The best zinc supplement

Ana Sanchez

The three types of zinc supplements most easily absorbed by the body are zinc picolinate, zinc acetate, and zinc citrate.

When cold and flu season hits, it's wise to have an arsenal of vitamins at hand to fortify your immune system. Zinc is a trace mineral that benefits your immune system and is a natural over-the-counter remedy for the common cold. While most of us get enough zinc in our diets, certain conditions can lead to a zinc deficiency.

If your health practitioner has recommended a zinc supplement, you may be overwhelmed by all the choices on the market. Read this shopping guide for all you need to know about the different forms of zinc available. We've also included our top and trusted recommendations, like this whole foods-based zinc supplement from Garden of Life that will clear up acne and colds alike.

Who should take a zinc supplement?

While it's always best to take a supplement under the guidance of a doctor, here is a list of populations that can benefit from taking zinc:

People with illnesses and conditions like diabetes, chronic gastrointestinal problems, alcoholism, liver disease, and sickle cell anemia may not absorb enough zinc. If you have any of these issues, ask your physician about taking a zinc supplement.
Vegetarians and vegans may not get enough zinc in their diets because meat contains a good amount of bioavailable zinc.
Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers need extra zinc for the development and growth of their baby. Be aware that most prenatal vitamins already contain zinc.
Other benefits of a zinc supplement may include boosted immunity, balanced hormones, improved fertility, treatment of acne, accelerated wound healing, and decreased inflammation.

Considerations when choosing zinc supplements

Types of zinc to consider

There are several different forms of zinc available in supplements:

Zinc acetate is a form most often used to shorten the duration of the common cold, and typically comes in a lozenge. Zinc acetate is also called zinc salt dihydrate or zinc diacetate. Capsule form of zinc acetate is available by prescription only to treat Wilson's disease.  

Zinc sulfate is a water-soluble form, which means it is readily absorbed by the body. However, this isn't the best choice for increasing zinc levels.

Zinc picolinate is the form that the body absorbs the best, which makes this a common choice for treating zinc deficiencies and for pregnant women. This form is "chelated," which means it's attached to picolinic amino acids to help it pass easier into your intestines for absorption.

Zinc monomethionine is attached to the amino acid methionine. This chelated form is often found in OTC lozenges to prevent colds or treat zinc deficiencies.

Zinc gluconate is another form of chelated zinc. It's often found in nasal zinc sprays and is sometimes called Orazinc. This form is also easily absorbed by the body.

Zinc glycinate is a chelated form attached to the amino acid glycine. It's often combined with bioflavonoids (plant compounds) to reduce pain and swelling associated with osteoarthritis, which is usually by prescription only. 

Zinc orotate is chelated with orotic acid to increase its absorption.

Zinc citrate is one of the most easily absorbed forms and is combined with citric acid. It often comes in capsule form. It can leave a metallic taste in the mouth, but this will dissipate after a short period of time.

Zinc supplement prices

Zinc supplements range in price from five to 15 cents a capsule, depending on the brand.


Q. What are some signs of a zinc deficiency?

A. Some common signs include decreased sense of smell and taste, sores that won't heal, unexplained weight and hair loss, chronic diarrhea, and open sores on the skin.

Q. Are there any side effects of taking a zinc supplement?

A. Zinc supplements can cause nausea, especially if not taken with food. Taking too much zinc can interfere with your body's absorption of iron and copper and cause symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headaches, and decreased immune function.

Zinc supplements we recommend

Best of the best: Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Zinc Whole Food Supplement With Vitamin C

Our take: A raw-foods supplement that includes vitamin C for an extra immune boost.

What we like: Zinc is sourced from whole foods, so it can be taken on an empty stomach without upset. Contains 100% RDA of Vitamin C.

What we dislike: Not clear what type of zinc this contains.

Best bang for your buck: Nature Made Zinc Tabs 30 mg

Our take: A bargain two-pack of zinc gluconate.

What we like: A popular supplement to clear up the common cold and adult acne. Gluten-free formula contains no artificial flavors or preservatives. High zinc content.

What we dislike: Can cause nausea if not taken with food.

Choice 3: Pure Encapsulations Zinc 30

Our take: A highly pure and highly absorbable zinc picolinate supplement.

What we like: Brand trusted for integrity and quality. Can improve a whole range of health conditions, including thyroid issues. Very pure formula.

What we dislike: Can cause stomach upset if not taken with food.

Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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