Zinc in a Vegan Diet

What are the best vegan zinc sources? We explain all below.

Vegan tempeh bowl
Image Credit: AdobeStock

What is Zinc?

Zinc helps our body grow new cells, promotes healing[1] and aids with processing carbohydrates[2]. Good sources of zinc include legumes, nuts, seeds and oats, leafy green vegetables, and sprouted seeds and beans.

How much do we need?

Zinc is a trace element, which means we don’t need much – just 9.5mcg a day for men and 7mcg a day for women, though vegans may need a little more because zinc from plant foods does not absorb quite as easily.

Although some studies found that vegans had less zinc in their bloodstream than meat-eaters, it was still within the healthy range, and deficiency is rare.

Vegan zinc sources

We can get all the zinc we need from a varied vegan diet, and since small amounts absorb best, it’s a good idea to eat foods that contain zinc throughout the day.

Here are some plant-based foods which contain zinc:

  • Legumes (such as tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils)
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Oats
  • Wholegrains
  • Leafy green vegetables

Should I supplement?

There are health risks associated with taking too much zinc, so it is better to get all you need from a healthy balanced diet.

If you believe you have difficulty absorbing zinc, your doctor can identify the problem, and may prescribe supplements.


[1] https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-982/zinc

[2] Brand IA1, Kleineke J., 1996. Intracellular zinc movement and its effect on the carbohydrate metabolism of isolated rat hepatocytes. J Biol Chem. 1996 Jan 26;271(4):1941-9

This page was reviewed by Claire Lynch, RD and nutritionist Rohini Bajekal from Plant-Based Health Professionals in November 2023.

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