Friday, February 26, 2021



Following these guidelines will put your diet in accordance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are:

  • Eat a variety of foods
  • Balance the food you eat with physical activity — maintain or improve your weight
  • Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits
  • Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
  • Choose a diet moderate in sugars
  • Choose a diet moderate in salt and sodium
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation

What is “a good food source?”

A good food source of zinc contains a substantial amount of zinc in relation to its calorie content and contributes at least 10 percent of the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (U.S. RDA) for zinc in a selected serving size. The U.S. RDA for zinc is 15 milligrams per day. The U.S. RDA given is for adults (except pregnant or lactating women) and children over 4 years of age.

The U.S. RDA for zinc is the amount of the mineral used as a standard in nutrition labeling of foods. This allowance is based on the 1968 Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for 24 sex-age categories set by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences. The 1989 RDA has been set at 12 milligrams per day for women 19 to 50 years of age and 15 milligrams per day for men 19 to 50 years of age.

Where do we get zinc?

In 1990, meat and dairy products provided over 60% of the zinc in the American diet (44% and 19% respectively). Grain products were a close third, supplying the diet with about 17% of the zinc recommended. Foods that contain small amounts of zinc, but are not considered good sources, can contribute significant amounts of zinc to an individual’s diet if these foods are eaten often, or in large amounts.

Average Intake of Zinc in the Typical American Diet
* The “Other Foods” category includes fruits (1.3%), fats and oils (0.1%), sugars and sweeteners (0.5%), and miscellaneous foods (3.0%).

Source: Gerrior SA, Zizza C., 1994. Nutrient Content of the U.S. Food Supply, 1909 – 1990. Home Economics Research Report No. 52 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

Why do we need zinc?

Zinc, a mineral, plays an important role in the formation of protein in the body and thus, assists in wound healing, blood formation, and general growth and maintenance of all tissues. Zinc is a component of many enzymes and thus, is involved in most metabolic processes.

Do we get enough zinc?

According to recent USDA surveys, the average intake of zinc by women 20 to 50 years of age was about 80 percent of the RDA. Men of the same age got about 99 percent of the recommended amount.

How can we get enough zinc?

Eating a variety of foods that contain zinc is the best way to get an adequate amount. Healthy individuals who eat a balanced diet rarely need supplements. Intakes of zinc tend to be low in relation to recommendations, and there aren’t that many foods that are really good sources; thus, it may take special care to ensure an adequate intake. The list of foods on pages 3 and 4 of this fact sheet will help you select those that are good sources of zinc as you follow the Dietary Guidelines. The list of good sources was derived from the same nutritive value of foods tables used to analyze information for recent food consumption surveys of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Human Nutrition Information Service.

How to prepare foods to retain zinc

Zinc is lost in cooking some foods even under the best conditions. To retain zinc:

  • Cook foods in a minimal amount of water.
  • Cook for the shortest possible time.

What about whole-grain cereals?

Most fortified ready-to-eat cereals usually contain 10 percent of the U.S. RDA for zinc. Since cereals vary, check the label on the package for the percentage of the U.S. RDA for a specific cereal.

What is a serving?

The serving sizes used on the list of good sources are only estimates of the amounts of food you might eat. The amount of nutrient in a serving depends on the weight of the serving. For example, the edible part of a cooked chicken leg (thigh and drumstick) weighs more than the edible part of a cooked chicken breast half. Therefore, the chicken leg appears on the list while the chicken breast half does not. The chicken breast half provides the nutrient — but just not enough to be considered a good source.

Good Sources of Zinc
FoodSelected Serving SizePercentage of U.S. RDA1
Breads, cereals, and other grain products
Ready-to-eat cereals, fortified21 ounce+
Wheat germ, plain2 tablespoons+
Meat, poultry, fish and alternates
Meat and Poultry
Brisket, braised, lean only3 ounces++
Ground; extra lean, lean or regular; baked or broiled1 patty++
Pot roast, braised, lean only3 ounces+++
Roast, rib, roasted, lean only3 ounces++
Shortribs, braised, lean only3 ounces+++
Steak, lean only: baked or broiled3 ounces++
Braised3 ounces+++
Stew meat, simmered, lean only3 ounces+++
Chicken, leg (thigh and drumstick), broiled or roasted, without skin1 leg+
Ham, fresh, smoked or cured, roasted, lean only3 ounces+
Lamb Chop, shoulder; braised, broiled, or baked; lean only1 chop++
Ground, cooked1 patty+
Roast, shoulder, roasted, lean only3 ounces++
Liver, braised, beef or pork3 ounces++
Calf3 ounces+++
Chicken or turkey1/2 cup diced+
Chop, baked or broiled, lean only1 chop+
Ground, cooked3 ounces+
Roast, loin, roasted, lean only3 ounces+
Roast, shoulder, roasted, lean only3 ounces+
Tongue, braised3 ounces++
Ground, cooked3 ounces+
Light or dark meat, roasted, without skin3 ounces+
Chop, braised, lean only1 chop+
Ground, cooked1 patty+
Roast, leg, roasted, lean only3 ounces++
Fish and Seafood
Carp, baked or broiled3 ounces+
Crabmeat, steamed3 ounces+
Lobster, steamed or boiled3 ounces+
Mussels, steamed, boiled, or poached3 ounces+
Baked, broiled, or steamed3 ounces+++
Canned, undrained3 ounces+++
Nuts and seeds
Pumpkin or squash seeds, hulled, roasted2 tablespoons+
Milk, cheese, and yogurt
Cheese, ricotta1/2 cup+
Flavored, made with whole or lowfat milk8 ounces+
Plain, made with lowfat or nonfat milk8 ounces+
1A selected serving size contains-
+ 10 – 24 percent of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age
++ 25 – 39 percent of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age
+++ 40 percent or more of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age
2See section on fortified cereals


Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, Life Sciences Research Office. Prepared for the Interagency Board for Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research. Third Report on Nutrition Monitoring in the United States: Volumes 1 and 2. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C.

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