9 Foods That Are High in Zinc, an Essential Mineral for Healthy 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.

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, R.D., 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 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, R.D., 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.

Here are nine of the best zinc food sources, according to Kalsi and Chow. Kalsi points out that animal protein sources of zinc are the most easily absorbed by the body, but you can definitely achieve the DV from 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.

Top Foods That Are High in Zinc

01 of 09

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 5 ounce serving provides 12.5 milligrams of zinc, which already exceeds the DV. A pork loin chop provides a lesser amount, but is still a good source at 2.1 milligrams, which is nearly 20 percent of the DV.

02 of 09

Poultry

Rosemary-Garlic Chicken Thighs
Greg Dupree

Darker meat, like thighs, provides more zinc than white chicken breast meat. There are 2.9 milligrams of zinc in cooked chicken thigh (27 percent of the DV) and 4.2 milligrams in cooked turkey thigh (38 percent of the DV).

RELATED: 3 Key Macronutrients to Eat Every Day (and How They Differ From Micronutrients)

03 of 09

Oysters

broiled-oysters-bacon-1219sta
Jen Causey

Though it isn't something you come by every week, when you indulge in this shellfish, you're getting a ton of zinc! Six oysters contain around 50 milligrams (over 400 percent of the DV).

04 of 09

Tofu

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. Half a cup of firm tofu has 2 milligrams, which is nearly 20 percent of the DV.

05 of 09

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), sunflower seeds contain 1.5 milligrams (14 percent of the DV), hemp seeds have 2.8 milligrams (26 percent of the DV), and cashews have 1.6 milligrams or 15 percent of the DV.

RELATED: 4 Reasons to Make Pecans Your New, Nutrient-Dense Nut of Choice

06 of 09

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, which is 11 percent of the DV; a half cup of cooked chickpeas has 1.3 milligrams, or 12 percent of the DV. Edamame, green soy beans, are also a zinc-rich snack, with 1.1 milligrams or 10 percent of the DV.

07 of 09

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).

08 of 09

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, which is 21 percent of the DV, while brown rice offers 1.2 milligrams, or 11 percent of the DV.

09 of 09

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 0.8 milligrams or 7 percent of the DV, and green peas have 1 milligram or 9 percent of the DV.

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