PDF download is not available for Arabic and Urdu languages at this time. Please use the browser print function instead

Discover the role of zinc in the body and how to get enough in your diet.

Key points

  • Zinc strengthens the immune system and helps wounds heal.
  • It is mostly found in yogurt, cheese, legumes, seafood and red meat.
  • Healthy people who eat a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods containing zinc typically do not need a zinc supplement.

What is zinc and what does it do?

Zinc is a nutrient that is found in a variety of foods. Zinc helps to strengthen the immune system and heal wounds. It supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, infancy, childhood and adolescence.

Sources of zinc and how to get enough

Zinc is naturally found in many foods. Some foods that are rich in zinc are red meat, poultry, seafood, yogurt, cheese, beans, nuts, legumes and whole grains. Some fortified breakfast cereals are also good sources of zinc.

Zinc sourced from plant-based foods is not as readily absorbed by the body. Therefore, vegetarians might need to eat as much as 50% more zinc than the recommended amounts.

You and your family can get enough zinc by eating a variety of foods rich in zinc throughout the week.

Milk products and alternatives and meats and alternatives containing zinc

How much do we need?

Zinc recommendations*

AgeAmount per day (milligrams/day)
Birth – 6 months2 mg
7 – 12 months3 mg
1 – 3 years3 mg
4 – 8 years5 mg
9 – 13 years8 mg
14+ years (males)11 mg
14 – 18 years (females)
During pregnancy
During breastfeeding
9 mg
12 mg
13 mg
19+ years (females)
During pregnancy
During breastfeeding
8 mg
11 mg
12 mg

*These recommendations are presented here simply as a guide to help you make informed food choices.

How much zinc can I find in a serving of food?

Examples of food sourcesAmount of zinc (mg)
3 oz beef6 mg
1 cup yogurt1 mg
¾ cup lentils2 mg
1.5 oz cheese1.5 mg
1 oz pumpkin/squash seeds2.2 mg

Special considerations

  • A healthy individual following Canada's Food Guide typically does not need a zinc supplement.
  • Ask your doctor about a zinc supplement if you have Crohn's disease, celiac disease or other digestive problems that recently required surgery, as these conditions may cause decreased absorption of zinc.
  • If pregnant, ensure your diet has a variety of zinc rich foods, and take a prenatal multivitamin that contains zinc.
  • Infants who are starting solid food should be offered foods rich in zinc.

Print-Friendly Version

Last updated: February 22nd 2022