Food sources of zinc include meat, shellfish, and dairy, among others. You can also get moderate amounts of zinc from some plant-based sources.
The mineral zinc is required for the functions of over 300 enzymes. It is involved in many vital processes in your body, including metabolizing nutrients, maintaining your immune system, and growing and repairing body tissues (1).
Your body doesn’t store zinc, so you must eat enough daily to meet your daily requirements.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that males 19 years and older aim for 11 milligrams (mg) of zinc daily and that females in this age group consume 8 mg. They recommend pregnant people consume 11 mg daily while people who are breastfeeding or chestfeeding consume 12 mg (
- older adults
- pregnant people
- people who are breastfeeding or chestfeeding
A nutrient-dense, balanced diet with zinc-rich foods should satisfy most people’s needs.
Here are 10 of the best sources of zinc.
Meat is an excellent source of zinc.
Red meat is a great source, but all kinds of meat have zinc, including beef, lamb, and pork.
A 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving of raw ground beef contains 4.79 mg of zinc, which is about 44% of the Daily Value (DV) for males and 60% of the DV for females (
One serving also provides 176 calories, 20 grams of protein, and 10 grams of fat. Plus, it’s a great source of many other essential nutrients, like iron, B vitamins, and creatine (
However, if you keep your intake of processed meats to a minimum and consume unprocessed red meats as part of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber, this probably isn’t something you need to worry about.
Meat is an excellent source of zinc. A 100-gram serving of raw ground beef provides 44%–60% of the Daily Value (DV).
Shellfish are healthy, low calorie sources of zinc.
Oysters contain particularly high amounts, with six medium oysters providing 33 mg, or 300% of the DV for males and 413% for females (
Other types of shellfish contain less zinc than oysters but are still good sources.
Alaska king crab contains 7.62 mg per 100 grams (3.5 oz.), which is 69% of the DV for males and 95% for females (
If you’re pregnant, thoroughly cook shellfish before eating it to minimize your risk of food poisoning.
Shellfish like oysters, crab, shrimp, and mussels can all contribute to your daily zinc intake.
Legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and beans contain substantial amounts of zinc.
In fact, 100 grams (3.5 oz) of cooked lentils contain 12% of the DV for males and 16% for females (
However, legumes also contain phytates. These antinutrients inhibit the absorption of zinc and other minerals, which means zinc from legumes isn’t as well absorbed as from animal products (11).
Despite this, legumes can be an important source of zinc for people following vegan or vegetarian diets. They are also an excellent source of protein and fiber that you can easily add to soups, stews, and salads.
Heating, sprouting, soaking, or fermenting legumes and other plant sources of zinc can increase the mineral’s bioavailability (
Legumes contain high amounts of zinc. They also contain phytates, which are antinutrients that reduce its absorption. Processing methods like heating, sprouting, soaking, or fermenting can help improve the bioavailability of zinc.
Seeds are a nutrient-rich addition to your diet and can help increase your zinc intake.
For example, 3 tablespoons (30 grams) of hemp seeds contain 27% of the DV for males and 37% for females (
In addition to boosting your zinc intake, seeds contain fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and other minerals.
To get more seeds into your diet, try adding them to salads, soups, yogurts, or other foods.
Some seeds like hemp, pumpkin, squash, and sesame seeds contain significant amounts of zinc. They’re also a good source of fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and other minerals, making them a beneficial addition to your diet.
Nuts like pine nuts, cashews, and almonds can boost your zinc intake. Peanuts, while technically a legume, also provide zinc.
Nuts contain fiber, beneficial fats, and several other vitamins and minerals.
Cashews are a good choice if you’re looking for a nut high in zinc. A 1-ounce (28.35-gram) serving contains 15% of the DV for males and 21% for females (
Nuts (and peanuts) are a healthy and convenient snack that can boost your intake of zinc and many other nutrients.
Dairy products provide a host of nutrients, including zinc.
Cheese and milk are two notable sources. They contain high amounts of bioavailable zinc, which means your body can absorb most of the zinc in these items.
For example, 1 ounce (28 grams) of sharp cheddar cheese contains 10% of the DV for males and 13% for females. A single cup (244 grams.) of whole milk contains 9% of the DV for males and 13% for females (
Dairy products also provide several other important nutrients for bone health, including protein, calcium, and vitamin D.
Dairy products are good sources of zinc. Your body can absorb most of the zinc in dairy.
Eggs contain a moderate amount of zinc and can help you meet your daily target.
For example, one large egg contains 5% of the DV for males and 7% for females (
One large egg also provides 77.5 calories, 6.3 grams of protein, 5.3 grams of healthy fats, and other vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, selenium, and choline.
One large egg contains 5%–7% of the DV for zinc, as well as many other nutrients, including protein, healthy fats, B vitamins, selenium, and choline.
Whole grains like wheat, quinoa, rice, and oats contain some zinc.
Like legumes, grains contain phytates, which bind to zinc and reduce its absorption (11).
Whole grains contain more phytates than refined grains and will likely provide less zinc. However, they’re considerably better for your health.
They’re also a good source of many important nutrients, like:
- B vitamins
Whole grains can provide zinc in your diet. The zinc they provide may not be absorbed as well as other sources, due to the presence of phytates.
Some vegetables contain reasonable amounts and can contribute to your daily needs, especially if you don’t eat meat.
Although they don’t contain a lot of zinc, vegetables are still an essential part of the diet. A veggie-rich diet has been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer (
Most vegetables aren’t good sources of zinc. But some contain moderate amounts and can help you meet your daily needs.
Dark chocolate contains reasonable amounts of zinc.
A 100-gram (3.5-ounce) bar of 70%–85% dark chocolate contains 3.31 mg of zinc, or 30% of the DV for males and 41% for females (
One hundred grams of dark chocolate also contains 24 grams of sugar and 598 calories. It’s a high calorie food.
While you may get some added nutrients with this treat, it’s not a food you should rely on as a primary source of zinc.
Dark chocolate can be a good source of zinc, but it’s also high in calories and sugar. It’s best to eat dark chocolate in moderation and not as a primary source of zinc.
What food has the most zinc?
Oysters have the most zinc per serving. Six average-sized oysters offer 33 mg of zinc, which is 300% of the required daily value for males and 413% for females.
What fruits and vegetables are high in zinc?
Fruit and vegetables don’t contain as much zinc as animal foods. That said, some foods with a bit more zinc include grapefruit, breadfruit, kiwi, corn, and potatoes (35).
Are eggs rich in zinc?
A single large egg provides only about 5% of the recommended daily value for men and a little over 6% of the daily amount for women.
Zinc is an essential mineral, and eating enough is important for maintaining good health.
The best way to ensure you’re getting enough is to eat a varied diet with good sources of zinc, like meat, seafood, legumes, seeds, nuts, and dairy.
These foods can be easy and delicious additions to your diet.
If you’re worried you’re not getting enough zinc through your diet, consider speaking to a healthcare professional about possibly taking a supplement.