Did you know that a daily intake of zinc is necessary for immune support because the body has no specialized zinc storage system? This essential mineral is found in some foods and supplements but is not made by the body.

Zinc plays many roles in cellular metabolism and is needed for the activity of about 100 enzymes. It is necessary for immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis and cell division. Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence and is required for the senses of taste and smell.

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Zinc

Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
0–6 months 2 mg* 2 mg*    
7–12 months 3 mg 3 mg    
1–3 years 3 mg 3 mg    
4–8 years 5 mg 5 mg    
9–13 years 8 mg 8 mg    
14–18 years 11 mg 9 mg 12 mg 13 mg
19+ years 11 mg 8 mg 11 mg 12 mg

* Adequate Intake (AI)

Food Sources of Zinc

Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food. However beef and poultry provide the majority of zinc in the American diet. Other good sources include beans, nuts, crab, lobster, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products.

The bioavailability of zinc from plant-based foods is lower than that from animal foods, although many plant-based foods are still good sources of zinc.

One of my favorite plant-based food sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds. In the morning, I sprinkle them on top of avocado toast, or add them to overnight oats.

Food Sources Table

Food Milligrams (mg)
per serving
Percent DV*
Oysters, cooked, breaded and fried, 3 ounces 74.0 673
Beef chuck roast, braised, 3 ounces 7.0 64
Crab, Alaska king, cooked, 3 ounces 6.5 59
Beef patty, broiled, 3 ounces 5.3 48
Lobster, cooked, 3 ounces 3.4 31
Pork chop, loin, cooked, 3 ounces 2.9 26
Baked beans, canned, plain or vegetarian, ½ cup 2.9 26
Breakfast cereal, fortified with 25% of the DV for zinc, 1 serving 2.8 25
Chicken, dark meat, cooked, 3 ounces 2.4 22
Pumpkin seeds, dried, 1 ounce 2.2 20
Yogurt, fruit, low fat, 8 ounces 1.7 15
Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce 1.6 15
Chickpeas, cooked, ½ cup 1.3 12
Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce 1.2 11
Oatmeal, instant, plain, prepared with water, 1 packet 1.1 10
Milk, low-fat or non fat, 1 cup 1.0 9
Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce 0.9 8
Kidney beans, cooked, ½ cup 0.9 8
Chicken breast, roasted, skin removed, ½ breast 0.9 8
Cheese, cheddar or mozzarella, 1 ounce 0.9 8
Peas, green, frozen, cooked, ½ cup 0.5 5
Flounder or sole, cooked, 3 ounces 0.3 3

* DV = Daily Value. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) developed DVs to help consumers compare the nutrient contents of foods and dietary supplements within the context of a total diet. The DV for zinc on the new Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts labels and used for the values in this Table is 11 mg for adults and children aged 4 years and older. FDA required manufacturers to use these new labels starting in January 2020, but companies with annual sales of less than $10 million may continue to use the old labels that list a zinc DV of 15 mg until January 2021. FDA does not require food labels to list zinc content unless zinc has been added to the food. Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient, but foods providing lower percentages of the DV also contribute to a healthful diet.

Do I Need a Zinc Supplement?

Keep in mind that vegans and vegetarians often have a hard time getting enough zinc in their diet. Some studies, show that older people may also have a low intake.

It’s important to speak to a registered dietitian to assess whether or not to include zinc as part of a daily supplement. Too much can cause an imbalance with other minerals in your body. So while it is essential, the right amount is important. If you are taking a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, check to see if zinc is included and the amount.

Resource: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/%20Zinc-HealthProfessional/