How Much Zinc Do I Need?

  • RDA for Men is 11 mg/d

  • RDA for Women is 8 mg/d

  • Upper Safe Limit for Adults is 40 mg/d

Why Do I Need Zinc?

  • Zinc is used as a cofactor for over 100 different enzymes in the body and plays a role in numerous metabolic reactions

  • Zinc assists in immune function and in growth and development

  • Zinc is essential to normal taste perception, wound healing, the making of sperm and fetal development

Plant-Based Sources

  • The best plant-based sources for zinc are whole grains, beans, nuts and fortified cereals


Zinc Content (mg)

Quinoa, 1 cup cooked


Brown rice, 1 cup cooked


Instant oatmeal, regular, 1 packet


Whole wheat bread, 1 slice


Garbanzo beans, 1 cup cooked


Lentils, 1 cup cooked


Pinto beans, 1 cup cooked


Walnuts, 1 oz (~14 halves)


Almonds, 1 oz (~23 whole almonds)


Peanut butter, 2 tbsp


Pumpkin seeds, whole, roasted, 1 oz (~85 seeds)


Peas, 1 cup cooked


Sweet potato, 1 cup cooked


Total whole grain cereal, 3/4 cup


Red Star VSF large yeast flakes , 2 heaping tbsp


Deficiency Symptoms

  • Slow DNA synthesis, impaired cell division and protein synthesis

  • Weak sense of smell and taste, poor appetite, weight loss, delayed glucose absorption, diarrhea, nausea

  • Night blindness

  • Low white blood cell count

  • Hair loss, skin lesion, rough and dry skin, slow wound healing


References used for all of the nutrient pages can be found at the bottom of the Nutrition Facts page. Click here.

Toxicity Symptoms

  • Anemia

  • Raised  LDL, lowered HDL

  • Diarrhea, vomiting, decreased calcium and copper absorption

  • Fever and elevated white blood cell count

  • Renal failure

  • Muscular pain, heart muscle degeneration, exhaustion, dizziness and drowsiness

How to Assess Status

  • It is possible to check serum zinc levels, urinary zinc and the zinc content of hair but all of these measurements have problems and are not good indicators of nutritional zinc status

  • More studies and research are needed to determine the best way to assess zinc status


  • You can increase the amount of zinc you absorb from plants by eating meals that contain either garlic, onions or acidic foods like tomatoes and lemons

  • Calcium supplements can interfere with zinc and iron absorption so if you choose to take a calcium supplement it should be taken between meals


Please check out the following zinc related videos from

Kristen Zaier, ​​Plant-Based RD