8 Foods High in Zinc, a Mineral That Boosts Immunity, Metabolism, and More

Skip the supplements and look in your pantry for these zinc-filled foods.

Many of your important body processes require zinc. This essential mineral is needed for DNA synthesis, wound healing, blood clotting, immunity, metabolism, and growth. Your ability to taste and smell also relies on zinc. Read on to learn what zinc is, why we need to be eating foods with zinc, and how you can get more of it in your diet.

What Is Zinc and How Much Do We Need?

Zinc is an essential mineral, which means that the body has to obtain it from our diet because it cannot manufacture it, explains Amandeep Kalsi, RD, MPH, a registered dietitian in Los Angeles. When you consume the recommended daily amount of zinc, all the body functions mentioned above are able to work at their best. The Daily Value (DV) is 8 milligrams of zinc, increasing to 11 milligrams for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers because "you need it for yourself and to develop the fetus," Kalsi says.

Zinc is a trace mineral, so our body only requires small amounts. That also means zinc deficiency is rare, especially if you're eating a variety of foods, says Janice Chow, RD, registered dietitian and founder of nutrition counseling service The Mindful Chow. But vegetarians, pregnant women, people with digestive disorders like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, or those with chronic alcohol misuse are at higher risk for having inadequate zinc intakes. Individuals in these categories would need to tap into the food sources richest in zinc and might sometimes require a zinc supplement.

Top Foods That Are High in Zinc

Here are eight of the best zinc food sources, according to Kalsi and Chow. Kalsi points out that the body the most easily absorbs animal protein sources of zinc, but you can definitely achieve the DV by eating only plant-based sources of zinc. As much as possible, Kalsi recommends including protein-rich foods in the same meal as a zinc-rich food to ensure better absorption.

01 of 08

Red Meat

Hanger Steak With Warm Kale and Crispy Cheese Salad
Victor Protasio

If you eat meat, beef is a clear winner when it comes to zinc-rich foods. A 3-ounce serving provides 5.2 milligrams of zinc, which is nearly half the DV. A pork loin chop provides a lesser amount but is still a good source at 1.9 milligrams, which is nearly 20 percent of the DV.

02 of 08


Rosemary-Garlic Chicken Thighs
Greg Dupree

Darker meat, like thighs, provides more zinc than white chicken breast meat. There are 2.4 milligrams of zinc in cooked chicken thighs (22 percent of the DV) and 2.6 milligrams in cooked turkey thighs (24 percent of the DV).

03 of 08


This crispy tofu and rice noodle soup is proof that tofu recipes can be as flavorful as meat-based ones—if not more so.
Caitlin Bensel

Besides being a trusty plant-based protein source, tofu also offers zinc. A 3.5-ounce serving of firm tofu has 1.1 milligrams, nearly 10 percent of the DV.

04 of 08

Nuts and Seeds

Sweet and Salty Pumpkin Seeds Recipe
John Kernick

A sprinkle of pumpkin, sunflower, or hemp seeds over your breakfast porridge or a handful of cashews as a snack provides you with a good amount of zinc. In a 1-ounce serving, pumpkin seeds contain 2.2 milligrams (20 percent of the DV), and cashews contain 1.6 milligrams of zinc (15 percent of the DV). A 3.5-ounce serving of sunflower seeds contains 5 milligrams (45 percent of the DV), and a 3-tablespoon serving of hemp seeds contains 3 milligrams of zinc (27 percent of the DV).

05 of 08

Beans and Legumes

October 2020 Recipes: Spiced Rice With Crispy Chickpeas
Caitlin Bensel

A half cup of cooked lentils provides 1.3 milligrams of zinc, 12 percent of the DV; a half cup of cooked chickpeas also has 1.3 milligrams or 12 percent of the DV. Edamame, green soybeans, are also a zinc-rich snack, with 1.1 milligrams or 10 percent of the DV.

06 of 08

Yogurt, Milk, and Cheeses

Chimichurri Yogurt Dip
Victor Protasio

These dairy foods offer zinc as well as calcium. There's 1 milligram or 9 percent of the DV in a 6-ounce tub of yogurt. An ounce of Swiss cheese contains 1.2 milligrams (11 percent of the DV); a cup of cow's milk contains 1 milligram (9 percent of the DV).

07 of 08

Whole Grains

A savory oatmeal with egg and spinach is the breakfast you didn’t know you needed in your life. Get the recipe for Savory Oatmeal With Spinach and Poached Eggs.
Greg DuPree

One cup of cooked oatmeal has 2.3 milligrams, 21 percent of the DV, while brown rice offers 1.4 milligrams or 13 percent of the DV.

08 of 08

Certain Veggies

crispy mushroom reuben sandwiches
Greg Dupree

While vegetables aren't the all-time richest sources of zinc, some provide a higher amount than others. Your best bet? In half a cup, shiitake mushrooms provide 1 milligram or 9 percent of the DV, and green peas have 0.9 milligrams or 8 percent of the DV.

Was this page helpful?
Real Simple is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. USDA FoodData Central. Beef, ground, unspecified fat content, cooked. Date Accessed December 20, 2022.

  2. NIH. Zinc: fact sheet for health professionals. Date Accessed December 20, 2022.

  3. USDA FoodData Central. Turkey, retail parts, thigh, meat and skin, cooked, roasted. Date Accessed December 20, 2022.

  4. USDA FoodData Central. Chicken, broilers or fryers, thigh, meat and skin, cooked roasted. Date Accessed December 20, 2022.

  5. USDA FoodData Central. Tofu, extra firm, prepared with nigari. Date Accessed December 20, 2022.

  6. USDA FoodData Central. Nuts, cashew nuts, raw. Date Accessed December 20, 2022.

  7. USDA FoodData Central. Seeds, hemp seed, hulled. Date Accessed December 20, 2022.

  8. USDA FoodData Central. Seeds, sunflower seed kernels, dried. Date Accessed December 20, 2022.

  9. USDA FoodData Central. Chickpeas (garbanzo beans, bengal gram), mature seeds, cooked, boiled, with salt. Date Accessed December 20, 2022.

  10. USDA FoodData Central. Edamame, cooked. Date Accessed December 20, 2022.

  11. USDA FoodData Central database. Cheese, swiss. Date Accessed December 20, 2022.

  12. USDA FoodData Central. Peas, green, raw. Date Accessed December 20, 2022.

  13. USDA FoodData Central. Mushrooms, shiitake, cooked, with salt. Date Accessed December 20, 2022.

Related Articles