Zinc is an essential trace mineral and a component of over 100 enzymes,which are involved in numerous bodily functions including sperm production, night vision, appetite, sense of taste and smell, wound healing and maintaining a strong immune system. Zinc is widely distributed in foods, but is more bioavailable from animal products such as beef and lamb.
Beef and lamb provide an excellent source of zinc, with a 150 grams serve providing at least 25% of the recommended daily intake for adults. A healthy serving size is a couple of slices of cooked meat or 3/4 cup mince or casserole. Red meats, particularly offal cuts kidney and liver, are higher in zinc than poultry, cheese, grains, legumes or vegetables. Beef is one of the most commonly eaten sources of zinc in New Zealand according to the last national nutrition survey.
The type of protein in foods such as beef and lamb promotes zinc absorption. This means zinc is more easily absorbed from meals containing meat. Plant foods such as grains and legumes contain phytates and dietary fibre, which inhibit zinc absorption. This mphasises the importance of a varied diet with a combination of plant and animal foods that optimise nutrient uptake from a meal, when eaten together.