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Which zinc supplements are best for cold and flu season?

Nobody likes getting sick. That's why humans have invented medications and supplements that help reduce symptoms, speed up recovery and reduce the likelihood of getting sick in the first place.

Zinc supplements have been around for a long time and still see a lot of use. If you're trying to figure out which zinc supplements you should buy for cold and flu season, you should consider a few things before making a decision.

In this article: Nature's Bounty ZincThorne Zinc Picolinate and New Age Zinc Gummies.

What is zinc?

According to the Mayo Clinic, zinc is a trace mineral that helps your immune system and metabolism function properly. Your body likely gets enough zinc if you have a healthy diet, but taking it when you have a cold can help you get better faster. 

In most cases, you'll want to begin taking zinc within 24 hours of experiencing symptoms, so it's good to keep some on hand. Additionally, you should avoid intranasal zinc supplements, as they've been linked to a loss of smell.

Zinc supplements can also be suitable for those with zinc deficiencies, diarrhea or skin ulcers. If you take too much zinc, you may end up with a copper deficiency. Ask your doctor whether you should take zinc supplements if you're on antibiotics or take other medications.

How does zinc work?

According to the National Institutes of Health, zinc is involved in cellular metabolism, helping our bodies function and respond to environmental changes.  Zinc is essential for DNA synthesis, wound healing, enhancing immune function and cell division. Additionally, zinc plays a vital role in our sense of taste.

Zinc helps reduce the lengths of colds by inhibiting rhinovirus binding and replication.  Rhinovirus is the virus that causes the common cold. By preventing its replication, zinc makes it easier for your body's natural immune response to handle the cold. Zinc also suppresses inflammation and helps reduce flu symptoms. 

Types of zinc supplements

  • Zinc gluconate: This type of zinc is commonly sold over the counter and can be used to reduce a cold's duration. It's primarily used in nasal zinc sprays.
  • Zinc acetate: This is one of the most common types of zinc used to shorten the common cold. It's usually sold as a lozenge or capsule.
  • Zinc citrate: This type of zinc is made with citric acid and is easily absorbed by the body.
  • Zinc picolinate: This is one of zinc's most easily absorbed forms. It's primarily used to treat zinc deficiencies but also for colds. 
  • Zinc monomethionine: These supplements contain zinc attached to methionine, an amino acid the body easily absorbs. It's primarily sold in lozenge form to treat zinc deficiencies and the common cold.
  • Zinc oxide: This is used topically and is primarily found in sunscreens. Unlike other forms of zinc, zinc oxide isn't used to treat zinc deficiencies or the common cold.

Zinc supplement FAQ

Q. Is it safe to take zinc every day?

A. According to the NIH, zinc can be harmful if you take too much. Taking too much can lead to nausea, dizziness, headaches and vomiting. Additionally, it can harm your immune system, copper levels and good cholesterol. Still, in most cases, adults can safely consume up to 40 milligrams of zinc a day.

Q. Does zinc help you sleep?

A. Zinc is typically used to fight colds, but according to the NIH, it may also play a role in sleep regulation. Still, more evidence is needed to fully understand whether zinc is an ideal solution for those who have trouble sleeping.

Q. Which foods are the best sources of zinc?

A. Oysters contain the highest zinc concentrations at around 28 to 32 milligrams per serving. Beef, blue crab and many breakfast cereals contain 2 to 4 mg per serving. Other dietary zinc sources include pumpkin seeds, pork, turkey breast, cheese, shrimp, lentils and Greek yogurt.

Best zinc supplements for cold and flu season

Nature's Bounty Zinc

This comes with 100 tablets, each containing 50 mg of zinc gluconate. Many reviewers said they were easy to swallow and had a neutral flavor. 

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Nature Made Zinc

This bottle holds 100 tablets, each containing 30 mg of zinc gluconate. It's affordable and easy to swallow.

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Garden of Life Vitamin Raw Vegan Zinc Capsules

This comes with 30 capsules, each containing 30 mg of zinc and 60 mg of vitamin C. This vegan supplement is made with brown rice chelate and various fruits and vegetables. 

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Pure Encapsulations Zinc

This comes with 60 capsules, each containing 30 mg of zinc picolinate. The capsules are small and effective.

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Thorne Zinc Picolinate

This holds 180 capsules, each containing 30 mg of zinc picolinate. Many buyers said they could tell these supplements really work.

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Sports Research Zinc Picolinate with Organic Coconut Oil

This comes with 60 soft-gel capsules, each containing 50 mg of zinc picolinate. This supplement is made with non-GMO ingredients, and the container has an easy-to-use flip-top cap.

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Rainbow Light Immune Support

This holds 90 tablets, each containing 10 mg of zinc citrate and 240 mg of vitamin C. This supplement is vegan-friendly and gluten-free. Most were impressed with how well it seemed to work.

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New Age Zinc Gummies

This offers 120 gummies, each containing 25 mg of zinc citrate. These are great for those who don't like taking pills. Many were impressed with how good they tasted.

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MegaFood Elderberry Immune Support

This comes with 54 gummies, each containing 3 mg of zinc citrate. This supplement is made with organic elderberry, blueberries and ginger root. Many said it was easy to chew and tasted great. 

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Paradise Herbs Zinc Supplements

This has 90 capsules, each containing 30 mg of zinc picolinate. Many said they were a good size and easy to swallow.

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Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.

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