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What you need to know about zinc




Zinc is a mineral that your body needs to be healthy. Zinc strengthens your immune system and helps in normal growth and development at all ages. Read on to learn more about which foods have zinc and how much you need.






How much zinc do I need?

The amount of zinc you need depends on your age, sex and life stage. The table below shows you how much you need:

Age

Zinc

Amount needed per day

Men 19 and older

11 mg

Women 19 and older

8 mg

Pregnant women 19 and older

11 mg

Breastfeeding women 19 and older

12 mg

At any age, it is important to have no more than 40 mg of zinc per day from foods and supplements.


Which foods have zinc?

Although zinc comes from a variety of different foods, the best sources are high protein foods like seafood, meat, beans and lentils. Some dairy products also have zinc. If you are making healthy choices based on Canada’s Food Guide, you will likely get the zinc you need.

The table below shows foods that contain zinc:

    Food

Serving Size

Zinc (mg)

Oysters

75 g (2 ½ oz)

55 to 137

Beef

75 g (2 ½ oz)

5 to 9

Wheat germ cereal

30 g (1/4 cup)

5

Pork

75 g (2 ½ oz)

2 to 3

Heart of palm

2 hearts

3

Cheese

50 g (1 ½ oz)

1 to 2

Ricotta cheese

125 mL (1/2 cup)

2

Yogurt, regular or low fat

175 mL (3/4 cup)

1 to 2

Nappa cabbage

125 mL (1/2 cup)

2

Turkey

75g (2 ½ oz)

1-2

Beans

175 mL (3/4 cup)

1-2

Lentils

175 mL (3/4 cup)

2

For a longer list of food sources of zinc, call EatRight Ontario at 1-877-510-510-2 or send an email.


Do I need to take a zinc supplement?

No. You do not need to take a zinc supplement if you are making healthy choices based on Canada’s Food Guide and you have no health conditions.

However, if you are recovering from surgery done on your digestive system or you have Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, you may not be getting enough zinc. Vegetarians may also need more zinc depending on the protein sources in their diet. In these cases, a zinc supplement may be needed. Before taking zinc supplements, it is best to speak with your health care provider. Zinc can be harmful if too much is consumed. At any age, it is important to have no more than 40 mg of zinc per day from foods and supplements.


Meal and snack ideas

Try the tips below to get more zinc in your diet.

  • Lean beef is a tasty protein option. Try this vermicelli beef and broccoli pasta.
  • Low fat ricotta cheese and low fat yogurt are sources of zinc and make excellent snacks. Spread ricotta on whole wheat crackers or add sliced fruit to your favourite yogurt.
  • Purée beans or lentils with a little water and add it to hamburger mixtures, casseroles, soups, stews or pasta sauces. 
  • Add some spice to your turkey dish by trying this Thai Curry Turkey.

Try these other nutritious recipes that are rich in zinc:

Banana Whole Grain Griddle Cakes

Black Bean Couscous Salad

If you would like more information about zinc or other vitamins and minerals, call EatRight Ontario at 1-877-510-510-2 to speak to a Registered Dietitian or send an email.

 

Last Update – October 6, 2015

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If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.