The 10 Best Foods High in Zinc + Health Benefits
Zinc is an essential mineral required by the body for maintaining a sense of smell, keeping a healthy immune system, building proteins, triggering enzymes, and creating DNA. Zinc also helps the cells in your body communicate by functioning as a neurotransmitter. A deficiency in zinc can lead to stunted growth, diarrhea, impotence, hair loss, eye and skin lesions, impaired appetite, and depressed immunity. Conversely, consuming too much zinc can lead to nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and headaches in the short term, and can disrupt absorption of copper and iron in the long term. If you have a zinc deficiency, then animal foods are better sources of zinc than plant foods.
Foods high in zinc include oysters, beef, lamb, toasted wheat germ, spinach, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, nuts, dark chocolate, pork, chicken, beans, and mushrooms. The current daily value (DV) for Zinc is 15mg.Below is a list of the top ten foods highest in zinc by common serving size, for more, see the list of high zinc foods by nutrient density, and the extended list of zinc rich foods.
Top 10 High Zinc Foods
|Zinc in 100g||Per 3oz (85g)||Per 6 Oysters (42g)|
|78.6mg (524% DV)||66.8mg (445% DV)||33.0mg (220% DV)|
|Zinc in 100g||1 Rack of Ribs (315g)||1 Lean Ribeye Fillet (129g)|
|12.3mg (82% DV)||38.7mg (258% DV)||14.2mg (95% DV)|
|Zinc in 100g||Per Cup (113g)||Per Ounce (28g)|
|16.7mg (111% DV)||18.8mg (126% DV)||4.7mg (31% DV)|
|Zinc in 100g (Cooked)||Per Cup (Cooked - 180g)||100g (Raw)|
|0.8mg (5% DV)||1.4mg (9% DV)||0.5mg (4% DV)|
|Zinc in 100g||Per Cup (64g)||Per Ounce (28g)|
|10.3mg (69% DV)||6.6mg (44% DV)||2.9mg (19% DV)|
|Zinc in 100g (Roasted)||Per Cup (137g)||Per Ounce (28g)|
|5.6mg (37% DV)||7.7mg (51% DV)||1.6mg (10% DV)|
|Zinc in 100g||Per Cup (86g)||Per Tablespoon (5g)|
|6.8mg (45% DV)||5.9mg (39% DV)||0.3mg (2% DV)|
|Zinc in 100g||Per Steak (147g)||Per 3oz (85g)|
|5.0mg (33% DV)||7.4mg (49% DV)||4.3mg (28% DV)|
|Zinc in 100g||Per Cup (164g)||Per 3oz (85g)|
|1.5mg (10% DV)||2.5mg (17% DV)||1.3mg (9% DV)|
|Zinc in 100g||Per Cup Pieces (156g)||Per Mushroom (12g)|
|0.9mg (6% DV)||1.4mg (9% DV)||0.1mg (1% DV)|
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Health Benefits of Zinc
- Healthy Immune Function - Even mild to moderate zinc deficiency can depress the immune system through impaired macrophage and neutrophil functions, and associated effects.3 Zinc is also essential for creation and activation of T-lymphocytes.4,5 Further, low levels of zinc have been associated with increased susceptibility to pneumonia and other infections in children and the elderly.6-9
- Alleviation of the Common Cold (*Controversial) - There are conflicting studies as to weather or not zinc supplements can alleviate symptoms of the common cold and shorten its duration. At least one study confirms decreased duration of cold symptoms compared to a control,10 however, other studies report no effect.11,12 Since no harm is reported, increasing zinc intake could only help.
- Healing of Cuts and Wounds - Zinc is essential for healthy skin and maintenance of mucosal membranes. Adequate levels of zinc is necessary for proper wound healing.13
- Reduced Severity and Duration of Diarrhea - Studies show that increased intake of zinc can reduce duration and severity of diarrhea in undernourished children with infections.14-17
- Prevention and Reduction of Age-Related Eye Damage - High dietary intake of zinc, as well as vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene, has been associated with reduced age-related macular deneration in the edlerly.18
High Risk Groups for a Zinc Deficiency
- Alcoholics - 30-50% of alcoholics have low levels of zinc because alcohol decreases zinc absorption and increases urinary secretion of zinc.
- Vegetarians - The bio-availability of zinc is higher in meats and thus more easily absorbed. Further legumes and whole grains contain phylates which bind zinc and inhibit absorption. Vegetarians should aim to eat 50% DV more zinc each day to ensure proper levels.(See lists of fruits and vegetables high in zinc.)
- Pregnant and Lactating Women - A developing fetus requires a high amount of zinc, likewise, there is a high amount of zinc lost through breast milk after birth.
- Older Infants who are Exclusively Breastfed - Infants older than 6 months should eat age-appropriate foods which provide zinc as the amount in breast milk is no longer ample.
- People with Sickle Cell Disease - For unknown reasons 44% of children, and 60-70% of adults with sickle cell disease have low levels of zinc.
- People with Gastrointestinal and Other Diseases - Gastrointestinal surgery, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, short bowel syndrome, and other digestive diseases can all decrease zinc absorption and increase zinc loss from the body.
- People consuming high doses of Iron Supplements - Iron can interfere with zinc absorption, to reduce this effect, iron suppliments should be taken between meals to allow time for zinc to be absorbed properly.
- People taking Diuretics - Thiazide diuretics such as chlorthalidone (Hygroton®) and hydrochlorothiazide (Esidrix® and HydroDIURIL®) can increase zinc excretion by 60%, and over the long term, deplete body tissues of zinc stores. Be sure to consult your doctor or clinician to monitor your zinc level if you are taking these diuretics for a sustained period of time, and be sure to eat more zinc rich foods.
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|#1: Oysters (Cooked)||78.6mg (524% DV) per 100 grams||66.8mg (445% DV) per 3oz (85 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Oysters|
|#2: Wheat Germ (Toasted)||16.7mg (111% DV) per 100 grams||4.7mg (31% DV) per ounce (28 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Wheat Germ|
|#3: Beef (Lean, Cooked)||12.3mg (82% DV) per 100 grams||38.7mg (258% DV) per piece (315 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Beef|
|#4: Veal Liver (Cooked)||11.9mg (79% DV) per 100 grams||8.0mg (53% DV) per slice (67 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Veal Liver|
|#5: Pumpkin & Squash Seeds (Roasted)||10.3mg (69% DV) per 100 grams||2.9mg (19% DV) per ounce (28 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Pumpkin & Squash Seeds|
|#6: Sesame Seeds||10.2mg (68% DV) per 100 grams||2.9mg (19% DV) per ounce (28 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Sesame Seeds|
|#7:Dark Chocolate||3.3mg (22% DV) per 100 grams||0.9mg (6% DV) per ounce (28 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Dark Chocolate|
|#8: Dried Herbs & Spices (Chervil)||8.8mg (59% DV) per 100 grams||0.2mg (1% DV) per Tablespoon (2 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Herbs & Spices|
|#9: Lamb (Lean, Cooked)||8.7mg (58% DV) per 100 grams||7.4mg (49% DV) per 3oz (85 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Lamb|
|#10: Peanuts (Roasted)||3.3mg (22% DV) per 100 grams||0.9mg (6% DV) per ounce (28 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Peanuts|
|Fortified Cereals (List of High Zinc Cereals)||52mg (345% DV) per 100 gram serving||15.5mg (103% DV) per cup||Click to compare nutrition facts for various cereals|
|Low Fat Yogurt with Fruit||0.7mg (4% DV) per 100 gram serving||1.6mg (11% DV) per cup (245 grams)||0.8mg (5% DV) per 1/2 cup (113 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Low Fat Yogurt with Fruit|
|Milk||0.4mg (3% DV) per 100 gram serving||1mg (7% DV) per cup (244 grams)||3.9mg (26% DV) per 1 quart serving (976 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Milk|
|Chicken Breast||1mg (7% DV) per 100 gram serving||1.4mg (9% DV) per cup (140 grams)||0.9mg (6% DV) for half a chicken breast (86 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Chicken Breast|
|Cheddar Cheese||3.1mg (21% DV) per 100 gram serving||3.5mg (23% DV) per cup (113 grams)||0.9mg (6% DV) per ounce(oz) (28 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Cheddar Cheese|
|Mozzarella||2.9mg (19% DV) per 100 gram serving||3.3mg (22% DV) per cup (112 grams)||0.8mg (5% DV) per ounce(oz) (28 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Mozzarella|
|Watermelon Seeds||10.2mg (68% DV) per 100 gram serving||11.1mg (74% DV) per cup (180 grams)||2.9mg (19% DV) per ounce (28 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Watermelon Seeds|
|Venison (Cooked)||8.6mg (58% DV) per 100 gram serving||7.3mg (49% DV) per 3oz (85 grams)||25.3mg (169% DV) per roast (293 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Venison|
|Veal||7.4mg (49% DV) per 100 gram serving||6.3mg (42% DV) per 3oz (85 grams)||12.9mg (86% DV) per piece (174 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Veal|
|Fortified Peanut Butter||15.1mg (101% DV) per 100 gram serving||39.0mg (260% DV) per cup (258 grams)||4.8mg (32% DV) per 2 Tablespoons (32 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Fortified Peanut Butter|
|Alfalfa Sprouts||0.9mg (6% DV) per 100 gram serving||0.3mg (2% DV) per cup (33 grams)||0.1mg (1% DV) per 2 Tablespoons (6 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Alfalfa Sprouts|
|Asparagus (Cooked)||0.6mg (4% DV) per 100 gram serving||1.1mg (8% DV) per cup (180 grams)||0.4mg (2% DV) per 4 Spears (60 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Asparagus|
|Rice Bran||6.0mg (40% DV) per 100 gram serving||7.1mg (48% DV) per cup (118 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Rice Bran||Hearts of Palm||3.7mg (25% DV) per 100 gram serving||2.1mg (14% DV) per 2 oz (54grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Hearts of Palm||Seaweed (Kelp)||1.2mg (8% DV) per 100 gram serving||0.1mg (1% DV) per 2 Tablespoons (10 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Kelp Seaweed||Napa Cabbage (Cooked)||0.1mg (1% DV) per 100 gram serving||0.2mg (1% DV) per cup (109 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Napa Cabbage|
|Green Peas||1.2mg (8% DV) per 100 gram serving||1.9mg (13% DV) per cup (160 grams)||1.5mg (6% DV) per half cup (80 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Green Peas|
|Sesame Seeds (Tahini)||10.5mg (70% DV) per 100 gram serving||1.5mg (10% DV) per tablespoon (14 grams)||2.9mg (20% DV) per 1 ounce serving (28 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Sesame Seeds (Tahini)|
|Flat Fish (Flounder or Sole)||0.6mg (4% DV) per 100 gram serving||0.8mg (5% DV) per fillet (127 grams)||0.5mg (4% DV) per 3 ounce serving (85 grams)||Click to see complete nutrition facts for Flat Fish (Flounder or Sole)|
- Oysters, liver, lamb, and cheese are high cholesterol foods which should be eaten in moderate amounts and avoided by people at risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Sesame Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Squash Seeds, and Peanuts are high calorie foods and should be eaten in moderate amounts by people with a high body mass index.
- Zinc suppliments have adverse reactions with the following medications:
- Antibiotics - Certain antibiotics like quinolone antibiotics (such as Cipro®) and tetracycline antibiotics (such as Achromycin® and Sumycin®) inhibit the absorption of zinc in the digestive tract.
- Penicillamine - Zinc reduces the absorption of Penicillamine, which is used by people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Taking zinc suppliments two hours before or after intake of Penicillamine solves this problem.
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 20.
- Office Of Dietary Supplements Fact Sheet
- Wintergerst ES, Maggini S, Hornig DH. Contribution of selected vitamins and trace elements to immune function. Ann Nutr Metab 2007;51:301-23.
- Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001.
- Beck FW, Prasad AS, Kaplan J, Fitzgerald JT, Brewer GJ. Changes in cytokine production and T cell subpopulations in experimentally induced zinc-deficient humans. Am J Physiol 1997;272:E1002-7.
- Bahl R, Bhandari N, Hambidge KM, Bhan MK. Plasma zinc as a predictor of diarrheal and respiratory morbidity in children in an urban slum setting. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;68 (2 Suppl):414S-7S.
- Brooks WA, Santosham M, Naheed A, Goswami D, Wahed MA, Diener-West M, et al. Effect of weekly zinc supplements on incidence of pneumonia and diarrhoea in children younger than 2 years in an urban, low-income population in Bangladesh: randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2005;366:999-1004.
- Meydani SN, Barnett JB, Dallal GE, Fine BC, Jacques PF, Leka LS, et al. Serum zinc and pneumonia in nursing home elderly. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:1167-73.
- Black RE. Zinc deficiency, infectious disease and mortality in the developing world. J Nutr 2003;133:1485S-9S.
- Prasad AS, Beck FW, Bao B, Snell D, Fitzgerald JT. Duration and severity of symptoms and levels of plasma interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor, and adhesion molecules in patients with common cold treated with zinc acetate. J Infect Dis 2008 ;197:795-802.
- Turner RB, Cetnarowski WE. Effect of treatment with zinc gluconate or zinc acetate on experimental and natural colds. Clin Infect Dis 2000;31:1202-8.
- Eby GA, Halcomb WW. Ineffectiveness of zinc gluconate nasal spray and zinc orotate lozenges in common-cold treatment: a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Altern Ther Health Med 2006;12:34-8.
- Wintergerst ES, Maggini S, Hornig DH. Contribution of selected vitamins and trace elements to immune function. Ann Nutr Metab 2007;51:301-23.
- Black RE. Therapeutic and preventive effects of zinc on serious childhood infectious diseases in developing countries. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;68:476S-9S.
- Bhutta ZA, Bird SM, Black RE, Brown KH, Gardner JM, Hidayat A, et al. Therapeutic effects of oral zinc in acute and persistent diarrhea in children in developing countries: pooled analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72:1516-22.
- Lukacik M, Thomas RL, Aranda JV. A meta-analysis of the effects of oral zinc in the treatment of acute and persistent diarrhea. Pediatrics 2008;121:326-36.
- Fischer Walker CL, Black RE. Micronutrients and diarrheal disease. Clin Infect Dis 2007;45 (1 Suppl):S73-7.
- Van Leeuwen R, Boekhoorn S, Vingerling JR, Witteman JC, Klaver CC, Hofman A, et al. Dietary intake of antioxidants and risk of age-related macular degeneration. JAMA 2005;294:3101-7.