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What are the best zinc-rich foods to eat?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Pope, BPharm. Last updated on March 10, 2023.

Official answer


Zinc is a natural mineral present in some foods. Examples of food rich in zinc are:

  • Alaska king crab
  • Meat, such as beef, lamb, and pork
  • Oysters
  • Pine nuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Wheat germ.

Other food high in zinc, but with less of it include:

  • Bittersweet or dark chocolate
  • Cashews
  • Cocoa powder
  • Dairy, such as cheese and milk
  • Dijon mustard
  • Eggs
  • Hemp seeds
  • Legumes (such as chickpeas, lentils, and beans)*
  • Muscles (shellfish)
  • Mushrooms
  • Peanut flour
  • Peanuts
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Sesame seeds
  • Shrimp
  • Yeast
  • Whole grains, such as oats, quinoa, rice, and wheat.*

*Legumes and wholegrains also contain phytates which can bind to zinc and reduce its absorption.

Zinc may be added to some breakfast cereals and other foods. Supplements of zinc usually contain either zinc acetate, zinc chloride, zinc citrate, zinc gluconate, or zinc sulfate. Zinc is better absorbed from supplements that have the citrate or gluconate salt. Multivitamin preparations that contain more than 25mg of iron can reduce zinc absorption and zinc concentrations in the body.

What are the benefits of zinc?

Zinc is a mineral required by more than 100 different enzymes in our body to carry out vital chemical reactions. It also supports a healthy immune system, is good for our skin helps repair wounds, and plays a major role in many other body functions and systems, such as blood clotting, thyroid function, and supports our sense of taste and smell.

Zinc is vital during times of rapid growth, such as during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence, because it helps cells to grow and multiply and is important for creating DNA.

Benefits of zinc may include:

  • Acts as a catalyst for over 100 enzymatic reactions in the body
  • Enhances the immune system
  • Crucial for protein and DNA synthesis
  • Important for healthy growth and development during infancy, childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy
  • Preventing and slowing age-related macular degeneration
  • Reducing symptoms of cold and flu
  • Supporting taste and smell
  • Supporting the immune system
  • Vital for cell signaling and division
  • Wound healing.

Related questions

What are the symptoms of zinc deficiency?

Because zinc is widely used throughout the body, zinc deficiency can affect several body systems and cause symptoms such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dulled taste
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Hair loss
  • Inability to smell
  • Infections
  • Irritability
  • Nail changes
  • Poor appetite
  • Poor wound healing
  • Skin irritation and blemishes
  • Slow growth or delayed sexual maturity
  • Weight loss
  • Visual defects and other eye problems.

What is the dosage of zinc?

The recommended daily allowance of zinc depends on a person's age and sex and if they are pregnant or lactating:

  • 0 to 6 months: 2mg
  • 7 to 12 months: 3mg
  • 1 to 3 years: 3mg
  • 4 to 8 years: 5mg
  • 9 to 13 years: 8mg
  • 14 to 18 years: 11mg (boys), 9mg (girls)
  • 19+ years: 11mg (boys), 8mg (girls)
  • Pregnancy: 12mg (14-18 years), 11mg (19+ years)
  • Breastfeeding: 13mg (14-18 years), 12mg (19+ years).
  • Zinc. The Nutrition Source. Harvard TH Chan
  • Zinc deficiency. Health Direct.
  • Zinc. National Institutes of Health. 2023
  • Zinc and your health. Health direct.,during%20pregnancy%2C%20childhood%20and%20adolescence.

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