Dietary Sources of Zinc

Dietary Sources of Zinc

May 07, 2016

Zinc, a mineral and cofactor for several enzymes, is involved in many biochemical pathways. These include both protein synthesis and DNA. Zinc is essential for growth and assists in visual function, hearing and taste, as well as immune function and wound healing. Zinc has several antioxidant properties and it appears to act as an anti-inflammatory nutrient. It also poses antiviral activity against some viruses.


The recommended daily intake for zinc in adult males is 11mg/day and in adult females 8 mg/day. Signs of zinc deficiency include impaired taste, anorexia, depression, impaired mental function and problems with wound healing. When supplementing with zinc the typical dose is 25-30 mg 1-3 times per day with meals for 2-3 months. With large doses (such as 50mg 3 times per day), adverse effects can occur like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and a metallic taste in the mouth.


Absorption of zinc is important for optimum nutrient status. Certain types of fiber and phytates (found in soy and other plant foods) as well as dairy can decrease the absorption of zinc. Certain common medications can affect zinc status, which supports why monitoring for mineral deficiencies may be important. Acid suppressing drugs and aspirin are just two of them while diuretics increase urinary excretion.


Taking large amounts of zinc can interfere the absorption of other minerals like copper. Zinc can also affect the absorption of magnesium, iron, and possibly folic acid. However, vitamin C enhances the absorption of supplemental and dietary sources of zinc. There are many supplemental forms of zinc but research has found zinc sulfate and zinc oxide are not the preferred forms as they are not as well absorbed or tolerated. Zinc picolinate, zinc citrate, and zinc gluconate are a few better-absorbed zinc salts.


Good dietary sources of zinc include meat, seafood, whole grains, wheat germ, wheat bran, dairy products, legumes, peanuts, egg yolks, nuts, and seeds. When meal and menu planning and focusing on increasing dietary sources of zinc, add wheat germ and bran to organic plain yogurt and fruit or scrambled eggs for breakfast, turkey or ham for lunch, fish or shellfish for dinner, and peanuts and other nuts for snacks. Adding good sources of vitamin C like tomatoes, peppers, or citrus fruits can enhance zinc absorption.  


Micronutrient testing is one way to test for cellular zinc status. Learn more about micronutrient testing by visiting


Reference: Nutritional Medicine by Alan Gaby, MD.


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