Zinc is an antioxidant that may help lower your risk of cancer, age-related macular degeneration and neurological conditions. Also an antioxidant, copper is required for the synthesis of red blood cells and may aid in preventing osteoporosis. Healthy men need 11 milligrams of zinc each day, while women should have 8 milligrams daily. Adults require 900 micrograms of copper per day. Talk to your doctor if you're concerned that you may not be getting enough of either mineral.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, the food with the highest natural concentration of both zinc and copper is the Eastern oyster. A 3-ounce serving of Eastern oysters cooked with moist heat contains nearly 67 milligrams of zinc, over 100 percent of the recommended daily zinc requirement for adults. Eastern oysters also provide more than 100 percent of an adult's recommended daily allowance of copper with 4,851 micrograms in every 3 cooked ounces. Pacific oysters contain a smaller amount of zinc and copper. Avoid oysters that have been breaded and fried to keep your fat intake low. If you're pregnant, only consume oysters that have been thoroughly cooked, advises the American Pregnancy Association.
A 3-ounce serving of braised beef short ribs contains 10 milligrams of zinc, or 90 percent of a man's RDA and over 100 percent of a woman's. The ribs have far less copper than oysters -- 96 micrograms per serving -- but still provide 10 percent of an adult's requirement. Short ribs are high in fat and saturated fat. For a leaner alternative that is still rich in zinc and copper, choose beef shank cross cuts, top sirloin roast or steak or the flat half of brisket. Each of these cuts have less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and under 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3-ounce serving.
All beans and legumes are sources of zinc and copper, but the beans with the highest concentrations of both are adzuki and black beans. Adzuki beans, small red-brown beans often used in Asian main dishes and desserts, provide 9.9 milligrams of zinc and over 2,000 micrograms of copper per cup. Each cup of black beans contains 7 milligrams of zinc and more than 1,600 micrograms of copper. According to Vegetarian Nutrition, a dietetic practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the zinc in beans is not as easily digested as the zinc in animal products. To increase the amount you absorb, soak dried beans and replace the soaking water with fresh water before cooking.
Pumpkin, squash and sunflower seed kernels are all rich in both zinc and copper. Roasted pumpkin and squash seeds contain 9 milligrams of zinc per cup, while toasted sunflower seeds contain 7 milligrams in every cup. Sunflower seeds are the best source of copper compared to any other seed, with 1 cup supplying 2,435 micrograms of the mineral, though squash and pumpkin seeds, with 1,504 micrograms in a 1-cup serving, are also an excellent way to fulfill your requirement. Choose unsalted, dry-roasted seeds over salted, oil-roasted seeds for the least amount of saturated fat and sodium. Instead, try tossing seeds with a small amount of olive oil and seasoning them with low-sodium spices and herbs such as curry or cayenne pepper.
- American Pregnancy Association: Food to Avoid During Pregnancy
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Zinc
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Copper
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Nutrient Lists - Nutrients: Zinc, Zn (mg); Copper, Cu (mg)
- Beef.org: New USDA Data Show 29 Beef Cuts Now Meet Government Guidelines for Lean
- Vegetarian Nutrition: Zinc in Vegetarian Diets
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Seeds, Sunflower Seed Kernels, Oil Roasted, With Salt Added
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Seeds, Sunflower Seed Kernels, Dry Roasted, Without Salt