes diet alone cannot offer quite the amount of vitamins and minerals your body needs when it is growing a baby.
Nutrient deficiencies are really common. Even some really healthy eaters may be surprised to learn they are deficient in a mineral or two. To prevent that, all pregnant women (and all women who are trying to become pregnant) should be taking a prenatal.
That prenatal should have some zinc. The recommended daily allowance (or RDA) of zinc for a pregnant woman is 11 milligrams a day (for teen moms it’s 13 milligrams a day). So finding a prenatal somewhere around that amount is a good idea!
If you are taking a zinc supplement, don’t worry about getting too much by eating these foods. You can get more without a real problem. It’s recommended
Zinc and Your Pregnancy
This is the time of your life where it is most important to get enough of all the important nutrients. So take your zinc levels seriously for both you and your baby. Luckily, it really isn’t that hard:
- Choose a prenatal vitamin with zinc and then take it regularly, as instructed
- Have a diet filled with a variety of healthy foods including some of these zinc-rich foods that made our list
If you are still concerned about your zinc levels, have your doctor test you. A large zinc deficiency may require an extra zinc supplement.