Foods High In Zinc For Your Body Immune System

Foods high in zinc

Zinc is a hot topic during these days of Covid-19. It is well understood that this mineral is very good for the immune system. There are many reports of the potential benefits. It is sensible to ensure we have levels of zinc in our bodies sufficient to help our immune system combat disease such as Covid-19.

Our body NEEDS Zinc. Every day. It is a mineral that our body does not make, or store in the body. But it is essential. It’s required for the functions of over 300 enzymes and involved in many important processes in your body.

[ Hint: Think “meat”, especially “red meat”. ]

Zinc metabolizes nutrients, maintains your immune system and grows and repairs body tissues.

Since our body doesn’t store it, you need to eat enough foods with zinc every day. At least enough to meet “daily requirements”.

Zinc has been very successfully used as a therapeutic modality for the management of acute diarrhea in children, Wilson’s disease, the common cold and for the prevention of blindness in patients with age-related dry type of macular degeneration and is very effective in decreasing the incidence of infection in the elderly. Zinc not only modulates cell-mediated immunity but is also an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.

~ National Institutes of Health

[ I am re-posting this information (originally published during May) as a reminder of its ongoing importance. It is essential for overall immune system building ]

How Much Zinc Do I Need?

According to a research paper published at Cambridge University by Lothar Rink and Philip Gabriel “Zinc and the immune system”, Adolescents and adults:

Male 15 mg
Female 12 mg
Pregnant 15 mg
Nursing women 22 mg

Additional research reveals similar numbers to those stated above (plus or minus a few mg). With that said, those are “need” numbers. What about “maximum” numbers? Note that too much for too long may cause toxicity.

My own research (reading studies) reveals approximate maximum daily intake numbers for adults in the vicinity of 40 – 50 mg. Many suggest 30 mg as a very good daily intake target.

Will Zinc Help With Covid-19?

Is there evidence to support taking zinc for Covid-19?

There have been hundreds of studies about zinc with relation to the common cold. It is well established that it helps to reduce the effects and longevity of the common cold. Covid-19 is new and there is not much sound data yet.

However, according to one report I read, “Zinc was shown to inhibit the activity and replication of another coronavirus (SARS-CoV which caused an outbreak in 2002) in the laboratory.”

One might logically conclude that zinc might similarly benefit the immune system with relation to Covid-19, a coronavirus.

What Foods Are High In Zinc?

While there are supplements available, their proper absorption into the body is an issue.

Instead, eating a healthy balanced diet that includes zinc-rich foods should satisfy everyone’s needs for daily requirements.

Consuming more of zinc-rich foods may be beneficial beyond “daily requirements”. Additionally, eating these foods will likely be better absorbed by the body than supplements.

So lets get to it. Which foods are higher in zinc?


Meat is an excellent source of zinc. Red meat is a particularly good source.

100 grams (3.5 ounces) of beef has up to 5 mg of zinc. So that 10 ounce steak might have about 15 mg. A nice 1/3-pounder hamburger about 8 mg.

Pork has very similar numbers while poultry may have up to 3 mg per 100 grams (about 60% that of beef).


Okay, this one might not float your boat, but Oysters by far have the most zinc of any food product. Up to 150 mg per 100 grams (3.5 ounces). 6 medium size oysters may provide about 32 mg!.

Crab meat has ~ 8 mg zinc per 3.5 ounces. Shrimp, about 2 mg. Fish in general, about 1 – 2 mg per 3.5 ounces.


Hemp seeds top the list in this department. A 1-ounce handful may provide about 3 mg zinc (10 mg per 3.5 ounce).

Pumpkin and Squash seeds will provide almost 3 mg in a 1 ounce handful (8 mg per 3.5 ounce). Incidentally I’ve made a habit of eating a handful of pumpkin seeds every day.

I discovered that nearly all store-bought pumpkin seeds come from China. Scouring for American, I discovered these fantastic delicious pumpkin seeds from Oregon (view on amzn).


Pine nuts and Cashews have about 2 mg per 1 ounce handful (6 mg per 3.5 ounce). Peanuts and almonds have a decent amount too.


Cheese ( ~ 1 mg per slice) and milk (~ 1 mg in a cup)


One large egg provides about 1/2 mg. Not particularly high, but a couple eggs with a glass of milk provides about 2 mg.

Note that legumes and whole grains contain “phytates”. These anti-nutrients inhibit the absorption of zinc and other minerals, meaning zinc from legumes and whole grains isn’t as well absorbed.


Oysters are loaded with zinc. Although not readily available (and some people don’t like oysters).

Therefore the likeliest source of zinc for most people will come from MEATS.

[ Read: The Best Foods To Keep In Your Chest Freezer ]

You might also consider eating a handful of pumpkin seeds and nuts every day. This provides about 5 mg of well absorbed zinc. Still not enough, but it’s “something”.

Vegetarians will likely have significant zinc deficiency. A supplement is one logical workaround – though not as well absorbed as natural foods.

With that said, there are a number of supplement brands to choose from. This particular choice is of the “chelate” type, is apparently better absorbed :

“Nature’s Way”, Zinc 30mg
(view on amzn)


  1. My gummy vitamins have zinc in them, the elderberry gummies we have been taking also have zinc. So I think im doing OK👌🏻

  2. Ken,
    The pumpkin seeds are good! Good for many other things as well, like prostate health, a cup a day,,,,

    1. There’s a pumpkin cultivar that produces hull-less seeds. It’s actually grown more for the seeds than the flesh. The one I have is called Styrian Pumpkin, seed purchased from Strictly Medicinal in Oregan. Got the seeds to grow my own – this will be the first season, so we’ll see how it goes!

      1. The Styrian Pumpkin seed is what I’ve linked in the article above. From Oregon. Really good tasting in my opinion.

        1. Dennyb – You’re right – didn’t notice the linked ones were raw. Some of ours locally are sold toasted/salted. I’m excited about growing my own, if I can. I assume it will be like growing any of the other pumpkins I’ve grown. If you have any growing tips for these, happy to hear them.

        2. I grew some similar pumpkins last year, “Kakai” variety. The seeds were delicious. Hoping for another crop this year.

      2. The link Ken shared is also of the Styrian Pumpkin variety. Being Raw they can grow. Mine did years ago. But I don’t have the ground for serious vine crop growing. The Styrian Pumpkin is also known for it’s high oil content, and is pressed for such use.

      3. Farmgirl,
        I grow one named Kakai, get seeds from Johnnys, are excellent, super easy,

        1. Kulafarmer

          I’ll look for it! Is it good for zone 4ish? I’m pushing the envelope with some of my tropical interests these days! Our FFD is happening later the last few years, but don’t know if I can count on that. BTW, ginger is growing beautifully! Thanks for the tips on that. I’m working on moringa now, probably outside for the summer, and then cuttings indoors for winter.

        2. Kulafarmer

          Johnny’s is out of stock, both conventional and organic. Maybe someone around here has a few extra.

        3. Can you also do something with the pumpkin as well? Is it tasty to eat or good for carving? Or just pig feed?

  3. Meat, my favorite.I probably eat too much but all other vegetables along with it. Venison twice a week year round unless I run out before season starts. Beef chicken some pork. Wish I had access to fresh seafood but don’t. Would founder on oysters if I could.Any kind of fish. Good info. Ken .wonder about zinc content in venison, should be high as beef or better, I know it’s lower in cholesterol as there’s hardly any fat in it, and I’ve eaten deer steadily for 30 yrs.

      1. Those smoked oysters are great with crackers, go nice in improvised chowder too.

  4. Famous quote from WWII

    I must have plenty of zinc. I eat nuts everyday. Walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios and peanuts. Whatever I can find and I can’t stop at just an ounce. That’s barely a handful. I often scarf down about a half pound at a sitting. Especially shelled pistachios and pecans. Another favorite is shelled sunflower seeds. I’ve often gotten to the bottom of the bag and thought damn I just ate the whole bag. 😢

    1. Ya just gotta be careful because nuts also have a ton of calories ;)

  5. Elk meat may be the winner of the zinc content contest. It looks like venison has less zinc than beef but elk has more. Luckily, I have some of each in the freezer.

  6. Zinc content in select foods some that you didn’t mention (this was on table in Up to Date)
    Liver (3.5oz/100grams) =6.1mg Zinc
    Cheerios 1 cup/22.4grams=3.7mg zinc
    Pecans 1oz/28grams=1.5mg zinc
    sunflower seeds 1oz/28grams=1.6mg zinc
    Chicken(white meat) 3.5oz/100grams=1.0mg zinc
    Brown Rice 1/2cup/97grams=0.6mg zinc
    white rice 2/3cup/124grams=0.4mg zinc

    I personally like the Coldeze lozenges (avg 13.3mg zinc per dose)
    just try to avoid the zinc nasal sprays (there’s some cases of loss of smell from their use)

    also too much zinc is no good either (more than 100mg is skirting into danger zones) but with >150mg/day can lead to toxicity and also copper deficiency/anemia and neutropenia and Impair immune function and mess up lipids

    so keeping it below 50mg/day as Ken mentioned should keep most people out of trouble

  7. Speaking of minerals, I just bought a product to try in my garden beds called Azomite. You mix it into the soil, and it contains minerals from volcanic sea beds. Has anyone tried it? I’m going to experiment with it when my spring crops come out and summer stuff goes in (tomatoes, peppers, etc).

  8. The form of zinc used as a supplement does seem to matter a lot, as mentioned. A study was done and published on this. Excerpt below:

    Comparative absorption of zinc picolinate, zinc citrate and zinc gluconate in humans.
    Barrie SA, Wright JV, Pizzorno JE, Kutter E, Barron PC.

    The comparative absorption of zinc after oral administration of three different complexed forms was studied in 15 healthy human volunteers in a double-blind four-period crossover trial. The individuals were randomly divided into four groups. Each group rotated for four week periods through a random sequence of oral supplementation including: zinc picolinate, zinc citrate, and zinc gluconate (equivalent to 50 mg elemental zinc per day) and placebo. Zinc was measured in hair, urine, erythrocyte and serum before and after each period. At the end of four weeks hair, urine and erythrocyte zinc levels rose significantly (p less than 0.005, p less than 0.001, and p less than 0.001) during zinc picolinate administration. There was no significant change in any of these parameters from zinc gluconate, zinc citrate or placebo administration. There was a small, insignificant rise in serum zinc during zinc picolinate, zinc citrate and placebo supplementation. The results of this study suggest that zinc absorption in humans can be improved by complexing zinc with picolinic acid.

  9. How much Zinc is in a serving of politician or a msm TV show host?
    They could be a good source. ;)

    1. White Cracker:

      I get my zinc for free by welding galvanized on a windless day. A couple of whiffs right up the old hood does the trick every time.

      1. TMc,
        Brass and zinc foundry guys used to get what where called the “zinc chills” from breathing zinc fumes all day. I was told it was cured by drinking a glass of milk each night. Go figure.

        1. Minerjim – You are 100% correct Sir. Foundry fumes will make you sick. But a billowing cloud of white zinc oxide fumes up the nose will make a guy sick enough to pray for death. and you are also exactly correct, that copious amounts of cow milk is the only known cure; and no one is really sure of that mechanism of action.

          I was really just picking on Texas Boy and his scientific pronouncement about zinc and wondered who would be the first to figure out the little Easter egg I dropped. Figured it would either be you or Kula Farmer; not the ‘boy’ with all the science degrees.

        2. TMc,

          The Zinc chills are not fun, from what I remember of the minor case I had years and years ago. Not near as bad as a “powder headache” from handling explosives, but bad enough. You’ll never learn about these in college, unless that college is the “school of hard knocks”. LOL.

        3. Minerjim:
          When I was a young guy in the late ’60s, I ran a zinc ore roasting furnace for the Bunker Hill Co. in North Idaho. What you say is true. I use to drink milk by the gallons. Love the stuff. I still drink a lot of milk today. By the way. After about a year working there, I’d had enough, and quit. It was like working at the entrance to Hell.

      1. And I imagine they would be bitter tasting. The after taste is even worse. Maybe they will taste better with some fava beans. Hehe

  10. This zinc thing I have read above goes against everything I have learned scientifically in my entire career in the sciences where I have spent almost all of my entire life. I am truely amazed at what people will believe. The only thing zinc is good for is galvanizing steel to prevent corrosion. Rant over. Good day to all.

    1. Texas, we could assume that if zinc is not good for us it would not be in our food supply furnished by the powers that be. Our food supply is not always fed nor grown in a healthy manner and thus is sometime lacking in necessary vitamins and minerals for us to consume.

    2. Teas BOY,
      Believe what you will and Rant all you like…this is known , zinc protects immune function,can treat diarrhea,used in wound healing and other the body.
      From Medical News Today..this is the first paragraph..”Zinc is a trace element that is necessary for a healthy immune system. A lack of zinc can make a person more susceptible to disease and illness.

      It is responsible for a number of functions in the human body, and it helps stimulate the activity of at least 100 different enzymes. Only a small intake of zinc is necessary to reap the benefits.

      Currently, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for zinc in the United States is 8 milligrams (mg) a day for women and 11 mg a day for men.

      The element is naturally found in many different foods, but it is also available as a dietary supplement.”

    3. Pftttt
      Ya, ok
      Thats why most cold remedies etc all have zinc in em, and why those lozenges sell like candy, because they dont work,,,,

    4. Texas Boy,

      Asking seriously, what is your science background? Just curious to know the perspective you’re coming from.

    5. Texas Boy,

      I saw a report that some doctors are treating the Covid virus patients with hydrocloroquine and Zinc. That information was interesting to me so I am making sure I get enough zinc. My vitamin C tablets contain Zinc too. I have made sure I take zinc and also I read that a low level of vitamin D was found in most of the Covid patients. I am very low,on Vitamin D so I am upping my game there too.

  11. Modern pennies (1 cent coins) have a composition of 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper. Just scratch of the copper coating and you have a zinc blank. Of course I am not suggesting people eat coins. If you can dissolve the zinc in a penny? You will have a lifetime supply of zinc in your coin jar. It’s an available source of zinc and it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg. Just 1 cent.
    Just a thought.

  12. Zinc water pipes/lines (especially in urban) are fairly common…If you have these, you could easily get excess zinc via water used for drinking/cooking, and even bathing (absorb through skin). As well, a number of salves (used to be particularly for infants) have zinc as a component.

    Is there any sort of easy way to test one’s water for zinc levels?

      1. INPrepper

        They do, in the form of zinc oxide. It serves as a physical barrier over the skin, blocking UVA and UVB radiation from the sun.

  13. FWIW, I have been working on and off for the last five years here in Winterfell as a teacher’s aide, substitute teacher, and in retail sales. Before I walk out the door(especially now with the COVID-19 thing) I use a Zicam swab up each nostril, twice. I inhale the gel into my sinuses.
    Yes, it is unpleasant. However, I have yet to even come down with a cold, flu, or other such illness. I realize this is anecdotal evidence, but it has worked for me; and my immune system is compromised due to my age and psoriatic arthritis. Zicam is readily available here in North Idaho and both my wife and I have stocked up. For me, this treatment is a lot more pleasant than trying to choke down a raw oyster. Stay well, everyone.

  14. Whoopsie… Uh oh.. Gonna drink that milk right now, daily. Not from foundry but with other occupational hazards related.

  15. a friend of mine that i went to highschool with who is a doctor with 35 years of experience has told me the same thing months ago and i love beef so i guess im not doing to bad in that department

  16. Rough Rider

    Good news! Yes, it does. Dark chocolate (70-85%), 100 gram bar, has 3.3mg of zinc.

    It also has about 600 calories, but we won’t talk about that.

  17. Thanks for the informative article Ken.

    And many thanks to those that have become sick off of welding from the fumes. ( TMcGyver and Minerjim ) I never did learn to weld so I have never been there. Now I know thanks to you fellas.

    I will continue adding nuts to my salads in my attempts to maintain a balanced diet. Some of the highest sources of zinc also go hand-in-hand with foods that are high in cholesterol and or saturated fats. ( shellfish and beef.). Something to remember as I do my menu planning.

    Last night I fixed Carne Asada Steak Tacos. I will share the recipe later butt I gotta exercise before the cholesterol hits my arteries.

  18. A fascinating 20 minute video explaining how Covid-19 gets in and replicates. He also talks about how Zinc in the cells will slow/stop this from happening.

    “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update 32 with pulmonologist & critical care specialist Roger Seheult, MD”

  19. Just had a strip steak, doing my part to stop the spread. Who knew it could be so delicious.

  20. I always find puritan’s pride to have best price on all vitamins I buy.

  21. I would add one of the symptoms of the Chinese flu is loss of smell and taste… Guess what? Low zinc levels in your body have been known to cause loss of smell and taste. So these people with the virus, their bodies are craving zinc and they have too little so the virus thrives inside of them. They lose those senses. There must be some sort of correlation.

  22. But, but meat sources are BAD!!

    Cows fart and such…..BAD, BAD!!

    Our government and their proprietors want us all SICK.

    NWO can die of lead poisoning.

    Just venting….with a smiley face
    Happy, happy, happy!!🤪

    1. If meat is bad, save your life by sending it to me. I’ll dispose of it properly.

  23. That’s great!
    Yep, whatever works…

    Exercise and being active is a VERY big part of one’s health.

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