Doctor's Note

Also check out these videos on potential nutrient deficiencies associated with plant-based diets:
Safest Source of B12
Vitamin B12 Necessary for Arterial Health

And check out my other videos on zinc and vegetarians

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  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on zinc and vegetarians. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

    • elsie blanche

      Is zinc supplementation safe and maybe advisable for vegans? If so, any forms you suggest? The issue of cadmium in zinc supplements has been raised.

  • squidey

    What do you think about the ratio of zinc/copper in the diet? Iv read the ideal is 8/1 but that seems pretty much impossible on a plant based diet, thoughts?

    • Nickolas

      wheat germ has a better ratio than beef, although oysters are the best by far but oysters also have many other things I would not consider safe for consumption.

    • Nickolas

      Also I found that hemp seeds contain zinc without any copper. 28 grams will provide about 23% of your daily requirement for zinc.

  • Thinkabouddit

    My zinc levels are low. I eat walnuts and flax in my oatmeal, and black beans or potatoes or grains with steamed broccolli, kale, etc., vegetables.

    Is there a quality supplement that will up the zinc level?

  • Stephen Lucker Kelly

    I heard you need to keep a 10 to 1 ratio of zinc to copper. Is this true?

  • Keivan

    My wife was recently diagnosed with having very high levels of copper. What are the chances that her mostly vegan diet has contributed to this problem. There is a lot of hype about copper-zink imbalance in a vegetarian and vegan diets. Although high in zinc, nuts and beans are also generally high in copper. Is this fact or fiction?

    • Harriet Sugar Miller

      Since no one has answered you yet, I will. Yes, nuts, seeds and beans are generally high in copper–and while the phytic acid in those foods binds their zinc, calcium, iron and other minerals, their copper is still available to us for absorption. As you probably know, high copper can make you tired and fuels the spread of cancer. I also read recently that it may be linked to Alzheimer’s.

      Here’s the long version of the copper-zinc connection and some suggestions on how to increase zinc and lower copper:

  • Paul Naylor

    I am concerned about cadmium levels in zinc supplements. I have read that zinc orotate is the most bio-available type, but is it a good source of low cadmium zinc? I have also read that zinc gluconate has the lowest levels of cadmium but also low absorption. Which would you recommend Dr Greger? Thank you!

  • Derrek

    How much beans, nuts and grains should be eaten?

    • Thea

      Derrek: Most of the professionals that I follow recommend up to 1 to 2 ounces of nuts and seeds a day. But beans and grains can easily be half of the volume of food that you eat. Check out the PCRM Power Plate, which I find to be a really helpful visual guide:

      • Derrek

        I just follow 80/10/10

      • Derrek

        I also found a recommendation for legumes, grains and veggies and fruits but couldn’t find it anymore

      • Derrek

        It was on their website

  • Derrek

    What’s the rda for vegans for zinc? I heard there’s a problem absorbing it.

  • Derrek

    Do you recommend zinc supplements for vegans? How much should I be getting per day? I heard it’s harder to absorb for vegans. How much should I supplement each day?

  • Lauren Bateman

    I just reviewed the comments and questions here. Zinc is best absorbed from whole food, so a supplement is not a good choice. The best way is to be sure to find delicious ways to eat beans, whole grains and/or a palmful of nuts every day.

  • cyndishisara

    I understand that zinc is vital in bode building process. I have read that the most absorptive form of is zinc acexamate.

    ‘Role of nutritional zinc in the prevention of osteoporosis.’

    See also the Zinc Acexamate-Osteoporosis Studies

  • CareForTheSentient

    My zinc tends to be a little lower than the commonly cited recommended daily value; I’ve heard Dr. Greger say elsewhere (specifically, here that if you’re eating a diet rich
    in whole plant foods, especially beans, greens, nuts, grains, and seeds, zinc is nothing to worry about. I eat plenty of those foods, but my zinc levels nonetheless tend to hover at
    around 8.5mg a day, 77% of the standard recommendation. Is this
    something I should seek to remedy, or should I be content knowing I’m
    eating plenty of of cruciferous and green leafy vegetables (in addition
    to beans, nuts, grains, and seeds)?

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Thanks again for reposting! I suggest upping your zinc intake a bit. You are almost to 11 mg. Keep in mind these are just “averages” to shoot for, but they are the best averages we have, set by the Institute of Medicine. Adding 2.5 mg of zinc to your diet may be pretty easy, especially if you like pumpkin seeds, as 1 ounce offers 2.2 mg of zinc. If you want more foods sources of zinc let me know! Thanks again for reposting.


      • Tina Willis

        Thanks for your reply. I was kind of hoping for a diet where I didn’t have to measure any particular mineral on a daily basis. I eat a LOT of greens & beans, and a little nuts. Do you have an approximate guideline for the amount of each of these, minus pumpkin seeds, that we need to eat to get what we need? I keep hearing that we need to eat greens, beans & nuts to get zinc. But how much? I mean, doesn’t seem like just winging it is working very well for many (most?) vegans. So this is frustrating as a relatively new convert over the last year, particularly considering that my husband has had 3 serious itching rashes requiring him to go to the doctor (since becoming vegan over the last year) and had to take steroids twice for what were *serious* skin rashes. Now I’m wondering whether a zinc deficiency was to blame.

        • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

          Dr. Greger always says that diet quality is more important than quantity. It should be rather easy to meet zinc needs and actually forgive me I goofed, as women only need 8mg, not 11mg (that is for men). Fattier foods from whole plants are fine based on the research so you shouldn’t have a problem eating nuts and soy. If you haven’t please check out our videos on nuts and body weight they may surprise you!

  • Lamella

    I read that men taking zinc supplements increase the risk of developing prostate cancer. I would like to know what is the take of Dr. Greger on this. BTW, I absolutely love this page. It is absolutely amazing.

  • Joy Schwabach

    Once you advise B12 supplements for vegans, it begs the question: “Why can’t other supplements also be useful?” I can’t believe Dr. Joel Furhman would sell his multi-vitamin without making sure it’s 100% safe. It doesn’t have the dangerous vitamin A or folic acid, and it does make it easy to meet my zinc requirement. Still, having read a lot on this site, I may cut down to one tablet a day instead of the recommended two.

  • Shaylen Snarski

    Should women take an iron supplement during their period or would their multivitamin containing iron be efficient if they’re worried they didn’t get enough from food everyday? And are zinc supplements a good idea for women? If so, at what percent DV and will that interfere with your copper absorption from foods even if you take the zinc supplement between meals?

  • Kevin

    I love the ending.

  • FAB_Team

    I have extremely low zinc and high copper found in blood test. I was sick constantly with flus, sinus, stomach problems skin problems for over 12 months and was advised that its was due to the imbalance in the zinc/copper. As a vegan how can I increase my zinc levels without taking a supplement or should I take a supplement. I have been told my zinc levels will take 1 to 2 years to balance again which concerns me and I may have pyroles disorder