Zinc Rich Foods

How much zinc do you need?

Whether you have a zinc deficiency or are just curious to know whether you are obtaining enough of this important mineral through your current diet, you have come to the right place. As well as explaining what zinc is and how much you need, we have a comprehensive list of zinc rich foods for you to use. We also describe zinc deficiency symptoms and explain how these can best be avoided.

What is Zinc?

Zinc is an essential trace mineral that is required by the body for a number of reasons. One of the most important and well known of these is keeping a healthy immune system. The human body contains about 2-3 g of zinc, most of which is found in the muscles and bones.  The two main ways of consuming the appropriate amount of zinc is to eat zinc rich foods or to take daily zinc supplements. In the latter case, a common amount is 15 mg per day.

How much zinc should I have a day?

As it is a trace mineral zinc isn’t something we need in huge quantities, as you can see from the chart on the right. However, it is important to make sure you are getting enough of it, preferably through zinc rich foods. It is also worth noting that animal foods tend to be better sources of zinc than plant foods, and therefore it is more common for vegetarians to suffer from zinc deficiency. Non meat eaters may need up to 50% more than the recommended amounts of zinc. If you don’t eat meat though, if you read on you will be pleased to know that many nuts and seeds are good sources of zinc.

RDI Zinc

  • 11 mg Adult Male
  • 8 mg Adult Female
  • 11-12 mg Pregnant female
  • 12-13 mg Breastfeeding female
  • 11 mg Male 14-18 years
  • 9 mg Female 14-18 years
  • 8 mg Children 9-13 years
  • 5 mg Children 4-8 years
  • 3 mg Toddler 1-3 years
  • 3 mg Infants 7-12 months
  • 2 mg Infants 0-6 months

Zinc is found in cells throughout the body and is important for all life stages. Children need zinc to grow properly, and teenagers need zinc to help with their continuing development. Zinc also helps with wound healing and is important for proper senses of taste and smell as we will explain later. While it may seem simple to take supplements as they are a quick and easy way to get your daily intake, it is important to bear in mind that zinc rich foods are always a better choice if at all possible. It is also worth noting that older breastfed infants may need extra zinc in the form of pureed meat, as breast milk does not have enough zinc for infants over 6 months of age.

Why Eat Zinc Rich Foods?

As we have already mentioned, there are many reasons why it is important to regularly consume zinc rich foods. Some of the most important benefits are highlighted here.

  • Zinc is the most important mineral to keep a healthy and responsive immune system
  • It plays a part in breaking down carbohydrates that give us energy
  • It is important to the development of the human body
  • Zinc helps the brain to function effectively
  • It is vital for growth and cell division
  • Zinc is crucial for cellular metabolism
  • Accelerates the renewal of skin cells, thus helping with wound healing
  • It plays a vital role in fertility for both men and women
  • It activates areas of the brain that receive and process information for taste, smell and appetite
  • Zinc is found in high concentrations in the retina
  • Aids the release of hormones

In recent times, Zinc has become a popular treatment for the common cold. However, there is no clear evidence for this, although some studies have found that zinc lozenges may reduce the duration of cold by as much as 50%.


List of Zinc Rich Foods

Which foods are good sources of zinc?

Now we reach the main feature of this page, our zinc rich foods list. Here we have provided several lists of foods that contain zinc. The first is our top ten zinc rich foods; followed by sections detailing the amounts of zinc to be found in various other types of foods. It is worth noting that, although Brewers Yeast tops our list in terms of amount of zinc per 100g, the food that contains the highest zinc level is oysters! All amounts are in milligrams (mg) per 100 g (3.5 oz).

Top Ten Zinc Rich Foods

  • Brewers Yeast – 1231 mg per 100 g
  • Oysters – 91 mg
  • Peanut butter – 15 mg
  • Beef , lean- 12.3 mg
  • Pumpkin and squash seeds – 10.3 mg
  • Sesame seeds – 10.2 mg
  • Watermelon seeds – 10.2 mg
  • Dark chocolate – 9.6 mg
  • Lamb – 8.7 mg
  • Venison – 8.6 mg

Most nuts, particularly:

  • Almonds 3.0 mg
  • Brazil nuts 4.0 mg
  • Cashew nuts – 5.6 mg
  • Peanuts 3.3 mg
  • Pecan nuts 5.0 mg
  • Pine nuts – 6.0 mg
  • Walnuts, black – 3.0 mg

Meats, including:

  • Beef liver 4,25 mg
  • Chicken 3.1 mg
  • Pork – 6.7 mg
  • Turkey – 3.8 mg


  • Baked Beans 1.4 mg
  • Cheddar Cheese – 3.1 mg
  • Chickpeas – 3.4 mg
  • Cocoa powder – 6.8 mg
  • Crab cakes – 4.0 mg
  • Crab, cooked – 5.0 mg
  • Egg Yolks – 4.9 mg
  • Flax seeds – 5.0 mg
  • Kidney beans – 2.8 mg
  • Lobster – 7.3 mg
  • Mushrooms – 7.6 mg
  • Peas – 1.2 mg
  • Rice bran – 6.0 mg
  • Spinach – 0.53 mg

Zinc Deficiency Symptoms

Following on from the above section that talks about the benefits of including zinc rich foods in your diet, we are now going to highlight the main zinc deficiency symptoms. If you think that you are suffering from a deficiency of zinc then you should contact your doctor.

The best way to get the right amount of zinc is to eat foods rich in zinc or take regular zinc supplements. The people that are most likely to suffer from zinc deficiency symptoms are pregnant women and vegetarians. If you have it confirmed that you are suffering for zinc deficiency, take a look at our zinc rich foods list so you can see how to include more of this mineral in your diet.

The symptoms of zinc deficiency are:

  • Weight loss
  • Stunted growth
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced vision
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dry and damaged skin
  • Recurring infections
  • Poor sense of smell and taste
  • Cuts and bruises that heal much slower than normal
  • Reduced appetite

You may also suffer from anaemia and a weakened immune system that can leave you vulnerable to illness.

Conversely, it it important to note that very high levels of zinc can be toxic. and lead to problems including numbness and weakness in the limbs. The tolerable upper intake levels of zinc are as follows:

  • 0-6 months – 4 mg/day
  • 7-12 months – 5 mg/day
  • 1-3 years – 7 mg/day
  • 4-8 years – 12 mg/day
  • 9-13 years – 23 mg/day
  • 14-18 years – 34 mg/day
  • Adults – 40 mg/day