Breakouts and skin issues can be incredibly frustrating— and confusing— for vegetarians and vegans who are eating a clean, plant-based diet.
Shouldn't clean, healthy food equal clear, healthy skin?
Yes, acne can be caused by poor dietary choices, but there are other, more subtle factors behind persistent skin issues, including a zinc deficiency. Consider that the top sources of dietary zinc come from animal products: oysters, beef, pork, yogurt, chicken and milk, and it's not a shock that a vegetarian or vegan could be lacking in this essential beauty mineral.
Zinc is a major player in the growth of new cells, boosting collagen, preventing wrinkles and healing wounds. It's also important for immune function (ever take a zinc lozenge to ward off a cold?) and for eye health. Women need about 8 mg zinc daily, while men should have 11. As a reference point, a 3 oz serving of beef has about 5 mg zinc, while a 3 oz serving of dark meat chicken has only about 2 mg.
Since the body doesn't store zinc (and ladies, zinc is also depleted by the birth control pill), it's important to get some zinc in your diet each day.
Here's where to get your skin-clearing, immune-boosting dose of zinc if you're not eating red meat or poultry:
raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas): 1 oz contains 2.1 mg zinc
lima beans: 1 cup contains 1.8 mg
cashews: 1 oz contains 1.6 mg
chickpeas: 1/2 cup contains 1.3 mg
walnuts: 1 oz contains .9 mg
peanuts: 1 oz contains .9 mg
mushrooms: 1 cup contains .8 mg
tahini: 1 tbsp contains .7 mg
ground flaxseed: 1 tbsp contains .3 mg
And for those who eat eggs and fish:
salmon: 3 oz contains .7 mg
shrimp: 3 oz contains 1.3 mg
eggs: 1 hard boiled egg has .5 mg
Why not just take a supplement? It's always the better choice to try to amp up the zinc in your diet first. You'll be getting so many other nutritional benefits at the same time! A zinc supplement might be necessary anyway, but it can sometimes lead to a copper deficiency, so try whole foods first. Many grains also contain zinc, but phytates in grains can interfere with the body's absorption of zinc, so you may not be getting as much as you think.
What beauty foods are you eating to get your dose of anti-aging zinc today?
For one of my favorite zinc-packed recipes, check out my Spicy Sundried Tomato Hummus.