Healthy Eating

6 Zinc-Rich Foods to Add to Your Diet For Immune Health

Including these foods in your diet is easier than you think!

By: Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC

Zinc is a mineral that has received lots of attention over the past few years, and for good reason! This essential nutrient plays some pretty important roles in our overall health, and considering our body is unable to synthesize it, not taking in enough of this key nutrient can lead to some pretty unsavory outcomes. 

Along with playing a role in building proteins and healing damaged tissue, zinc plays a pivotal role in our immune health. Oh, it also assists more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body! 

The Importance of Zinc For Immune Health  

Zinc supports the growth and function of immune cells and helps reduce inflammation in our bodies. AKA, it helps keep the immune system in tip-top shape! And having a deficiency can result in negative effects when it comes to immune health.

So, how can you get enough zinc in your diet? There are a wide variety of foods that can be included in a balanced diet that are jam-packed with this incredibly important nutrient. 

6 Zinc-Rich Foods to Support a Healthy Immune System 

It is estimated that over 12% of Americans are at risk for having a zinc deficiency, which may be a result of gaps in a person’s diet or a person’s body not absorbing this nutrient appropriately.  

The good news is that there are plenty of foods that naturally fuel a person’s body with zinc. And, by making a point to include these foods in a balanced diet, people can avoid a zinc deficiency and support a strong and healthy functioning immune system.

#1 Beef

Beef is one of the best sources of zinc out there, with one 3.5-ounce portion providing almost 50% of our daily needs. That said, not all sources are created equal! Ideally, you’ll want to opt for a sustainable (and, if possible, local) source and opt for grass-fed beef. 

When it comes to the type of beef, lean sources are best. Not only are lean sources of beef rich in zinc, but they’re also lower in saturated fat, which is a nutrient that should be consumed in limited amounts.

Try topping your salad with a lean cut of sirloin, or making homemade burgers or tacos with lean ground beef!

#2 Oysters

Enjoying oysters not only provides your body with important healthy fats, but it is also an excellent source of zinc! In fact, just one serving provides over 100% DV of this mineral — pretty impressive. Plus, oysters are low in calories and full of protein.

Cooked oysters are a better choice than raw if a person is pregnant or immunocompromised. And if you opt for the raw varieties, be sure you are getting them from a reputable spot.

#3 Hemp Seeds

Sprinkling some tasty hemp seeds on your yogurt bowl, salad, or toast can be a simple way to sneak in more zinc. And as a rich source of plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and fiber, this ingredient is a nutritional powerhouse that can be added to a slew of dishes.

#4 Peanuts

If you’re a PB lover, good news. Enjoying this creamy nut butter on toast or adding a spoonful to your smoothie or overnight oats will also give you a boost of zinc! Peanuts (among other nuts and seeds, like pumpkin seeds and almonds) are a natural source of this trace mineral, making them a healthy addition to your diet. 

Not a peanut fan? Cashew butter will also provide you with zinc as well.

#5 Dairy Milk

Sipping on a cold glass of dairy milk may be known for its bone health-supporting nutrients. But dairy milk also provides immune health-supporting nutrients like zinc and vitamin A. To get the gut-healthy benefits of dairy, try enjoying it in its probiotic form! Probiotic-rich products like Greek yogurt and Kefir are great choices.

#6 Dark Chocolate

Yup, dark chocolate contains zinc! That craveable treat that has that undeniably delicious flavor is indeed healthy! That said, dark chocolate may also contain added sugar (in varying degrees, depending on the type), so it is not meant to be eaten in large quantities — but as an occasional treat, eating it can help you meet your zinc quota for the day.

To get the most nutritional benefits (think: antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties) you’ll want to reach for 70% chocolate or darker. Unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder are great options too! 

For a healthy chocolate treat that’s loaded with zinc-rich foods, try making your own chocolate bark! It’s simple to make, easy to customize, and delicious to enjoy.


  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cacao or cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds 
  • 2 tbsp coconut flakes, unsweetened
  • 2 tbsp freeze-dried berries, unsweetened
  • 2-3 tbsp mixture of chopped almonds and peanuts (or nuts of choice) 


Step #1: Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Lower the heat and whisk in the raw cacao powder and maple syrup.

Step #2: Line a small baking tray with parchment paper and pour the chocolate mixture onto the lined tray. Evenly spread the raw chocolate.

Step #3: Top with remaining ingredients. Then, cover and freeze until the chocolate is set (about one hour).

Step #4: Remove from the freezer and break into bite-sized bark. Store in an airtight container in the freezer until ready to serve!

Eating Zinc Foods For Immune Health

When people think of how to support immune health, many automatically consider how much vitamin C they consume. But among the immune health-supporting nutrients out there, zinc is one that should not be ignored. 

Along with washing hands often, getting adequate quality sleep, participating in physical activity, and doing all of the other “right things” when it comes to supporting immune health, including zinc foods in your diet may help your body stay in fighting shape during the germier seasons and beyond.