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You Are Probably Using The Wrong Form Of Zinc: This Chelate Complex Is Superior

Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN
Updated on November 24, 2021
Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN
mbg Vice President of Scientific Affairs
By Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN
mbg Vice President of Scientific Affairs
Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN is Vice President of Scientific Affairs at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's degree in Biological Basis of Behavior from the University of Pennsylvania and Ph.D. in Foods and Nutrition from the University of Georgia.
November 24, 2021

When I say "zinc," what comes to mind? An antioxidant mineral you can find in foods and supplements? Its critical role in our immune system? Or maybe the fact that it's a mineral from that periodic table of elements we all learned years ago. These are all true of zinc.

But if I asked you about the best form of zinc to take, you might greet me with a blank stare. That's because, while the science is there, this bit of info hasn't become mainstream just yet. It's time to fill that knowledge gap: Zinc bisglycinate is the best form of supplemental zinc, and I can explain why.

Our body needs zinc every day.

Zinc is a trace mineral and essential micronutrient. When I say "essential," I mean that our bodies cannot synthesize this metal on our own, and we must consume it. Daily

To prevent zinc deficiency1, women need at least 8 milligrams (mg) of zinc daily (that need increases to 11 mg during pregnancy and 12 mg when breastfeeding), while men require at least 11 mg of zinc each day.

That's a minimum requirement. For optimal health and targeted support (think immunity), zinc needs are thought to be even higher2 (15 to 30 mg).* 

How much zinc is actually in my diet?

Zinc consumption is dependent on your personal dietary pattern and can change daily along with your meal variety. The top sources of zinc in the diet are animal-based—namely meats, seafood, and dairy. From the plant world, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, and fortified cereals also contain zinc (albeit a much smaller amount).

Quick guide to guestimate how much zinc (mg) is in your food:

  • 6 oysters: ~ 30 to 50 mg
  • 1 serving of meat (poultry, beef, pork, crab): ~ 3 to 8 mg
  • 6 ounces of yogurt: ~ 1.5 mg
  • 1 serving of nuts, seeds, beans, milk, and cheese: ~ 1 to 2 mg

But it's not simply a numbers game when it comes to animal versus plant sources of zinc. Because of the large quantity of phytates (aka "anti-nutrients") naturally present in the matrix of plant zinc food sources, significantly less zinc is available to our body (i.e., less bioavailability3).

The zinc dietary gap is real.

Because of the lower bioavailability of plant-based zinc food sources, this mineral can be a micronutrient shortfall, particularly for vegetarians and vegans. 

But herbivores aren't the only folks who should be concerned about getting enough zinc. Considering food sources alone, 15% of U.S. adults are not getting enough zinc2. Because this statistic comes from nationally representative data, that means that approximately 50 million Americans have an unaddressed zinc gap. 

Why I take a zinc supplement daily.

Many people, including myself, take a zinc supplement every day. Some people do so to ensure sufficient intake of this essential mineral. For others, it's to deliver daily support to their immune system.* I supplement with zinc daily for both of those reasons. 

Dietary supplement options for zinc include individual (i.e., just zinc), multi-nutrient (multiple vitamins and minerals, like a multivitamin), and targeted combination products. I take 15 mg of zinc bisglycinate daily provided via mindbodygreen's immune support+ because it's a high-quality nutritional supplement I personally know and trust.

mbg's immune support+ is a targeted combination of five ingredients: three immune-essential nutrients (zinc bisglycinate, vitamin C, and vitamin D3) and two plant bioactives (quercetin phytosome and Wellmune® beta-glucan) to bolster your natural defenses on the daily.*

Zinc bisglycinate is the best form of supplemental zinc. Here's why.

The supplement aisle, whether in person or online, can feel like a labyrinth—and the myriad zinc options are no exception. You can find zinc supplements in diverse complexes, mostly as salts or, less frequently, as amino acid chelates. 

It's important to inspect your supplement and ask, what is zinc's "partner" or "other half"? For example, your zinc supplement may contain zinc bisglycinate (sometimes referred to as zinc glycinate), zinc sulfate, zinc oxide, zinc gluconate, zinc acetate, zinc picolinate, zinc citrate, zinc monomethionine, etc.

While zinc supplements may be widely available, they can't all be winners. Some are simply better, and their superiority is rooted in research. Amino acid mineral chelates are that unique and premium form.

A chelate is a balanced compound or complex that contains an organic ligand (e.g., the amino acid glycine) bonded to a central metal atom (zinc!). So for zinc bisglycinate, it's one zinc atom covalently bonded to (or flanked by) two glycine amino acids.

Here are four reasons zinc bisglycinate is my top choice for zinc supplements:


Zinc bisglycinate is gentle on the stomach.

Because the GI tract views the zinc bisglycinate chelate as an organic and predigested compound, it's more gentle on the stomach and primed for absorption in the gut. 

Some people experience gastric discomfort or nausea when consuming minerals in supplement form, particularly on an empty stomach. Chelated minerals are expertly designed to be soluble and stable in the acidic pH of the stomach, circumventing these unpleasant side effects.


Zinc bisglycinate has proven superior bioavailability.

The other beauty of this chelate is that it crosses the gut wall intact. This means it's significantly more streamlined (i.e., less ATP energy required) in terms of steps required for digestion and absorption. Zinc is also buffered from interference from other nutrients, netting fewer losses of this essential mineral. 

In that way, amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are the perfect partner to deliver key minerals like zinc efficiently through the GI tract, across the intestinal wall, and into the bloodstream for its delivery to cells throughout the body.

And this benefit isn't theoretical. There are clinical trials cementing the superiority of zinc bisglycinate over other types of zinc complexes.

For example, absorption is significantly less for zinc oxide4 than other varieties like zinc citrate and zinc gluconate. We also know that the zinc bisglycinate chelate form is superior in absorption5 (by a lot: 43% higher absorption) than zinc gluconate.

This superior bioavailability of zinc bisglycinate vs. other mineral complexes (zinc gluconate, picolinate, and oxide) also translates into higher plasma levels of zinc (i.e., more zinc is absorbed and makes its way to your bloodstream). In other words, zinc bisglycinate improves your overall zinc status better than other zinc supplements. 

If you were keeping track, that puts zinc bisglycinate on top (and zinc oxide on the bottom) when it comes to bioavailability.


mbg's zinc bisglycinate is a premium chelated mineral.

In the world of human nutrition ingredients, zinc bisglycinate chelate manufactured by Albion Laboratories Inc. is considered the cream of the zinc "crop," not just in the U.S. but globally. This is the high-quality zinc in mindbodygreen's immune support+ supplement.

As the pioneers in mineral technology, Albion leverages proprietary and patented technologies (at least 150 patents) to create genuine mineral amino acid chelates that are stable and nutritionally functional in the body. 

While zinc is the focus of this article, it's important to point out that the zinc and the glycine amino acids from zinc bisglycinate chelates are both 100% nutritionally useful to the body. Win-win.


mbg's zinc bisglycinate is a clean ingredient.

The zinc bisglycinate in mbg's immune support+ is missing a bunch of stuff you don't want. This chelated mineral from Albion is GMO-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, lactose-free, soy-free, and free of major food allergens. 

This zinc does not contain animal products or byproducts and has been tested for precision, purity, and potency. It's free of pesticides and is not manufactured with solvents. Plus, advanced metal detection procedures are utilized for each batch, to ensure the integrity of the mineral.

Bottom line.

We have daily zinc needs, yet this essential trace mineral remains an underconsumed nutrient for many people. Incorporating a high-quality supplement with zinc can be a prudent strategy to achieve this nutritional requirement and support immune health.* 

I strongly recommend you flip over your product and read the Supplement Facts panel to see what kind of zinc you're taking. Science points to the superior choice, and it's the chelated form: zinc bisglycinate. 

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Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN author page.
Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN
mbg Vice President of Scientific Affairs

Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN is Vice President of Scientific Affairs at mindbodygreen. Ashley received her B.A. in Biological Basis of Behavior from the University of Pennsylvania (along with a double minor in Nutrition and Music) and Ph.D. in Foods and Nutrition from the University of Georgia. Her research contributions span vitamin D, cardiometabolic health, bone density, and weight management. Ferira is a nutrition scientist and dietitian with experience in nutrition product innovation and development, scientific affairs, education, communications, and SEO writing for global firms, including Nature Made, Metagenics, Three Ships, and mindbodygreen.

In addition to her mindbodygreen contributions, Ferira is published in Health, Metagenics Institute, American Family Physician, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, and Osteoporosis International. She has a passion for the translation of evidence-based science into innovative and high-quality products and information that help people lead healthier lives. She is a believer in compassionate, informed, and personalized approaches to nutrition, health care, and wellness. Ashley lives in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina, where she was born and raised. Whether savoring an orchestral performance or delectable meal at a local restaurant, you will find her enjoying Charleston’s cultural and culinary arts with family and friends.