Dietary Sources of Zinc

What foods provide zinc?
Zinc is found in a wide variety of foods. 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 seafood, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products. Zinc absorption is greater from a diet high in animal protein than a diet rich in plant proteins. Phytates, which are found in whole grain breads, cereals, legumes and other products, can decrease zinc absorption.Refer to Table 1: Selected Food Sources of Zinc lists a variety of dietary sources of zinc.

Table 1: Selected Food Sources of Zinc

Food Milligrams %DV
Oysters, battered and fried, 6 medium 16.0 100
Ready-to-Eat (RTE) Breakfast cereal, fortified with 100% of the DV for zinc per serving, 3/4 c serving 15.0 100
Beef shank, lean only, cooked 3 oz 8.9 60
Beef chuck, arm pot roast, lean only, cooked, 3 oz 7.4 50
Beef tenderloin, lean only, cooked, 3 oz 4.8 30
Pork shoulder, arm picnic, lean only, cooked, 3 oz 4.2 30
Beef, eye of round, lean only, cooked, 3 oz 4.0 25
RTE Breakfast cereal, fortified with 25% of the DV for zinc per serving, 3/4 c 3.8 25
RTE Breakfast cereal, complete wheat bran flakes, 3/4 c serving 3.7 25
Chicken leg, meat only, roasted, 1 leg 2.7 20
Pork tenderloin, lean only, cooked, 3 oz 2.5 15
Pork loin, sirloin roast, lean only, cooked, 3 oz 2.2 15
Yogurt, plain, low fat, 1 c 2.2 15
Baked beans, canned, with pork, 1/2 c 1.8 10
Baked beans, canned, plain or vegetarian, 1/2 c 1.7 10
Cashews, dry roasted w/out salt, 1 oz 1.6 10
Yogurt, fruit, low fat, 1 c 1.6 10
Pecans, dry roasted w/out salt, 1 oz 1.4 10
Raisin bran, 3/4 c 1.3 8
Chickpeas, mature seeds, canned, 1/2 c 1.3 8
Mixed nuts, dry roasted w/peanuts, w/out salt, 1 oz 1.1 8
Cheese, Swiss, 1 oz 1.1 8
Almonds, dry roasted, w/out salt, 1 oz 1.0 6
Walnuts, black, dried, 1 oz 1.0 6
Milk, fluid, any kind, 1 c .9 6
Chicken breast, meat only, roasted, 1/2 breast with bone and skin removed 0.9 6
Cheese, cheddar, 1 oz 0.9 6
Cheese, mozzarella, part skim, low moisture, 1 oz 0.9 6
Beans, kidney, California red, cooked, 1/2 0.8 6
Peas, green, frozen, boiled, 1/2 c 0.8 6
Oatmeal, instant, low sodium, 1 packet 0.8 6
Flounder/sole, cooked, 3 oz 0.5 4

* DV = Daily Value. DVs are reference numbers based on the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). They were developed to help consumers determine if a food contains very much of a specific nutrient. The DV for zinc is 15 milligrams (mg). The percent DV (%DV) listed on the nutrition facts panel of food labels tells adults what percentage of the DV is provided in one serving. Percent DVs are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs. Foods that provide lower percentages of the DV also contribute to a healthful diet.

What is the Recommended Dietary Allowance for zinc?
The latest recommendations for zinc intake are given in the new Dietary Reference Intakes developed by the Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) is the umbrella term for a group of reference values used for planning and assessing nutrient intake for healthy people. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), one of the DRIs, is the average daily dietary intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97-98%) healthy individuals. For infants 0 to 6 months, the DRI is in the form of an Adequate Intake (AI), which is the mean intake of zinc in healthy, breastfed infants. The AI for zinc for infants from 0 through 6 months is 2.0 milligrams (mg) per day. The 2001 RDAs for zinc for infants 7 through 12 months, children and adults in mg per day are:

Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances for Zinc for
Infants over 7 months, Children, and Adults

Age Infants and Children Males Females Pregnancy Lactation
7 months to 3 years 3 mg        
4 to 8 years 5 mg        
9 to 13 years 8 mg        
14 to 18 years   11 mg 9 mg 13 mg 14 mg
19+   11 mg 8 mg 11 mg 12 mg

Results of two national surveys, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III 1988-91) (12) and the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes of Individuals (1994 CSFII) (13) indicated that most infants, children, and adults consume recommended amounts of zinc.