Where does zinc come from?
Zinc is important for the whole body, especially for healthy skin, the immune system and wound healing. It is especially important for babies, children and pregnant women to have enough zinc in their diet to help them grow and develop.
Zinc is found in many foods, but the body cannot absorb the zinc from all foods in the same way.
People who eat protein are more likely to be able to absorb zinc, so vegetarians and vegans are at greater risk of zinc deficiency. People who eat mainly grains and legumes need more zinc than people who eat meat.
Zinc is also obtained from breastmilk.
How much zinc do I need?
Most people will get enough zinc by eating a healthy, balanced diet. But people on some medications, the elderly, people with some gut conditions and pregnant and breastfeeding women may need more.
Most men need 14 milligrams (mg) of zinc a day, and most women need 8mg. Check how much zinc you need for your age and stage of life in our article about zinc and your health.
What are the best sources of zinc?
The best source of zinc is oysters, but it’s also plentiful in red meat and poultry. Other good sources are beans, nuts, crab, lobster, whole grains, breakfast cereals, and dairy products.
The following foods are good sources of zinc.
|Food||Milligrams zinc per 100g|
|Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)||7.5|
|Oats (rolled, uncooked)||2.35|
Should I take a zinc supplement?
Most people do not need a zinc supplement. However, a zinc supplement may be used to treat zinc deficiency. Lozenges containing zinc may help reduce the length and severity of the common cold.
Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking a supplement, as taking too much zinc can cause diarrhoea and interfere with other nutrients you need such as copper and iron.
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Last reviewed: March 2021