Copper Rich Foods: A Practical Guide

Your body requires copper for healthy bone formation, energy production, hair and skin colour as well as taste sensitivity.  Copper is involved in healing, aids in iron transport and helps you metabolise fat.

However, copper is often not a nutrient that we need to actively chase because it is plentiful in drinking water from copper pipes.  Due to its impact on zinc absorption, it is also possible to get too much copper in your diet (e.g. from excess liver consumption).

Deficiency conditions caused by inadequate copper

Approximately 25% of the population is thought to be copper deficient.  

Copper deficiency symptoms include:

Factors increasing demand for copper in your diet

You may need more copper in your diet if you:

Synergistic nutrients

Copper works synergistically with vitamins B2, B6, B12, calcium, folate, iron, manganese, selenium, zinc and the amino acids.  

Copper absorption 

Consuming adequate calcium and potassium improves copper absorption and retention in your body.  

Satiety response to dietary copper 

Our satiety analysis shows a moderate satiety response when people consume food that contains more copper.  

Balancing your copper intake with zinc and iron

Zinc supplements can decrease the absorption of copper.  

High levels of copper from leaching from copper pipes in some areas as well as high intakes of high copper foods such as liver can impact the absorption of zinc and iron.

The optimal dietary zinc:copper ratio is said to be between 8:1 and 12:1.  It is also ideal to maintain your iron:copper intake ratio between 10:1 and 15:1.  

Nutrient Optimiser ensures that either copper or zinc is not emphasised to worsen these nutrient ratios further if they are already outside the optimal range. 

Copper toxicity 

Copper toxicity is rare as excess copper is excreted in bile and feces.  The Upper Limit of copper from supplements is 10 mg/day.  This is well above the amount achievable from food).  

It seems that excess copper isn’t a problem in itself.  However, due to the fact that excess copper can affect zinc absorption, you need to watch out for too much copper (e.g. from lots of liver), especially if you are not getting a lot of zinc.

Optimal copper targets 

The average intake of Optimisers is 1.6 mg/day, which is similar to the ‘Adequate Intake’ of 1.7 mg/day.  

However, if you’re aiming for optimal, you may benefit from aiming for 2.5 mg/day for women and 3.1 mg/day for men.  This limit is governed by the potential for excess copper to interfere with zinc absorption. So you shouldn’t target higher copper levels unless you are first getting plenty of zinc.

nutrient averageAI ULstretch (men)stretch (women)
copper (mg)1.81.210,0003.02.4

Change in copper availability

Copper in food varies with the soil that it is grown in.  Copper availability has generally trended down over the past half-century (data from the USDA Economic Research Service).  

The typical amount of copper available in the food supply (i.e. around 1.0 mg/2000 calories) is less than the adequate intake levels and far below the optimal levels.  Hence, you should make an effort to consume foods that contain copper.  


The composition of your diet (i.e. fats, carbs, protein, fibre) seems to have little effect on copper bioavailability.  However, women with higher levels of estrogen (e.g. if taking birth control or during pregnancy) will absorb more copper from their diet.

Copper rich foods 

Foods that contain more copper include: 

  • liver
  • kale  
  • asparagus  
  • sauerkraut
  • turmeric 
  • parsley
  • cashews
  • green peppers
  • zucchini
  • cucumber
  • Brazil nuts
  • walnuts

Nutrient profile 

The nutrient fingerprint below shows the availability of nutrients in the foods that contain more copper.  Copper is easy to obtain in adequate amounts from nutrient-dense foods with a higher energy density.   

Nutritious foods to boost your copper naturally

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of low copper or are concerned that your current copper intake is low, then you may be interested in our lists of copper-rich foods and meals. 

What you will get:

  • Our Nutritional Optimisation Kickstart Guide.
  • A list of the most popular 50 foods that contain more copper.
  • A list of 100 popular foods that contain copper, and 
  • An even longer list of 150 common foods that contain more copper to allow you to expand your nutrient-dense repertoire further.

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