The mineral zinc helps maintain your immune system and plays a vital role in many other aspects of your health. Discover great sources of zinc, from meat to dairy to dark chocolate.
The mineral zinc is essential for good health.
It’s required for the functions of over 300 enzymes and is involved in many important processes in your body (1).
It metabolizes nutrients, maintains your immune system, and grows and repairs body tissues.
Your body doesn’t store zinc, so you need to eat enough every day to ensure you’re meeting your daily requirements.
Men 19 years and older should aim for 11 milligrams (mg) of zinc daily, while women in this age group need 8 mg. If you’re pregnant, you’ll need 11 mg per day. If you’re breastfeeding or chestfeeding, you’ll need 12 mg (
Some people are at risk of zinc deficiency, including (
- older adults
- pregnant people
- people who are breastfeeding or chestfeeding
A nutrient-dense, balanced diet that includes 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 particularly great source, but ample amounts are found in all kinds of meat, including beef, lamb, and pork.
In fact, a 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving of raw ground beef contains 4.79 mg of zinc, which is 43.5% of the Daily Value (DV) for men and 59.9% of the DV for women (
One serving also provides 176 calories, 20 grams of protein, and 10 grams of fat. Plus, it’s a great source of many other important nutrients, like iron, B vitamins, and creatine (
It’s worth noting that eating large amounts of red meat, especially processed meat, has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and some cancers (
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 43.5%–59.9% 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 men and 412.5% of the DV for women (
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 69.3% of the DV for men and 95.3% of the DV for women (
Smaller shellfish like shrimp and mussels are also good sources. Both contain nearly 15% of the DV for men and around 20% of the DV for women in a 100-gram (3.5-oz) serving (
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 all contain substantial amounts of zinc.
In fact, 100 grams (3.5 oz) of cooked lentils contain 11.5% of the DV for men and 15.9% of the DV for women (
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 zinc from animal products (12).
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 healthy addition to your diet and can help increase your zinc intake.
Some seeds are better choices than others.
For example, 3 tablespoons (30 grams) of hemp seeds contain 27% of the DV for men and 37.1% of the DV for women (
Other seeds containing significant amounts of zinc include pumpkin, squash, and sesame seeds (
In addition to boosting your zinc intake, seeds contain fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and other minerals, making them an excellent addition to your diet.
Eating them as part of a balanced diet has also been linked to various health benefits, including reduced blood pressure and cholesterol (
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 healthy addition to your diet.
Eating nuts like pine nuts, cashews, and almonds can boost your intake of zinc. Peanuts, which are technically a legume, are also a good source.
Nuts also contain other nutrients, including fiber, good fats, and a number of 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 14.9% of the DV for men and 20.5% of the DV for women (
Nuts are also a quick and convenient snack. They have been linked to a reduction in risk factors for some diseases, including cancer and heart disease (20, 21, 22).
Moreover, people who eat nuts and peanuts tend to live longer than those who don’t, making these foods a very healthy addition to your diet (
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 9.5% of the DV for men and 13.1% of the DV for women. A single cup (244 grams.) of whole milk contains 9.1% of the DV for men and 12.5% of the DV for women (
Dairy products also provide several other nutrients considered important for bone health, including protein, calcium, and vitamin D.
Dairy products are good sources of zinc. They also contain protein, calcium, and vitamin D, all of which are important nutrients for bone health.
Eggs contain a moderate amount of zinc and can help you meet your daily target.
For example, one large egg contains 4.8% of the DV for men and 6.6% of the DV for women (
One large egg also provides 77.5 calories, 6.3 grams of protein, 5.3 grams of healthy fats, and a host of other vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins and selenium.
Whole eggs are also an important source of choline, a nutrient most people aren’t getting enough of (
One large egg contains 4.8%–6.6% 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 (
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
Eating whole grains has been linked to a longer life and many other health benefits, including a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity (
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.
In general, fruits and vegetables aren’t the best sources of zinc.
Some vegetables contain reasonable amounts and can contribute to your daily needs, especially if you don’t eat meat.
For example, a large regular potato contains 1.08 mg, or 9.8% of the DV for men and 13.5% of the DV for women. A large sweet potato contains 0.576 mg, or 5.2% of the DV for men and 7.2% of the DV for women (
Other vegetables like kale and green beans contain less, with 100 grams (3.5 oz) of both vegetables containing nearly 2.5% of the DV for men and nearly 3.5% of the DV for women (
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. Some contain moderate amounts and can help you meet your daily needs, especially if you don’t eat meat.
Perhaps surprisingly, 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 30.1% of the DV for men and 41.4% of the DV for women (
One hundred grams of dark chocolate also contain 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. Eat dark chocolate in moderation and not as a primary source of zinc.
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 the possibility of taking a supplement.