Nutrition

13 Sources of Zinc (And Why It’s So Important)

4 min read
Plus: How much zinc do adults need?
Plus: How much zinc do adults need?

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Zinc is a trace mineral that plays a vital role in the body, from supporting bone and vision health to normal immune function. Despite the importance of this essential mineral, however, many people are unclear on why getting enough zinc matters—and how they can go about upping their dietary intake. In this piece, we cover some key things to know, including the recommended amount of zinc, different food sources (including picks that work for vegetarian diets), and where zinc supplementation fits into it all.*

Does zinc have health-supporting benefits?

In short, absolutely. Although it’s generally known for its impact on supporting the immune system (similar to vitamin C), adequate zinc intake actually serves the body in more ways than one—so ignoring zinc needs isn’t the best approach to nutrition. Additionally, zinc is considered a “vitamin A-helper” nutrient since it supports vitamin A metabolism.*

How much zinc do adults need?

Like selenium, zinc is a trace mineral, which means only a small amount is needed in order to meet daily intake requirements. So, what is the recommended amount? According to the National Institues of Health (NIH), the current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for zinc varies based on age and assigned sex at birth†.

Children ages 9-13 have the same daily zinc needs (8 mg), which increase by 3 mg for teenage boys ages 14-18 and 1 mg for teenage girls ages 14-18. Meanwhile, adult men over 18 have higher recommended daily amounts (11 mg) than women in their age group (8 mg)—hence why we include zinc in our teen's multivitamins and men’s multivitamins.* (1)

There are two important exceptions: Pregnant women and breastfeeding women over age 18 have higher recommended daily values at 11 mg and 12 mg of zinc, respectively.* (1)

Plus: How much zinc do adults need?

What are some good sources of zinc?

From our POV, the best way to meet recommended zinc levels is through food first—and the good news is there are several (tasty) ways to increase intake of zinc, regardless of dietary preferences. Here’s some options to consider: (1)

  • Oysters, canned: Talk about zinc-rich foods—at a whopping 77 mg per 3 oz serving, oysters have a higher zinc content than any other food source out there.* (1, 4)
  • Alaskan king crab: Shellfish fans will be happy to hear that just 3 ounces of cooked king crab contains 6.5 mg of zinc, which is over half of the recommended daily value.*
  • Pork chops: A 3-ounce pork chop loin provides 2.9 mg of zinc per serving (not to mention a hefty dose of dietary protein).*
  • Beef chuck roast: At 7 mg of zinc per 3-ounce serving, braised chuck roast is another great option to up intake. (Red meat is an excellent source of zinc in general.)*
  • Lobster: Feeling fancy? Indulge in some lobster. With 3.4 mg of zinc per 3-ounce serving, it’s the perfect excuse to treat yourself.*
  • Chicken: Just one serving of cooked dark meat chicken contributes 2.4 mg of zinc, and a generous amount of protein, to boot.*
  • Milk: Dairy products can also contribute to zinc intake—in addition to being a source of vitamin D, just one cup of nonfat milk contains 9% of the daily value, or 1 mg.*
  • Low-fat fruit yogurt: Every 8-ounce serving will get you 1.7 mg of zinc closer toward meeting the recommended daily value.*
  • Plant foods: In general, foods high in zinc typically tend to be animal-based. That said, there are many vegan and vegetarian sources, too, including legumes (chickpeas contain 1.3 mg zinc per serving), magnesium-rich cashews (1.6 mg per serving), calcium-containing pumpkin seeds (2.2 mg per serving), whole grains (1 packet of plain instant oatmeal contains 1.1 mg), and zinc-fortified breakfast cereals (2.8 mg per serving).*

Where do zinc supplements fit in?

It depends on each individual’s needs and lifestyle—for men, taking a multivitamin with zinc can be a good idea, especially if looking to raise zinc intake. (Women, who have lower zinc needs, can probably meet their daily intake by consuming the right foods.)

Essential for Men 18+ Multivitamin and Essential for Men 50+ Multivitamin both contain zinc, along with nine other key nutrients. All were formulated with bioavailability in mind—in order to best support zinc absorption, we opt for zinc bisglycinate chelate, a bioavailable form of zinc the body can efficiently utilize. (Meet our zinc supplier here.)

The essential takeaway

Zinc is an essential micronutrient, and it’s important to consume enough, whether through food sources, zinc supplementation, or a combination of both—the latter may be a particularly helpful consideration for men in light of their higher zinc requirements when compared to non-pregnant or lactating women. As always, if you have any specific questions about nutrition (or have concerns regarding zinc intakes), we recommend reaching out to a healthcare provider or dietitian.*

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. USDA Food Data Central. Mollusks, oyster, eastern, canned, 3 oz. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171981/nutrients.

Meetour Expert

Ritual - Science Team

Addy Grier-Welch, MS, MPH, RDN, Research Scientist

Addy Grier-Welch is a Research Scientist at Ritual. She earned her MS in Public Health Nutrition and MPH from the University of Tennessee where she researched community-based food policies and environmental interventions. As a registered dietitian, Addy has spearheaded nutrition support for organizations participating in federal food programs geared toward providing healthy meals to children and adults.

Ritual - Science Team

Addy Grier-Welch, MS, MPH, RDN, Research Scientist

Addy Grier-Welch is a Research Scientist at Ritual. She earned her MS in Public Health Nutrition and MPH from the University of Tennessee where she researched community-based food policies and environmental interventions. As a registered dietitian, Addy has spearheaded nutrition support for organizations participating in federal food programs geared toward providing healthy meals to children and adults.

Meet the Author

Courtney Cho

Courtney Cho, Writer

Courtney Cho is an avid writer with a knack for storytelling, an obsession with wellness, and an unshakeable penchant for healthy living. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and after working as a copywriter for the Detox Market, she applied her skills to a career in content marketing.

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Courtney Cho

Courtney Cho, Writer

Courtney Cho is an avid writer with a knack for storytelling, an obsession with wellness, and an unshakeable penchant for healthy living. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and after working as a copywriter for the Detox Market, she applied her skills to a career in content marketing.

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