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Zinc is a mineral that we need in small amount every day for good health. Although zinc is found in many plant foods, it is less concentrated than in many animal-based foods. Males are known to have a higher requirement for zinc than females because a substantial amount of zinc is lost through seminal fluids; the zinc RDA is 11 mg for adult males and 8 mg for adult females (up to 13 mg during pregnancy and lactation).

Can adult vegans, especially vegan men, obtain sufficient zinc on a whole foods vegan diet or should a zinc dietary supplement be considered?

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It is possible to obtain sufficient zinc following a vegan diet, as small quantities are present in many foods, but it may require some planning and awareness.

The UK Vegan Society gives different figures to your source (UK RDAs are different?), 7mg for adult women and 9.5mg for adult men. Their guidance on zinc has this table:

    Food Source           | Mass of zinc (mg)
---------------------------------------------
30g hulled hempseed       | 3.0
30g pumpkin seeds         | 2.0
30g cashew nuts           | 1.8
100g firm tofu            | 1.6
150g cooked quinoa        | 1.6
30g chia seeds            | 1.4
30g ground linseed        | 1.3
2 slices wholemeal bread  | 1.2
30g walnuts               | 0.8
80g cooked red lentils    | 0.8
80g cooked kidney beans   | 0.6
80g canned chickpeas      | 0.6

Almonds, green peas, and oatmeal are also listed as significant sources by the US Department of Health.

Be aware that if you are obtaining zinc from wheat bread, it needs to be leavened bread, because the fermentation process breaks down the phytic acid that inhibits absorption. I know that leavening bread with yeast has this effect, but I am not sure about other leavening processes. Soaking nuts and seeds and rinsing them before use helps to remove enzyme inhibitors. See this guide on vegetariannutrition.com.

That document also gives some more sources (I include here only some of those not in the other table):

    Food Source                     | Mass of zinc (mg)
-------------------------------------------------------
Oatmeal, 1 cup cooked               | 2.3
Nutritional yeast, 1 tbsp           | 2.0
Sunflower seeds 1/4 cup dry roasted | 1.7
Almonds, 1/4 cup dry roasted        | 1.1
Edamame, 1/2 cup cooked             | 1.1
Black beans, 1/2 cup cooked         | 1.0
Green peas, 1/2 cup cooked          | 1.0
Peanut butter, 2 tbsps              | 0.9
Corn, 1 cup                         | 0.9
Mushrooms, 1/2 cup cooked           | 0.7
Spinach, 1/2 cup cooked             | 0.7

A visible sign of zinc deficiency is white spots on the nails. Slow growth in children is associated with poor zinc status.

  • Wow, nutritional yeast is a great source of zinc. – Nic Mar 30 '18 at 21:45

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