The Best Zinc Supplements, According to a Dietitian

Thorne Research Zinc Picolinate is our top pick

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Best Zinc Supplements

Verywell / Sabrina Jiang

Zinc is perhaps most commonly known for being a natural treatment for the common cold—if taken properly, it can help shorten the time you’re sick and reduce your symptoms. And, though it is technically called a “trace” mineral, meaning the body needs only a small amount, it’s instrumental in helping our bodies function properly in many other ways.

If you are vegetarian, have a digestive condition, or are pregnant or lactating, you may be at higher risk of a zinc deficiency. Signs of a zinc deficiency may include frequent colds, nausea, poor wound healing, skin rash or ulcers, weight loss, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, or worsening asthma symptoms. These symptoms may be tough to pinpoint as a zinc deficiency, so check with a healthcare provider to assess your symptoms.

If you are looking to blunt the blow of a nasty cold, or find yourself experiencing symptoms of a zinc deficiency, here are a few things to consider when looking for a zinc supplement. Be sure to look at the dosage level per pill to ensure you are not exceeding upper limit recommendations. Also, take your zinc supplement separately from high fiber and dairy foods for best absorption. Finally, consult with a healthcare provider to discuss the ideal form and dose for you.

Verywell Health Approved Zinc Supplements

  • Best Overall: Thorne Research Zinc Picolinate is an NSF Sport Certified supplement that provides 30 milligrams of zinc in a form that the body can readily use in one convenient capsule.
  • Best for Colds: Nature's Way Zinc Lozenges are a ConsumerLabs approved supplement in the form of a gradually dissolving lozenge that is best for managing symptoms when taken within the first day or two of a cold.

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and which dosage to take.

Who May Benefit From Zinc

Correcting for a deficiency: Vegetarians, those with digestive conditions, and those who are pregnant or lactating may be at higher risk of a zinc deficiency and therefore may benefit from a supplement.

Treating a cold: Perhaps the most popularized use for zinc supplements is in treating cold symptoms and boosting the immune system. Zinc lozenges can help decrease the duration of a cold and reduce symptoms, but not prevent one from coming on. It is important to take zinc supplements properly when treating a cold:

  • Take 6-10 lozenges dissolved slowly over time.
  • Do not use this treatment for longer than a week at a time. 

COVID-19: Though there have been limited studies on the impact of zinc supplements on symptoms and death from COVID-19, it is likely that zinc may help prevent or treat the virus alongside other treatments.

Eye health: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in elderly people in the United States. Although zinc does not help in the early stages, high-dose zinc supplementation or zinc alongside antioxidants like vitamin C and E can slow the progression of advanced AMD.

Sperm health: If starting a family is on your to-do list, zinc might be a supplement that you, or your male partner, will want to consider for maximum sperm health. According to Mannaker, “sperm is extremely susceptible to cell damage, which can be a result of a variety of things, including being exposed to pollution, eating fried foods frequently, and living a stressful lifestyle.” Zinc acts as an antioxidant, helping support sperm health and reducing the risk of damage.

Blood sugar control: Low-dose zinc supplementation (less than 25 mg per day) for a long period of time may help lower blood sugar for those with type 2 diabetes.

Additional Considerations for Supplementing with Zinc

If you are taking certain medications, it’s important that you speak with a healthcare provider before considering taking a zinc supplement.

  • Antibiotics: Certain types of antibiotic medication, such as Cipro or Achromycin, can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb zinc and the antibiotic itself. Patients should be instructed to take the antibiotic two hours before or four to six hours after taking a zinc supplement. Similarly, if you take the drug penicillamine to treat rheumatoid arthritis you should also separate them by 2 hours for best absorption.
  • Diuretics: If you are taking thiazide diuretics, which might be common if you have a heart condition, high blood pressure, or diabetes, have your zinc levels monitored closely as the body’s zinc can quickly become depleted through increased urination.
  • ACE inhibitors: Blood pressure medications from the class called ACE inhibitors (ex. Enalapril, lisinopril) may decrease the levels of zinc in your blood.
  • Cisplatin: This chemotherapy drug may cause more zinc to be excreted in your urine.
  • NSAIDs: Medications like Advil or Motrin may be less efficiently absorbed and used in your body when taken with zinc.
  • Penicillamine: Levels of zinc in your blood may decrease when taking this drug, which is used to treat Wilson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Best Overall: Thorne Research Zinc Picolinate

Thorne Research Zinc Picolinate

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • NSF Sport Certified

  • More absorbable

  • Free of most common allergens

Cons
  • Expensive

When it comes to top quality supplements, we find that Thorne Research delivers. This zinc picolinate is no exception and provides an exceptional dose of zinc that the body can readily use. This supplement provides 30 mg of zinc, which does not exceed tolerable upper intake levels, and it comes in one convenient capsule.

The zinc picolinate is NSF Sport Certified, meaning it is not only NSF Certified, ensuring no unsafe levels of contaminants, but also it is free of 200 substances banned by athletic organizations. On top of that, it is gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free, and does not contain any artificial colors or flavors. While it is slightly more expensive than the competition, you can rest assured you are getting a quality product from a trusted brand.

Serving size: 1 capsule | Zinc dose: 30 mg | Other ingredients: None

Best Liquid: Good State Ionic Liquid Zinc Ultra Concentrate

Good State Ionic Liquid Zinc Ultra Concentrate

Source: Good State

Pros
  • ConsumerLab approved

  • Easy to take

  • Customizable dosing

Cons
  • Faint metallic taste

If you don’t want an additional pill to swallow, we recommend a liquid form of zinc, such as Good State Liquid Ionic Zinc Ultra Concentrate. One of the advantages of taking zinc as a liquid is that you can customize the dose. For example, it is recommended adults use 10 drops to obtain the full dose of 15 mg of zinc sulfate, and for children over the age of 4 simply use five drops. Each BPA-free bottle contains 118 servings, so you end up wasting less packaging by choosing Good State’s Ultra Concentrate liquid zinc. On top of that, it is approved by ConsumerLab, one of the most reputable third-party testing organizations.

It’s incredibly easy to take; just mix it in with water or your favorite beverage. ConsumerLab writes that during their testing a very faint metallic taste was noted, so you might find that adding it to a flavored beverage helps it go down easily. Good State’s zinc is vegetarian and made in the USA.

Serving size: 10 drops | Zinc dose: 15 mg | Other ingredients: None

Best for Cold: Nature’s Way Zinc Lozenge

Nature’s Way Zinc Lozenge

Source: Nature’s Way

Pros
  • ConsumerLab approved

  • Pleasant taste

  • Easy to take

Cons
  • Contains sorbitol

If you’re taking a zinc supplement to manage your cold, we recommend Nature’s Way Zinc Lozenges. Taking zinc in the form of a slowly-dissolving lozenge within the first 24-48 hours of a cold has been shown to decrease the duration and severity of illness. Zinc citrate and gluconate, the two forms of zinc found in the Nature’s Way lozenges, are both effective for colds. With a pleasant mixed berry taste, it’s easy to take one lozenge every six hours as indicated on the bottle. Be sure to not exceed this amount, and be aware that these are not meant to be taken as a daily supplement as the dose is quite high.

Nature’s Way Zinc is ConsumerLab approved, vegan, and contains no yeast, wheat, soy, dairy, or preservatives. Of note, it also contains vitamin C and echinacea, which can be helpful for immune support as well. You will also find stevia leaf and some sugar alcohols (sorbitol and mannitol) for sweetness. Sugar alcohols may cause some stomach bloating, and it’s also been shown that zinc supplements that contain these ingredients may have different levels of effectiveness for people as opposed to zinc on its own.

Serving size: 1 lozenge | Zinc dose: 23 mg | Other ingredients: 100 mg vitamin C, 20 mg echinacea

Best Budget: Swanson Zinc Gluconate

Swanson Zinc Gluconate

Source: Swanson

Pros
  • ConsumerLab approved

  • Inexpensive

  • One capsule

Cons
  • Dosage of zinc might be too high for some

Swanson Zinc Gluconate offers an absorbable form of zinc at an inexpensive price point. Each capsule comes out to cost only a few cents, so it is a great way to add a supplement without spending too much. Chosen as a ConsumerLab Top Pick, this product delivers 50 mg of zinc gluconate, which, as a bonus, may help reduce inflammatory acne.

Be aware that 50 mg per capsule is a very high dose that exceeds the Tolerable Upper Intake Level for adults (40 mg), so it is only suitable for certain people. Be sure to check with a healthcare provider before taking this supplement to make sure it is dosed appropriately for you. Take it with food and water to avoid discomfort and for best absorption.

Serving size: 1 capsule | Zinc dose: 50 mg | Other ingredients: None

Best Copper Containing: Jarrow Formulas Zinc Balance

Jarrow Formulas Zinc Balance

Source: Jarrow

Pros
  • NSF Certified

  • Contains copper to prevent depletion

  • Suitable for vegetarians/vegans

Cons
  • Low dose of zinc

High intakes of zinc can deplete copper and lead to symptoms of anemia as well as permanent neurological symptoms. So, some supplements provided a dose of copper alongside zinc to help prevent this from happening. Jarrow Formulas, a well-respected name in the supplement world, offers zinc L-methionine sulfate—a form of zinc that easily is absorbed in the intestines—plus copper in one convenient pill.

Jarrow’s Zinc Balance is NSF Certified, suitable for vegetarians/vegans, and is free from all major allergens. One thing to consider is that the dose of zinc is only 15 mg, which slightly exceeds the RDA and would still be suitable to be taken daily, but it may not be effective for colds or to rapidly help correct a deficiency.

Serving size: 1 capsule | Zinc dose: 15 mg | Other ingredients: 1 mg copper

Final Verdict

Thorne Research Zinc Picolinate (view on Amazon) is our top pick for zinc. Produced by a high quality manufacturer, this supplement provides a well-absorbed form of zinc at a safe dose. It is free of most major allergens and comes as one convenient capsule that makes the price well worth it.

How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here

We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products. We prioritize products that are third-party tested and certified by one of three independent, third-party certifiers: USP, NSF, or ConsumerLabs.

It's important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.

What to Look for in a Zinc Supplement

Third-Party Testing

Supplements that are third-party tested are sent to a lab where they are tested to ensure they contain what they say they contain and are not contaminated with specific high-risk, common contaminants. However, it’s important to note:

  1. Third-party testing does not test to see if a product is effective or safe for everyone, and it does not ensure the supplement will not interact with other supplements or medications.
  2. Not all third-party testing is created equal. It is not uncommon for supplement companies to pay labs for certificates after conducting minimal to no testing. 
  3. The third-party certifications we can trust are: ConsumerLabs, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations. 
  4. Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive to try to offset the cost they pay for certification.
  5. Just because a supplement is not tested by one of these three companies does not mean it’s a bad product. We recommend doing some research on the reputability of the manufacturer, and calling the manufacturer and its testing lab to determine their protocols and decide if you feel comfortable consuming the supplement.

According to ConsumerLab, of the zinc supplements that they tested, none were found to exceed reasonable contamination limits for heavy metals. This does not account for all of the zinc supplements on the market, however, so exercise caution when choosing a product.

Form

As with most vitamin and mineral supplements, there are many forms of zinc that you may find on the pharmacy shelves.

Zinc gluconate: 

  • One of the forms most commonly used for cold-related products and shown to be effective at reducing symptoms. 
  • Inexpensive

Zinc acetate: The other most commonly used form for cold-related products, also effective at reducing symptoms 

Zinc sulfate: Inexpensive and effective form used in some supplements.. 

Zinc citrate and picolinate are other forms of zinc supplements that are considered to be well absorbed, and the zinc oxide form is likely not absorbed as well.

Zinc most commonly comes in the form of lozenges, pills, capsules, or drops. Zinc nasal sprays and gels may cause loss of smell and so should be avoided.

Ingredients & Potential Interactions

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included, relative to the recommended daily value of that ingredient. Please bring the supplement label to your healthcare provider to review the different ingredients contained in the supplement and any potential interactions between these ingredients and other supplements and medications you are taking.

Added sweeteners: Zinc lozenges are often made with a sweetener, whether that is corn syrup or sucrose, so take that into consideration if you are concerned about your sugar intake. 

Vitamin C: Some zinc supplements may also contain vitamin C, which is thought to add additional immune-boosting qualities. 

Taken in large amounts, zinc may cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and vomiting within 3-10 hours of taking the supplement. 

Zinc Dosage

According to the Institute of Medicine, the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for zinc are as follows:

  • Birth- 6 months: 2 mg
  • 7 months-3 years: 3 mg
  • 4-8 years: 5 mg
  • 9-13 years: 8 mg
  • 14-18 years: 11 mg for men, 9 mg for women
  • 19+ years: 11 mg for men, 8 mg for women
  • Pregnancy
  • 14-18 years: 12 mg
  • 19+ years: 11 mg
  • Lactation
  • 14-18 years: 13 mg
  • 19+ years: 12 mg

For infants up to 6 months there is no RDA established, so this level reflects the Adequate Intake level, which is a level assumed to be adequate to meet nutrient needs.

When shopping for supplements, consider that the percentage of elemental zinc varies by form. The elemental content is what appears on the supplement label, so it’s easy to understand exactly how much you are getting and see that you are taking a safe dose.

How Much Is Too Much?

The Tolerable Upper Intake Level for zinc is:

  • 0-6 months of age: 4 mg
  • 7-12 months of age: 5 mg
  • 1-3 years of age: 7 mg
  • 4-8 years of age: 12 mg
  • 9-13 years of age: 23 mg
  • 14-18 years of age: 34 mg
  • Over 19 years of age: 40 mg

Symptoms of too much zinc may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, headaches, or loss of appetite. Doses of 100-300 mg/day may cause a copper deficiency, with anemia, impaired immune function, and blood lipid imbalances, namely decreased HDL (the “good”) cholesterol.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How should I take zinc supplements?

    If taking zinc lozenges for a cold, you should allow the lozenge to dissolve slowly in your mouth over a few minutes for optimal absorption. For capsule forms, it’s best to separate your zinc from phytate-containing foods like grains, beans, nuts, seeds, or potatoes. You can also increase absorption by taking with a source of animal protein such as beef, chicken, pork, or seafood.

  • What is the best time of day to take zinc supplements?

    Zinc is absorbed well at all times of day, so no need to time your supplement for a specific hour. If you are fighting off a cold, perhaps it’s best to start taking your zinc lozenges early in the day for maximal relief.

  • Can zinc supplements cause itching or nausea?

    Taking very high doses of zinc may cause an upset stomach and nausea, so it’s recommended to not overdose nor take your supplement on an empty stomach. When it comes to itching, zinc may actually help provide relief for itching related to varicose veins and for patients on hemodialysis (shown with a very high dose of zinc, or 440 milligrams per day).

  • How long do zinc supplements take to work?

    Zinc supplements likely start to work within 12-24 hours and cold symptoms can start to decrease within days after taking a supplement.

  • Should I take a zinc supplement every day?

    The length of time to take a zinc supplement is going to vary from person to person according to their needs. It is likely safe to take zinc daily if the supplement does not exceed the tolerable upper intake level. Always check with a healthcare provider when it comes to how much and how often you should be taking any supplements.

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