Zinc is an essential mineral that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. Zinc is also found in many cold lozenges and some over-the-counter drugs sold as cold remedies.
Zinc is involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism. It is required for the catalytic activity of approximately 100 enzymes [1,2] and it plays a role in immune function [3,4], protein synthesis , wound healing , DNA synthesis [2,4], and cell division . Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence [6-8] and is required for proper sense of taste and smell . A daily intake of zinc is required to maintain a steady state because the body has no specialized zinc storage system .
Sources of Zinc
A wide variety of foods contain zinc (Table 2) . Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food, but red meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc in the American diet. Other good food sources include beans, nuts, certain types of seafood (such as crab and lobster), whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products [2,11].
Phytates—which are present in whole-grain breads, cereals, legumes, and other foods—bind zinc and inhibit its absorption [2,12,13]. Thus, the bioavailability of zinc from grains and plant foods is lower than that from animal foods, although many grain- and plant-based foods are still good sources of zinc .
|Table 2: Selected Food Sources of Zinc |
|Oysters, cooked, breaded and fried, 3 ounces||74.0||493|
|Beef chuck roast, braised, 3 ounces||7.0||47|
|Crab, Alaska king, cooked, 3 ounces||6.5||43|
|Beef patty, broiled, 3 ounces||5.3||35|
|Breakfast cereal, fortified with 25% of the DV for zinc, ¾ cup serving||3.8||25|
|Lobster, cooked, 3 ounces||3.4||23|
|Pork chop, loin, cooked, 3 ounces||2.9||19|
|Baked beans, canned, plain or vegetarian, ½ cup||2.9||19|
|Chicken, dark meat, cooked, 3 ounces||2.4||16|
|Yogurt, fruit, low fat, 8 ounces||1.7||11|
|Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce||1.6||11|
|Chickpeas, cooked, ½ cup||1.3||9|
|Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce||1.2||8|
|Oatmeal, instant, plain, prepared with water, 1 packet||1.1||7|
|Milk, low-fat or non fat, 1 cup||1.0||7|
|Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce||0.9||6|
|Kidney beans, cooked, ½ cup||0.9||6|
|Chicken breast, roasted, skin removed, ½ breast||0.9||6|
|Cheese, cheddar or mozzarella, 1 ounce||0.9||6|
|Peas, green, frozen, cooked, ½ cup||0.5||3|
|Flounder or sole, cooked, 3 ounces||0.3||2|
* DV = Daily Value. DVs were developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help consumers compare the nutrient contents of products within the context of a total diet. The DV for zinc is 15 mg for adults and children age 4 and older. Food labels, however, are not required to list zinc content unless a food has been fortified with this nutrient. Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Nutrient Database Web site  lists the nutrient content of many foods and provides a comprehensive list of foods containing zinc arranged by nutrient content and by food name.