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Best sources of dietary zinc

oysters zinc food


Zinc is an essential nutrient which plays an important role in many physiological functions in human body. Zinc is present in almost every organ, tissue and fluid inside a human body. Zinc plays a vital role in the optimal growth and development of the body along with the ability to reproduce, maintain good appetite, and the ability to taste. Zinc is also essentially required for proper functioning of the immune system.

Requirement of zinc in our body

For adult males, the daily dietary reference intake is 11mg of zinc per day and for females, the intake is up to 8mg. For children and teenagers, the intake varies in between 3 to 11mg. The recommended supplementation to consume is either zinc picolinate or gluconate e.g. GNC, with is a chelated tablet containing 30mg of zinc picolinate.

There is also an upper limit associated to zinc, above which if the intake is done, may show some adverse effects. The upper limit for zinc is 40mg.

Results of improper amount of zinc intakes

Excess of zinc consumption may lead to:

Altered iron function.

Reduction in the count of HDLs (good cholesterol).

Reduced immune function.

Disruption in absorbing iron and copper.

Creation of large amount of toxic free radicals.

Deficiency of zinc in diet may lead to:

Stunted growth.



Hair loss and eye and skin lesions.

Loss of appetite.

Impaired immune functionality.

Delay in wound healing and protein synthesis.

Human body cannot store zinc and thus a daily intake of specific amount of zinc is required to be done.

Let us discuss various food items which are a great source of zinc.


Oyster is a mollusk, bi-valved with two shells (or valves) that are joined together at one side by a hinge of ligamentous joint. The valves serve as defensive covers for the soft flesh, it carries inside. Oysters are famous for both pearls and their flesh all over the world.

Oysters are known to be the richest source of zinc and no other food catches up with the amount of zinc in a serving of oysters. A 100g serving of oysters may provide about 16 to 182mg of zinc, depending on the variety and type of oysters, which can solely complete (and can even overshoot) the daily quota of zinc in a diet. The oyster food which is found to be having the highest amount of zinc is ‘The steamed wild eastern oyster’ providing 182mg of zinc in just a 100g serving. This accounts for a 500% RDA of zinc in just 6 oysters.

Toasted wheat germ

The embryo of whole wheat kernels are collectively called as wheat germ. It lacks the starch and fiber which makes the complete wheat kernel. Wheat germ is consumed in both raw or toasted ways. Toasted wheat germ is free from moisture and can be preserved and stored for a long time. It is nutty in taste and texture.

Wheat germ is rich in many important nutrients. 100gm of toasted wheat germ contains approx. 330 calories along with 17mg of zinc which is 110% of the daily amount. Each ounce also gives 0.5gm of mono-unsaturated fat and about 2gm of poly-unsaturated fat.

Note: Do not consume it in excess as it contains phytic acid which blocks the absorption of minerals in the body.

Veal liver

Veal (calf) liver is considered to be a tremendous storehouse of nutrients with great taste and low on calories. It provides the assurance of being free of toxins like pesticides and antibiotics, which are usually seen in the livers of their older counterparts.

Any animal alive is enriched with vitamins and minerals and normally served minced with different vegetables or as a sausage. A 100gm of veal liver serving has 12mg of zinc, which is quite high amount, which accounts for 81% of the RDA. When consumed cooked, it has 8.98mg of zinc in an 80gm of slice, i.e. 60% of RDA. Liver is usually eaten as fried or steamed with herbs and onions.

Sesame seeds and tahini (sesame paste)

Sesame seeds are one of the oldest known oilseed crops. Through the ages, they have been used as a source of food and oil. They add a nutty taste and leave an invisible crunch in various Asian dishes. They are also used to make tahini, a paste made of ground sesame seeds, used in many recipes. One can make tahini from sesame seeds using a kitchen blender or food processor.

A 100gm serving of sesame products may have about 10mg of zinc, which is 70% of the required amount of zinc daily. Wheat flour can be substituted by sesame flour in making breads and cakes. Tahini is commonly used when mixed with other pastes like hummus which is a spread of ground chickpea, providing 4.6mg of zinc per 100gm serving (31% of RDA). Whole sesame seeds contain 7.8mg of zinc per 100gm (52% of RDA).

Low fat roast beef

Beef is a naturally nutrient-rich source of various essential nutrients. Beef is known to have naturally occurring trans fats in low amounts, which has shown to have heart-healthy and anti-carcinogenic properties. Lean beef can be included in a healthy diet, as it contains iron, zinc, phosphorus, protein and rich in multivitamins.

A 100gm serving of low fat roast beef chuck, shank, and shoulder, all have about 10mg of zinc per accounting for 70% of RDA, 18mg of zinc, i.e. 119% RDA, in one pound, and 9mg of zinc in a 3 ounce serving, accounting for 59% RDA. If a pre-processed roast beef is bought, one should be sure about checking its nutritional facts. It may not necessarily show zinc in nutrition chart, so one need not worry if he doesn’t see it.

Roasted pumpkin and squash seeds

Roasted pumpkin and squash seed are very famous in the East Asia and a 100gm of their serving may account for 70% of zinc requirement, i.e. 10mg of zinc, a 6.6mg per cup (i.e. 59% of RDA), and 3mg in 1oz.,approx. 90 seeds (i.e. 19% of RDA). They can be easily found and bought in super markets in Middle Eastern or East Asian areas. If you are unable to find them, you can also roast some preserved pumpkin and squash seeds in your oven. The edible part of the seed is inside it which can be eaten by cracking the outer shell.

Dried watermelon seeds

Similar to the pumpkin and squash seeds, seeds of watermelon are also popular in the East and Middle East Asian areas. They can also be bought in any specialty store in those areas. One can also eat the seeds raw while eating the watermelon. You can either shell them, or can just fully chew them up. A 100gm serving of dried watermelon seeds have 10mg of zinc (i.e. 70% of RDA), 11mg per cup (74% of RDA), and 3mg in 1oz. (19% of RDA).

Dark chocolate and cocoa powder

Chocolate is very well known for its various health benefits and dark chocolate is now following the same trend and enthusiasm. A 100g serving of baked unsweetened chocolate provides 9.6mg of zinc (i.e. 64% of RDA), most of the chocolate bars are around 50 to 100
gm. 100gm serving of cocoa powder will give 6.8mg of zinc (i.e. 45% of RDA), or 5.4mg per cup (i.e. 39% of RDA). Most of the milk chocolates contain around 3mg (i.e. 16% of RDA) per 100g of its serving or 1mg (7% of RDA) per chocolate bar.

Lamb (mutton)

Lamb is a commonly used source of meat in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and most of the areas of Europe, but recently is gaining popularity in American regions too. Per 100g serving of lamb meat provides between 4.3 to 8.9mg of zinc (i.e. 28% to 58% of RDA) which depends on the cut. This accounts for a 7.4mg (i.e. 49% of RDA) in a 3oz. of serving (approx. 85gm).


Peanuts are known to be a good source of zinc, 6.6mg of zinc(44% of RDA) can be gained from a serving of 100gm of oil-roasted peanuts, or 8.8mg in a cup (59% of RDA). One ounce (about 40 peanuts) provides 1.9mg (i.e. 12% of RDA). Dry-roasted peanuts will provide about half as much zinc provided by the oil-roasted peanuts, a 100gm serving giving 3.3mg (i.e. 22% of RDA), or 4.8mg per cup (i.e. 32% of RDA), and 1mg per ounce (i.e. 6% of RDA).


Almonds are one of the most nutritious and beneficial of all nuts. They taste delicious and are a great source of fiber, protein, vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids. Almonds can provide various minerals to the body too, like calcium, magnesium and zinc. About 3.5mg of zinc is provided by a 100gm serving of almonds, accounting to a 24% of RDA, 4.9mg per cup (i.e. 33% of RDA), or 1mg in 1oz. (i.e. 7% of RDA).



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