Science

Do You Need Zinc in Your Vitamins? Let's Talk About It

3 min read

Curious if you can meet your zinc needs through food alone? It really depends.
Curious if you can meet your zinc needs through food alone? It really depends.

Essential Takeaways

  • You’re probably at least vaguely aware that zinc is an important nutrient to include in your diet. But do you know exactly how zinc lends support in the body?
  • Men and women have different zinc needs—so it’s useful to understand the best way to meet your daily intake.

Zinc is a mineral that supports a variety of systems in the body, including immune, bone and vision support. Zinc also—fun fact!—plays a role in taste and smell.* (1,2,3)

Not getting enough zinc into your system can lead to shortfalls—which is why getting the right amount of zinc is so important.

But what, exactly, is the right amount? (And can you get enough through diet alone?)

How much zinc do you really need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for zinc (or the recommended amount of zinc needed each day) depends on age and gender. Children 9-13 years have the same daily zinc needs, regardless of gender—while adult women over 18 have lower recommended daily intakes (8mg) than males in their age group (11mg). That means men may need a little more help in the zinc department—which is where a multivitamin can come in handy.* (1)

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Food sources of zinc

One of the best ways to ensure you’re getting enough zinc? Your diet. There are plenty of food sources of zinc—and incorporating the best foods with a high zinc content into your diet can help support your daily zinc needs. If you’re an adult woman over 18, then you’ll likely meet those needs through diet alone.

Foods high in zinc include (1):

  • Oysters (74 mg of zinc/serving)
  • Alaska king crab (6.5 mg/serving)
  • Red meat, like beef chuck roast (7 mg/serving) and beef patty (5.3 mg/serving)
  • Lobster (3.4 mg/serving)
  • Pork chop (2.9 mg/serving)

Meats, shellfish, seafood, and dairy products can be a good source of zinc—but eating animal foods isn’t the only way to get your dietary intake of zinc. There are plenty of plant foods that are good sources of zinc—and people who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet can still get a healthy daily dose of zinc from their food choices. Some vegan and vegetarian-friendly, zinc-containing foods include:

  • Baked beans (2.9 mg/serving)
  • Pumpkin seeds (2.2 mg/serving)
  • Zinc-fortified breakfast cereal (3.8 mg/serving)

Can you get enough zinc from your diet—or do you need to supplement?

It depends. If you eat the right foods, hitting your daily zinc intake might be relatively simple—especially true for women, who have slightly lower zinc needs than men. But for men, taking a multivitamin with zinc may be a good idea.*

References:

  1. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Zinc Fact Sheet For Health Professionals. Retrieved from National Institutes of Health
  2. Shankar, AH; Prasad, AS. 1998, August. Zinc and immune function… Am J Clin Nutr. Retrieved from National Institutes of Health
  3. Yagi, T; Asakawa, A; Ueda, H; Ikeda, S; Miyawaki, S; Inui, A. 2013, April 5. The role of zinc… Recent Pat Food Nutr Agric. Retrieved from National Institutes of Health
  4. Prasad, A. (1996). Zinc Status…Adults. Nutrition, 12(5), vi. doi: 10.1016/s0899-9007(96)00064-0

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