13 Foods That Are High in Zinc to Help You Fight Your Next Cold

Updated: Jun. 30, 2022

When flu season comes around, eating foods high in zinc may help protect against the cold and flu. Here's how to get more of the mineral.


Why zinc?

Most of us usually think to load up on vitamin C when it comes to beating a sickness, so it may come as a surprise that you might be better off focusing on zinc. Research, including a 2017 review of studies published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, shows that zinc lozenges are an effective treatment for the common cold. “This is due to the mineral’s ability to help prevent the bacteria or virus from replicating in the body,” says Rebecca Lewis, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist with HelloFresh, a meal kit delivery service. “Zinc is essential for the body to make DNA in order to promote tissue growth and repair, and it helps wounds heal faster and ensures the immune system works properly.”

To make sure you’re getting enough of the nutrient in your diet, be sure to incorporate some of these foods high in zinc.

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Sure, they’re considered an aphrodisiac food. But what better way to fight off sickness than to indulge in some seafood? “One large oyster has about one mg of zinc, about 10 percent the daily value,” says sports dietitian Natalie Rizzo, RD. “Most people slurp down a few oysters at a time, which provides a heaping serving of the mineral. I would suggest eating them raw as a nice appetizer.”

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Sure, it’s not the first thing you think of as a health food, but a three-ounce serving of beef has about seven mg of zinc. “That’s almost 100 percent of the daily value for women and a little less for men,” says Rizzo. “Try using it in a stir-fry, veggie soup, or paired with a vegetable side.” Follow these three easy tips to eat beef and stay healthy.

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An eight-ounce container of plain low-fat yogurt has almost two mg of the mineral, or about 11 percent of the daily value, says Rizzo. Yogurt is also rich in protein, calcium, phosphorus, and B vitamins, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Yogurt is great in a smoothie, topped with granola, or just eaten plain.” Here are some savory ways to cook with yogurt.

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Swiss cheese

Spruce up your sandwiches with some Swiss cheese, or pair it with some veggie sticks for an extra boost of nutrients. “One ounce of Swiss cheese has 1.2 mg—or about 8 percent your daily value,” says Rizzo. Curious if you’re getting enough zinc in your diet? Here are 7 signs you’re not getting enough zinc.

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Garbanzo beans

They’re a smart choice since they’re among the top 25 brain-boosting foods. “Roasted garbanzo beans are a totally delicious and portable way to get a healthy dose of zinc, folate, and manganese,” says registered dietitian Keri Glassman, RD. A half-cup of the legume contains 2.8 mg of the mineral. If you’re looking to boost your iron intake too, a half-cup of garbanzo beans provides 30 percent of your daily iron requirement, according to Berkeley Wellness.

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Kidney beans

“A 1/2 cup of these dark red beans will not only serve up 0.9 mg of zinc—or 6 percent of your daily value—but they are also loaded with antioxidants and iron,” says Rizzo. “You can substitute them in any recipe that calls for pinto beans, and they are fantastic in chili.” An added health benefit: Kidney beans contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps promote digestive health and bowel regularity. Here are some more health benefits of beans.


Dark chicken meat

There’s a reason we always want chicken soup when we’re sick: A three-ounce serving of dark meat chicken will give you 2.4 mg of zinc, or 16 percent of your daily value. “For the best bang for your buck, buy a whole pasture-raised chicken rather than individual pieces,” says Maria Zamarripa, RD, a registered dietitian in Denver. “Mixing both light and dark meat on a whole chicken provides a more complete nutrition profile with added zinc.” Ward off your cold with these medicinal properties of chicken soup.

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Avoid a zinc deficiency by filling up on some pork. Like beef and chicken, pork is also a good source of the nutrient: A three-ounce pork chop has 2.9 mg of the mineral, or 19 percent of your daily value. Remember, moderation is key when it comes to meat consumption. Need help with eating meat the healthy way? Here are the best meats to eat and those to avoid.



Yes, it is one of the five healthiest nuts you can eat. A small handful of cashews (around one ounce) or one tablespoon of nut butter contains 1.6 mg of zinc, or 11 percent of your daily value. “Mix up your nut game by adding cashews for a boost of zinc to ward off the common cold,” says Zamarripa. “For an easy and cost-effective option, make your own homemade cashew butter by blendihttps://www.thehealthy.com/nutrition/healthiest-nuts-you-can-eat//ng roasted, unsalted cashews in a blender until smooth. Pair one to two tablespoons of homemade cashew butter with a banana, apple slices, or whole-wheat toast for a nutritionally complete snack.”

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“Quinoa is a gluten-free ancient grain that’s high in zinc and protein and its mild flavor goes well with pretty much anything,” says Glassman. “You can basically throw any combination of vegetables, beans, cheese, or diced meats in it and end up with a balanced, tasty meal.” A 3/4 cup serving of quinoa has about 2 mg of the nutrient. Check out these 15 creative recipes featuring quinoa.

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Time to eat those grains for breakfast, since one packet of plain oatmeal provides 1.1 mg of the mineral, or seven percent of your daily value. “Spice up plain oatmeal by sprinkling with cinnamon, and an antioxidant-rich fruit of your choice, such as berries,” says Zamarippa. “To enhance the zinc profile even more, add a small handful of sliced almonds to your oatmeal for an easy, protein-packed breakfast.” Check out these 10 tasty oatmeal ideas.

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Sunflower seeds

Let’s start with the fact that they’re one of the six superseeds you should be eating. Then consider that one ounce of dry sunflower seeds contains 1.5 mg of zinc. “For those of us who like to have something to munch on while we’re out and about, sunflower seeds are a fun way to add a touch of zinc in a snack,” says Anna Mason, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Ventura County, California. “My caution here is to watch out for the salt, so look for unsalted sunflower seeds if you can.” Check out more about the health benefits of sunflower seeds.

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Each half-cup of cooked broccoli contains about .25 mg zinc. “The total amount of zinc in broccoli is certainly on the low end of this list,” says Mason. “However, broccoli contains one of the highest amounts of zinc per calorie of any vegetable, so while it’s not going to get you to your recommended daily amount itself, it can certainly play a supporting role as a dipper or in a stir-fry.” Ever wondered why you can’t find canned broccoli? Here’s why.