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

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

To post comments or questions into our discussion board, first log into Disqus with your account or with one of the accepted social media logins. Click on Login to choose a login method. Click here for help.

  • 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?

    • 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:

      • John Axsom

        Since I started a whole plant food diet 6 months ago, I noticed that I am a little more tired, and dizzy at times. I wonder if it is because I am not getting enough zinc. Maybe, I should take a zinc supplement, or go back to eating meat.

        • Thea

          John Axsom: It would be impossible for anyone to know what is going on with you with so little information. But I thought I would share an idea that *might* help. Several other people have reported similar problems in the past and when I got some details about their situation, it seemed clear to me that they were not getting enough calories. That was causing them to feel week and sometimes dizzy. They fixed the problem by adding some more calorie dense foods into their diet, foods such as nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc.
          I’m not an expert and that may not be your problem at all. I’m just sharing so you can think about it in case it will be of help.

          • John Axsom

            Thank you for your thoughts. When I get outdoors and work in the yard, the dizziness goes away. It seems like I have it when I am in the house and not being physically active. I eat a few nuts, but I am following Esselstyn’s advice of no oils, no nuts or seeds because I am trying to reverse plaque build up in the arteries.

          • Thea

            John Axsom: I must be off base then. If you were going to have dizziness in only one place, I would expect it to be when you are working around outdoors–IF the cause were low calories. So, I’m thinking something else is going on with you.
            Here’s a bizarre idea I just had: I know that people can develop allergies over time. Could there be something in your house (some mold or kind of dust) that you have developed a reaction to? Do you have this problem when you are indoors an inactive in other locations? Just another shot in the dark. I wonder if a doctor would be able to help you figure this out. (FYI: Dr. Klaper does phone consultations if you don’t have a doctor you can trust. Dr. Klaper knows all about nutrition. So, he should be able to help you figure out if you have a nutrition problem or some other problem.)
            It’s just interesting to me that being inactive in the house causes symptoms. Best of luck to you. I hope you are able to figure it out.

          • John Axsom

            I think it might be related to the plaque blockage in my carotid arteries. I have 90 percent blockage in the left artery. Maybe I am not getting enough blood and oxygen to the brain. I don’t know. But, when I go to the gym and work out with the weights I get a lot of vasodillatation, ( blood vessels dialate ), and then I no longer feel dizzy. But, if I am in the house sitting around, I am not getting the vasodillatation from exercise, and maybe then the blood flow is not as great to the brain. However, at home, my thinking processes are OK, I play chess on the computer and usually win, I do mathematics, and I practice foreign language skills…
            Anyhow, I started the strict vegan diet set forth by Esselstyn ( who talked to me on the phone ) in order to dissolve the plaque in my arteries. I have been doing this since Janury of 2016. I think it is working because my blood pressure has come down to normal, I have lost 30 pounds, and my total cholesterol has come down to 153. Because these are all good signs, I am hoping that this also reflects that the plaque in my arteries is going away. I don’t know. Let’s just hope Esselstyn is right.

          • Thea

            John: Thanks for the additional details. So interesting. I agree that it sure sounds like things are going in the right direction. I would very interested to hear how you are doing in another few months. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that your arteries open up.

          • John Axsom

            I’ll keep you posted. I just had an evening meal of black beans and rice, and a huge salad. It’s funny how I have come to love the taste of black beans and rice. I usually throw in some diced jalapeno peppers and some salsa into the mix.

        • Are you drinking green tea? I sometimes get dizzy when I drink too much green tea.

  • 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!

    • Shaylen Snarski

      I think he recommends getting minerals from whole foods. Plus supplementation from minerals can be complex. Getting too much can be dangerous. Minerals in foods are perfectly balanced and it’s still not fully understood how our body absorbs everything. Eating whole foods is the best way to obtain all nutrients especially minerals because balance is so important when it comes to them. Too much of one thing can deplete you in another for example. Supplementing can upset a natural balance. Eat lentils. Go to to measure amounts, I think you’ll be surprised at how much you can get from whole plant foods on even a low calorie diet.

  • 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.


      • 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!

        • Shaylen Snarski

          the fats found in nuts and other plant foods are healthy. Don’t fear those fats. Study after study shows that people who consume those “high fat” foods tend to be healthier and have healthier hearts. They’re actually heart protective in the whole food form. I know a lot of vegans and what I usually hear is how much better everyone feels. But make sure you’re eating enough and lots of whole foods. I’m a vegan and eat nothing but whole foods and I don’t worry about fat in them, I embrace healthy plant fats. helps you measure all that stuff really well and it’s free. I find that lentils are an AMAZING sources of zinc and other minerals as well as every essential amino acid, you’ll be happy that they’re very low in fat, too. Red lentils have the most antioxidants, even higher than black beans.

  • 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