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Ranking the best zinc supplements of 2021

Written by John Davis

Last updated: December 9, 2020

Zinc is an important mineral nutrient that is connected with a well-functioning immune system and higher levels of testosterone and other muscle-building hormones.

Depending on your diet, you may not be getting enough zinc naturally. Zinc supplements are a great way to ensure you have recommended levels of zinc in your body for stronger immune systems and improved muscle building. They’re particularly useful for older adults (especially older men), who are more likely to have zinc deficiency.

Our research team has conducted a thorough investigation into the best zinc supplements on the market. We’ve also come up with in-depth insights into how zinc actually works to improve your health.

Rankings

1.  Thorne Research Zinc Picolinate

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Thorne Research specializes in offering supplements prepared with a little more care than your standard shelf-stocker at a pharmacy.

In the case of its zinc supplement, the company chose to supply the mineral in a chelated form.  Chelation is an alternative to supplying a mineral salt which dissolves either in water or in your stomach acid.

A chelated form of a mineral is already surrounded by amino acids, making it easier for your body to absorb.

This means that the actual amount of zinc you get per serving is higher, even for equivalent amounts of the mineral in the chemical constituents of the tablet.

The zinc supplement from Thorne Research supplies 15 milligrams of zinc, which is 100% of your recommended daily intake.

This is a boon for people looking for more realistic zinc dosages; other competitors sometimes offer frustratingly high doses of zinc.

To top it off, Thorne Research contains within four percent of its label-claimed amount, according to independent analytical testing.

Though it’s in the wrong direction (less zinc than advertised), the amount lacking is so small that it’s trivial.

These factors combined make Thorne Research Zinc Picolinate a top choice if you are looking for quality.

2.  Nature’s Way Zinc Lozenges

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While non-tablet or non-capsule forms of a standard vitamin or mineral are usually formulated for people who dislike swallowing pills, zinc lozenges have a specific application in mind.

Some scientific research suggests that taking a zinc lozenge during the early stages of an upper respiratory infection (i.e. a cold) can limit the duration of symptoms, albeit mildly (1).

It’s thought that part of how this works is direct delivery of dissolved zinc to your mouth and throat.

Though Nature’s Way also makes a standard zinc supplement in tablet form, the lozenge form is quite good.

It delivers a label-claimed 23 mg of zinc and lab testing determines that it comes within two percent of this value.

The formulation also includes vitamin C and Echinacea, a vitamin and an herbal supplement (respectively) that are thought to help prevent and speed recovery from upper respiratory infections, underscoring the utility of this supplement for dealing with the common cold.

One drawback to any lozenge is that you have to mask the astringent, bitter taste of zinc somehow.  Nature’s Way does this with sorbitol and mannitol, two non-caloric sugar alcohols, along with fructose.

Purists might want to avoid it for this reason, though the other options for zinc lozenges have similar drawbacks.

3.  Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Zinc

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Garden of Life makes their name by offering vitamin and mineral supplements that derive their ingredients from real food sources.

Their Vitamin Code Raw Zinc supplement is no different: it delivers 15 mg of zinc and 30 mg of vitamin C per tablet (100% and 50% of your recommended daily intake, respectively), but alongside, it includes a raw blend of organic fruits and vegetables.

This raw blend is mostly recognizable plants: beets, apples, broccoli, Brussels sprout, and so on.

Thought this certainly raises the cost of the supplement, it means that you are deriving your zinc from totally natural sources.

Additionally, you are likely to get some additional benefit based on the phytonutrients, antioxidants, and other useful and nutritious extracts in the fruit and vegetable concentrates included in Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Zinc.

It also includes a blend of probiotics and a mineral blend from spirulina, ancient peat, and cracked-wall chlorella, though the exact benefits of each of these is not particularly clear.

Amazingly, even though the zinc is derived from plant extracts instead of a lab-measured pure zinc salt, Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Zinc fares very well on purity tests.

Each tablet contains only a few percentage points more zinc than the label states, which indicates that this product is very well-made with careful quality control.

4.  Metagenics Zinlori 75

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Metagenics is a company that, until recently, made supplements that were very hard to buy unless you were referred directly by a medical professional.

Now, though, it’s possible to buy their products over the counter no matter who you are.  They do still carry an air of professionalism, communicated by their sleek and simplistic labeling.

The metagenics zinc formulation is an unusual chelated form known as zinc carnosine.  Chelated forms of metallic minerals are usually easier to digest, but there’s no specific independent research supporting this form of chelated zinc over any others.

Still, if other zinc supplements cause you stomach troubles, a chelated form like that offered in Metagenics Zinlori 75 is a good idea.

Each tablet contains 17 mg of zinc (107% of your recommended daily intake) and lab testing confirms this: each tablet actually contains, on average 17.6 mg of zinc, so well within an acceptable purity standard.

As we should expect from a more professionally designed supplement, there is little in the way of extra ingredients.

Aside from the zinc carnosine, the only other ingredients are cellulose, stearic acid, and silica.

5.  Best Naturals Zinc Citrate

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Best Naturals Zinc Citrate is simple and easy. Just 30 mg of an easy-to-absorb form of zinc make this a great pick if you don’t need anything fancy.

Often, less scrupulous supplement companies will use a cheaper formulation like zinc oxide, which can upset the stomach’s acidity balance and is not as easily absorbed, but zinc citrate doesn’t have these disadvantages.

6.  HYPR Liquid Zinc Drops

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The zinc supplement offered by HYPR, takes a different tack when it comes to this product: it’s offered in a liquid form, as the name suggests.

The amber glass bottle comes with an eyedropper cap, which serves as the measuring device. Each serving provides 15 mg of zinc, which is 100% of your recommended daily intake.

This is probably your best option if you don’t like taking pills, or if you want to mix your zinc supplement in with a protein shake or smoothie.

7.  Bulk Supplements Zinc Gluconate

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Bulk Supplements has a tried and true philosophy:  supply highly pure supplements at a low cost in a loose powder form, delegating measuring duties to the customer.

This results in an incredible value per dollar: for pennies a day, you can hit whatever zinc amount you need.

The major drawback for a supplement like zinc, whose recommended intake is so small (15 mg), is that you absolutely, positively, 100% must use a calibrated, high-quality micro scale to measure out your dosage.

8.  Solgar Chelated Zinc

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Solgar Chelated Zinc is supplied in a more bioavailable form than other brands, which might make it a good pick if other zinc supplements have been hard on your stomach. Chelation aside, it’s a pretty standard zinc supplement, delivering 22 mg per serving.

9.  Good State Ionic Zinc

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Good state ionic zinc takes an interesting approach to their supplement.  It’s supplied in liquid form, meaning that it’s easier for you to mix it in with a protein shake or a smoothie.

It’s not flavored with anything either, so you can expect a mildly astringent or acidic taste if you drink it straight-up.

Each serving provides 18 mg in the form of “ionic zinc,” which is really just a fancy term for zinc lacto-gluconate dissolved in highly pure water. It’s an okay choice if you definitely want a liquid zinc supplement, but otherwise, stick to tablets or capsules.

10.  Pure Encapsulations Zinc

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If you are looking for an inexpensive, fairly pure zinc supplement in an easily digested salt form, look no further than Pure Encapsulations. Each plant cellulose tablet contains 30 mg of zinc in the form of zinc gluconate.

It may not be the flashiest on the market but it’s a reliable pick. Though chelated forms are likely more bioavailable (i.e. easy for your body to absorb), the gluconate form does just fine.

Category winners

Best zinc overall: Thorne Research Zinc Picolinate

Thorne Research takes great care to provide an appropriate dosage of zinc, in a highly bioavailable format. For all-purpose use, it’s easily the top zinc supplement on the market. 

Best zinc for colds: Nature’s Way Organic Zinc Lozenges

Most of the research on using zinc to treat or prevent colds uses lozenges, because they deliver zinc to your bloodstream faster and more efficiently than taking a capsule. Among the lozenges on the market, Nature’s Way makes the best for ridding yourself of a cold, thanks to including antioxidants like vitamin C alongside zinc. 

Best zinc for men: Metagenics Zinlori 75

Metagenics provides zinc in a pre-chelated format, meaning it’s easy to absorb. Given that low levels of zinc have been linked to low testosterone, and given that men need more zinc than women, the high dosage of Metagenics Zinlori 75 makes it a good pick for men. 

Best zinc for adults over 50: Thorne Research Zinc Picolinate

With a reasonable dosage and a super clean and simple supplement design, Thorne Research is an excellent pick for older adults, providing the right amount of zinc with no unnecessary ingredients. 

Best zinc for boosting immunity: Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Zinc

Garden of Life delivers zinc alongside many of the phytonutrients you’d get from natural sources of zinc. The antioxidant properties of these phytonutrients provide a nice compliment to the immunity-boosting effects of zinc. 

Best zinc for sexual health: Metagenics Zinlori 75

If low testosterone or other effects of zinc deficiency are limiting your sexual performance, a higher dose of zinc in a bioavailable form might be in order. Since that’s exactly what Metagenics delivers, it’s our top pick for sexual health.

Who should buy zinc?

Zinc is a great supplement for men looking to increase their testosterone, particularly if they are older. Zinc can also help lessen the severity of a cold, as long as you take it soon enough after starting to develop symptoms.

Zinc plays a key role in the function of many essential enzymes in your body, and some of these are linked to maintaining high levels of testosterone in men.

Further, men who are deficient in zinc tend to have lower levels of testosterone, and supplemental zinc may help reverse this problem.

What’s not entirely clear is how this zinc deficiency comes about—as men get older, they also have a tendency to develop deficiencies in other trace minerals, such as magnesium. Incidentally, this is also associated with a decrease in testosterone, but some men have low testosterone and are not deficient in trace minerals. In any case, zinc is still worth a try given how easy it is to supplement zinc.

The connection between zinc and illness is less consistent, but what is fairly consistent is the connection between taking supplemental zinc (sometimes in the form of a cough drop, so the zinc can be absorbed directly underneath your tongue) and a reduction in the symptoms and severity of the infection.

Zinc is less effective at preventing the onset of a cold or another upper respiratory infection, but it does seem to shorten the duration of an illness once you’ve already gotten sick.

How we ranked

We had several criteria for a supplement to even be considered for our rankings. First, it had to provide zinc in a bioavailable format.

We wanted forms of zinc that were highly soluble in water, not types that required your stomach acid to dissolve the zinc and make it accessible to your body.

This meant that EZ Melts Zinc was out, despite its popularity—its zinc oxide has the tendency to dilute the acidity of your stomach, and isn’t as easily absorbed as other supplements that use zinc gluconate or picolinate.

Second, we were focused on getting an appropriate dosage level. Like other trace minerals, getting too much zinc can be toxic.

Zinc competes with copper for absorption in your intestines, so if you overload your body with too much zinc on a regular basis, you can develop a copper deficiency.

Moderately high doses of supplemental zinc can also cause disruptions in your body’s ability to manage your HDL and LDL cholesterol, so we made sure to exclude anything with a dosage higher than 50 mg straight away. From here, we gave preference to low to moderate doses of zinc, because it often does not take much to fix a deficiency.

In addition to the claimed dosage of zinc on the label, we also referred to independent third-party testing of the actual dosage delivered. We cut supplements that had grossly inaccurate claims of their dosage on the label.

We also made sure to include a variety of delivery options. While capsules are by far the most common and most convenient way to take a zinc supplement, some people want to reduce the number of pills they take per day, or want to incorporate zinc into a smoothie or shake.

To this end, we picked a few of the best powder-based and liquid zinc solutions, as long as they passed all of our other requirements.

Finally, we looked for features that made a particular zinc supplement more effective than others with a similar dosage.

For example, the unique zinc picolinate form of Thorne Research’s zinc supplement may be more efficacious than the cheaper and more popular zinc gluconate used in other products on the market. The same is true for the amino acid chelate form of zinc used by Nature’s Way.

Benefits

Zinc is a critical trace mineral. It is a vital mineral that your body uses for everything from boosting its immune system to producing hormones. Its two main uses as a supplement are attacking infections, like the common cold, and keeping your testosterone at a healthy level.

Zinc may help you recover quicker from the cold. On the illness front, zinc is a popular way to boost your immunity against getting sick, and a way to decrease your recovery time if you do come down with a mild illness.

Scientific research has found that zinc may effectuate some illness-preventing and immune-boosting functions.

One study among infant and preschool children (who, as any parent knows, get sick all the time) found that supplementing a child’s diet with 10 mg of zinc could decrease the incidence of getting sick, albeit by a moderate amount (2).

The study followed over six hundred children for six months, with half the children receiving a 10 mg daily zinc supplement and the other half receiving a placebo pill.

Halfway into the study, the researchers checked the children’s blood levels to make sure the zinc tablets were working.

Indeed, the proportion of children who had low blood levels of zinc dropped markedly—from 36% at the study’s outset to under 12% halfway through the study.

After the results were tabulated, the researchers calculated that the zinc supplementation did have a measurable impact on illness rates.  After controlling for other variables, the estimated reduction in risk of illness was 45%.

That’s a pretty good figure for just taking a supplement every day, but it also underscores that a lot more goes in to determining whether or not you get sick: even if your zinc intake is great, you are still going to get sick sometimes.

Not all the results are as ringing of an endorsement, though.  When it comes to speeding recovery from illness, zinc might have a tiny effect, but it’s not very big.

A 1989 study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine split 174 patients with a diagnosed upper respiratory infection into two groups (2).

The first group received a zinc lozenge that delivered 23 mg of zinc and took it every two hours while awake, and the placebo group did the same thing, except (unknowingly) with a lozenge that did not contain any zinc.

The test subjects were asked to rate their symptoms periodically throughout the study.

The study found that, although there were some small differences over the course of the study (the zinc group felt about 13% better than the control group on day 7 of the infection, for example), these differences were small.

One other area where zinc is useful is in keeping your testosterone levels high.  Having healthy testosterone levels is important for men, who suffer from fatigue, loss of muscle mass, and loss of virility when they have low levels of testosterone in their blood.

This is a natural consequence of aging, and as we’ll soon see, can be counteracted at least partially by taking a zinc supplement.

A 1996 study by researchers at the University of Michigan and Harvard Medical School tracked the relationship between zinc levels in the body and testosterone in a group of 40 men (3).

The researchers measured testosterone levels in the blood and compared them to zinc levels measured inside samples of cells from the men’s bodies.

They found that zinc concentration was positively associated with testosterone levels—meaning the higher the concentration of zinc in your body, the higher your testosterone levels are.

This is great news for any men who want an easy way to boost their muscle mass, feel more energetic, and have greater libido.

Taking this study a step further, the researchers gave a zinc supplement to a group of marginally zinc-deficient elderly men for six months.  The researchers observed a distinct increase in testosterone levels—in fact, they almost doubled!

The team of scientists also tested the converse of this experiment—they fed a group of young men a zinc-restricted diet over the course of 20 weeks, and observed exactly what we’d expect: concentrations of testosterone in the blood plummeted by a factor of four.

What this tells us is that zinc is critical for keeping your testosterone levels high.  Fortunately, taking a zinc supplement is both inexpensive and easy to do.

Side effects

Zinc, as a natural mineral that’s a part of any standard diet, is pretty slim when it comes to short-term side effects.

However, there is some concern that chronic zinc overload can increase your risk for prostate cancer.

According to a scientific brief published in 2003 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, men who took over 100 mg of zinc per day had about twice the normal rate of prostate cancer compared with men who took less than 100 mg per day (4).

An important point is that this is supplemental zinc intake, not total zinc intake.

It would take some very intense zinc supplement dosing to reach 100 mg per day.  Remember, the recommended daily intake is only 15 mg per day, so even several times higher than that should still be safe.

Additional research also suggests that taking too much zinc can interfere with your ability to absorb copper, another essential trace element (5).

Recommended dosage

Happily, there’s no real reason to take ultra-high zinc dosages, because the scientific research shows that much more moderate does are plenty effective.

The research study on elderly men, for example, showed that a dose of only 30 mg of supplemental zinc per day (200% of your recommended daily intake) can double your testosterone levels if you are marginally zinc deficient.

Other research uses similarly small values (5).  Based on this information, a supplemental dose of at least 10 mg but no more than 30 mg per day seems appropriate.

FAQ

Q: How much zinc should you take per day to increase testosterone?

A: Research in older men suggests that a single 30 mg dose of zinc is sufficient to boost testosterone. Pretty easy! If you are younger (say, under 40 years old), zinc intake might not be as much of an issue for you, and so starting with a dose closer to 15 mg might be easier.

Based on the research done so far, and based on what we know about the potential side effects of zinc at higher dosages, there is no reason to take more than 30 mg of supplemental zinc per day.

Check to see if any of your other supplements include zinc—it’s quite common in multivitamins for men, testosterone boosters, and of course, ZMA. If you already get some zinc elsewhere in your supplemental routine, dial back your zinc supplement dosage accordingly.

Q: What are the sexual benefits of zinc?

A: Since zinc is related to testosterone levels, the connection between sexual health and zinc should be pretty clear. Some of the hallmark symptoms of low testosterone in men are a lack of libido (meaning no sexual appetite or desire) and erectile dysfunction.

Interestingly, historical data on nutritional deficiencies show that boys with insufficient zinc intake have delayed sexual maturity, which provides even stronger evidence that zinc is connected to male sexual health.

Notably, low levels of zinc are not the only thing that can cause low testosterone and sexual dysfunction in men, so if a low dosage zinc supplement does not improve your sexual health, you’ll need to look elsewhere for solutions.

Q: Is 50 mg of zinc too much?

A: For most people, the maximum necessary dosage of zinc is 30 mg. Research has found that even among elderly men who are zinc deficient, a dosage of 30 mg is enough to restore androgen function to a satisfactory level in fairly short order.

Studies on using zinc to prevent or speed recovery from upper respiratory infections like the common cold use an even lower dosage, typically no more than 10 mg.

While some supplements offer 50 mg and higher doses, you should not take these unless you’re under a doctor’s orders, since at high doses, zinc can crowd out copper for absorption in your intestines, and increase levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in your blood, while decreasing levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. These effects do not appear at lower dosages.

Q: What’s the right dosage of zinc for children?

A: In research on using zinc to treat the symptoms of the common cold, scientists typically use no more than 10 mg of zinc.

Often, this is delivered using a lozenge or cough drop for maximum efficacy. Since children are smaller, they do not need nearly as high of a dosage as an adult.

Moreover, the dosage that appears necessary to reduce the duration of a cold is not as high as the dosage needed to reverse zinc deficiency in adults.

Q: What’s the best zinc supplement at Walmart?

A: Currently, the top-ranked zinc supplement on our list that you can find at Walmart is Nature Made Zinc, which delivers a 30 mg dosage of zinc gluconate.

It’s a solid pick, but it only ended up at number five in our top ten rankings, so there are definitely better options out there if you are willing to shop somewhere else.

Q: What is zinc?

A: Zinc is an element, and in its natural form, is a pale gray metal. When taken as a supplement, zinc is always in a salt form, when it’s paired with another molecule that facilitates easy absorption by your body.

In our rankings of the top zinc supplements on the market, we only include those that had a water-soluble form of zinc. This makes zinc much more easily absorbed. Inside your body, zinc contributes to a huge number of biochemical reactions.

Its health effects are particularly important for men, who rely on adequate levels of zinc to keep their testosterone levels high.

Q: What is zinc good for?

A: The scientific research has found that zinc is most useful for two distinct conditions. First, a zinc supplement is an effective way to treat low testosterone in older men that is linked to a zinc deficiency.

The exact biochemistry behind why low blood levels of zinc generate lower levels of testosterone is not completely clear, but clinical research supports the use of zinc supplements for boosting testosterone in older men. Zinc also appears to be useful for decreasing the duration of mild illnesses like the common cold.

If you take a zinc supplement, ideally in the form of a lozenge, some evidence suggests that the zinc can prevent reduce the duration of symptoms like muscle aches, a sore throat, and a cough.

Q: What foods have zinc?

A: Foods that are high in zinc include oysters, beef, chicken, pork, lentils, tofu, and hemp seeds. In all cases, these foods are also great sources of protein.

The fact that the most zinc-rich foods are mostly animal products also suggests that vegetarians and vegans may have difficulty getting enough zinc in their diet.

They may be particularly prone to the kind of zinc deficiencies that can be associated with low testosterone.

Q: Can you overdose on zinc?

A: The medical literature has described cases of serious and sometimes fatal zinc overdoses, but these have all happened in the context of intravenous administration of zinc.

One case study reports on an otherwise healthy male who consumed over 500 mg of elemental zinc at once who had severe nausea and vomiting for about half an hour, but who suffered no long-term health effects (7).

While it’s theoretically possible to overdose on zinc, it’s not going to happen accidentally. The more important risks are those of zinc toxicity, which can happen when you take a lot of zinc on a regular basis.

Regular consumption of too much zinc in the form of a zinc supplement can cause a copper deficiency, or alter your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels.

Q: What is the best form of zinc to take as a supplement?

A: The best form of zinc is a salt that is water soluble, such as zinc gluconate. There is also a strong argument to be made for amino acid chelates, like the zinc supplement made by Nature’s Way, but as long as a zinc supplement contains a form of zinc that is easily dissolved in water, it will be readily absorbed by your body.

These soluble forms of zinc are preferable to zinc oxide, a form of zinc that is not soluble in water and thus relies on your stomach acid to dissolve the zinc and make it bioavailable.

Related articles

Recap

Zinc appears to be a modestly effective immune system booster, but where it really shines is helping keep your testosterone levels high.

If you want to help build muscle, have more energy, and increase your libido, taking a zinc supplement might be just what you need.

Older men in particular can benefit from the testosterone-boosting effects of zinc. It’s one of the easiest, and often most effective ways to get a boost in your testosterone levels if a deficiency in this trace mineral is the root cause.

Low to moderate doses of 15 or 20 mg of elemental zinc per day are most effective; some researchers caution that high doses (i.e. those of 100 mg per day or more of elemental zinc) can have negative effects, such as blocking the absorption of copper in your digestive tract, or dysregulating your body’s ability to balance out good and bad cholesterol.

However, at low to moderate doses, zinc can be quite useful for limiting the duration of colds and other upper respiratory infections, and for boosting androgen levels, particularly in older men.

For BodyNutrition‘s #1 zinc recommendation, click here.

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John Davis

John Davis is a Minneapolis-based health and fitness writer with over 7 years of experience researching the science of high performance athletics, long-term health, nutrition, and wellness. As a trained scientist, he digs deep into the medical, nutritional, and epidemiological literature to uncover the keys to healthy living through better nutrition.