Key Facts
  • Zinc is important for your immune system.
  • Your body can’t make zinc so you need to get it through your diet.
  • Teenage girls need about 8-9mg of zinc every day.
  • Esta guía en Español
  • Young men's version of this guide

Zinc is a mineral that is important for your immune system. Zinc is also needed for wound healing, normal growth, and development.

How much zinc do I need?

Because your body cannot make zinc, you must get it through your diet. The amount of zinc you need daily, or the recommended dietary allowance (RDA), depends on your age and gender. Girls ages 9 to 13 years old need 8 milligrams of zinc each day. Girls ages 14 to 18 years old need 9 milligrams each day.

How do I know if I’m getting enough zinc?

Most people who eat a balanced diet get enough zinc daily. Because a large variety of foods contain zinc (see list below), getting enough shouldn’t be an issue for a healthy young adult. Some people who may be at risk for zinc deficiency include those with inflammatory bowel diseases such as  Crohn’s or colitis, those who have recently undergone bariatric surgery, people who are pregnant or lactating, and those who follow vegan diets. If you think you may be at risk for zinc deficiency, speak to your PCP or a dietitian.

Can I get too much zinc?

It is extremely rare to get too much zinc from the diet. However, taking a supplement when a provider hasn’t prescribed it to you can be risky. Since zinc is important for the immune system, some people believe that taking zinc supplements when they have a cold may be beneficial. The research on this in inconclusive, meaning that there is no evidence to say this works. Excessive intake of zinc supplements can affect the absorption of other necessary minerals like copper and magnesium, affect cholesterol levels, and reduce immune function.

What are some good sources of zinc?

There are many different foods that contain zinc. Oysters contain the highest amount of zinc, but red meat and poultry are the most commonly eaten sources of zinc. Other foods that contain zinc include:

  • Dairy products
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Legumes
  • Meat, poultry, and shellfish
  • Soy foods
  • Whole grains
Food Serving Milligrams (mg) of zinc per serving
Dairy Foods
Yogurt, plain, low-fat 1 cup 1.78
Ricotta cheese, part skim 1/2 cup 1.34
1% milk 1 cup 0.86
Cheddar cheese 1 ounce 1.0
Grains and Cereals
Brown rice, cooked, long grain 1/2 cup 0.7
Cheerios® cereal 1/2 cup 13.4
Life® cereal 1/2 cup 5.8
Wheat germ 1 Tbsp 2.4
Chickpeas 1/2 cup 1.4
Lentils 1/2 cup 1.2
Lima beans 1/2 cup 0.9
Meat, Poultry, Shellfish, and Eggs
Chicken breast 3 ounces 0.8
Egg, large 1 egg 1.2
Hamburger, 95% lean 3 ounces 3.1
Shrimp 6 large 1.6
Sirloin steak 3 ounces 5.7
Turkey 3 ounces 2.8
Oysters 3 oysters 66
Soy Foods
Soybeans 1/2 cup 1.1
Tempeh 1/2 cup 1.1
Tofu, firm 1/2 cup 1.6