What are the benefits, sources and recommended daily intake of zinc?

You may have heard you need zinc, but how much zinc do you actually need and why is zinc important? What are really the zinc benefits and which sources provide you with a good daily dose?

Zinc is needed only in small amounts – in other words, it is a trace mineral. It contributes to the creation of DNA, cell growth, building proteins, healing, and the immune system. Zinc helps cells to grow and multiply, so it is very much needed in pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence. Since the body doesn’t store this mineral, it is vital to know good sources of zinc and ingest it daily.

What are the benefits of zinc?

Woman breaks a chocolate brownie - dark chocolate is an excellent source of zinc

Our body uses zinc in essential processes. This mineral is the second most abundant trace mineral in the body after iron, and it is present in every single cell. 

Enzymes need zinc for metabolism, digestion, and nerve function. It is crucial for the development and function of immune cells. This is a piece of good advice, especially during the flu season!

Our skin benefits from zinc, too. Beautiful, healthy, and glowing skin is not possible without zinc! We need zinc for taste and smell because one of the enzymes for proper taste and smell depends on this nutrient. So zinc deficiency can reduce your ability to taste or smell! 

What are good sources of zinc?

Female hands hold a grey-orange stone, with zinc in it

Eating healthy, nutrient-rich whole foods will enhance your well-being. Did you know that a good amount of zinc in your diet is strongly linked to an efficient and potent immune system? So let’s see together what food we need to buy on the market!

Non-vegetarian sources of zinc

Chicken, beef, and pork provide a decent amount of zinc to your diet. Choose lean meats, like lean beef, pork tenderloin, and boneless chicken breasts. One cup of chopped roasted, skinless chicken breast provides 19 percent of the daily recommended value of zinc!

Eggs also contain zinc, so don’t forget to have at least one today!

Yet, not all zinc food sources are equal. Zinc absorption in the gut is significantly higher when the mineral is consumed from animal protein versus plant sources! Phytates – chemical compounds found in plants – inhibit zinc, calcium, and iron absorption. Something to consider when we plan our diet!

Vegetarian sources of zinc

Food sources of zinc include chicken breast, liver, carrots, garlic, nuts and seeds, most of which are in bowls

Fortunately, there are plenty of non-carnivorous sources of zinc! Filling your plate with plants will do wonders for your health. A plant-based diet is linked to lower mortality risk, so let’s make a list for our grocery shopping today:

Mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, kale, and garlic contain a decent amount of zinc, plus other vitamins and minerals! One cup of mushrooms and kale contains about 3 percent of the daily value of zinc. 

Legumes like chickpeas, lentils, beans – add foods like hummus, black beans to your daily meals for extra zinc benefits! ¼ cup of hummus contains 8 percent of the daily recommended values of zinc. 

Nuts, seeds are the next great source of zinc that will enrich your diet. Pumpkin seeds, oatmeal, chia seeds, cashews, pecans, peanuts – there are plenty of them! Choose your favourite!

Lastly, a sweet dessert surprise! Dark chocolate is a wonderful source of zinc! The darker, the better: 60-69% cacao contains 7 percent of the recommended daily value of zinc, while 70 to 85% cacao contains 8 percent. Plus, it will lower your blood pressure and improve blood flow! 

How much zinc do you need daily?

Having a variety of good healthy sources of zinc in your diet will ensure you get all the zinc benefits. However, high doses of zinc reduce the amount of copper the body can absorb. This could lead to anemia and the weakening of the bones.

A balanced diet is the best choice to avoid the side effects. So do not take more than 25 mg of zinc a day unless otherwise advised by a doctor!

The recommended amount of zinc you need according to the UK guidelines is: 

  • 9.5 mg a day for men 
  • 7 mg a day for women

People with low levels of zinc can use zinc supplements. Since our body can’t produce zinc on its own, the increased intake is necessary in these cases. We recommend talking to your healthcare provider for more information and an individual health plan. 


As a trace mineral, zinc is needed in small amounts and can come from a variety of sources. However, zinc benefits are many, and with good sources of zinc, these are easy to obtain. Our body uses it in every cell and supports our immune system, cell growth, development of the human body – so we need zinc at every stage of our lives! There are plenty of good natural sources, and a balanced diet can ensure you have everything you need. Take care of your health – especially now in the flu season and amidst the Covid-19 pandemic!

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