As important as zinc levels are to a woman’s fertility, it may even more vital to a man’s ability to get his partner pregnant. Considered one of the most important trace minerals to date for male fertility, increasing zinc levels in infertile men has been shown to boost sperm levels; improve the form, function and quality of male sperm and decrease male infertility.

When low levels of zinc are found in the male reproductive tract, a variety of disorders may present themselves.

  • Immature sperm: zinc is necessary in the creation of the outer membrane and tail of a sperm. Without it, the sperm can not mature to a stage that gives them the mobility and strength to make the long journey through the vagina, cervix and into the uterus for fertilization to take place.
  • Chromosomal changes: low levels of zinc may also be the reason chromosomal defects in the sperm which could cause a miscarriage even if fertilization and implantation do take place.

Zinc Missing from Today’s Diet Zinc is one of those minerals that are absolutely essential to fertility in both men and women; yet research shows that few people these days get the right amount. One of the reasons why zinc is in such short supply these days is the average diet due to poor soil health, which fails to provide this important mineral. Heating and cooking can also reduce the zinc in foods by 50%. So it is important to eat foods high in zinc in their raw form. The richest source of Zinc is Oysters, but some easy to find and eat sources are raw pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds (look for tahini -sesame seed butter, as well).

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Zinc Depletion Linked to Modern Lifestyle

It isn’t just a lack of zinc-filled foods that is sapping our bodies of this all-important mineral. Our modern lifestyle is too. Exposure to stress, pollution, alcohol and even cigarette smoke can also deplete our bodies of important zinc supplies.

Food Sources of Zinc

Making sure to eat enough foods high in zinc on a weekly basis is important. Make sure to try to eat as many zinc sources as you can raw since cooking has been shown to reduce zinc content by at least 50%. Here are the foods highest in zinc, listed in order of concentration:

  • Calf liver

  • Oysters

  • Beef

  • Lamb

  • Venison

  • Sesame seeds

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Yogurt

  • Turkey

  • Green peas

  • Shrimp

Supplementation to the Rescue If you have tried to eat enough foods high in zinc, but still aren’t sure that you are getting enough, try taking a zinc supplement (our whole food prenatal multi-vitamin has the perfect amount of zinc in it). Take about 15 mg per day under normal circumstances. If your doctor suspects a serious zinc depletion or your also suffer with fibroids, you may need to take as much as 30 mg. to provide your body with the amount it needs. Just be sure to also take a multi-vitamin containing copper (especially if using a higher zinc dosage), since zinc can cause a copper deficiency in some people.

Adding more zinc to your system may not guarantee a pregnancy, but it sure can help to ensure that you have all of the minerals your body needs to produce strong eggs and sperm and is prepared as best as it can be for the job of building a baby ahead.

Iron and zinc interactions in humans

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration, Washington, DC 20204, USA.


Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world.  Zinc deficiency is associated with poor growth and development and impaired immune response. Several Third World countries are taking measures to increase the dietary intake of iron and zinc with fortification of foods or dietary supplements. Several studies showed that high iron concentrations can negatively affect zinc absorption in adults when these trace minerals are given in solution. However, when iron and zinc are given in a meal, this effect is not observed.

Solomons postulated that the total amount of ionic species affects the absorption of zinc and that a total dose of >25 mg Fe (iron) may produce a measurable effect on zinc absorption.

This could occur if iron supplements are taken with a meal, and iron experts recommend that iron supplements be taken between meals. Recent studies using stable isotopes showed that fortifying foods with iron at current fortification amounts has no adverse effect on zinc absorption. There are 5 zinc salts listed as generally recommended as safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration for food fortification. From 1970 to 1987, the total amount of zinc salts used in food continually increased, with zinc oxide and zinc sulfate showing the largest increases. Twelve iron sources are listed as GRAS; elemental iron has become the source of choice because it is less expensive to produce and has fewer organoleptic problems. Use of ferrous fumarate is also increasing.

(J Nutr 1986;116:927-35)