Food Sources High In Copper

  • Suad Mussa BSc, Biology. Queen Mary University of London
  • Maha Ahmed MBBS, Intarnal Medicine and General Surgery, Cairo University, Egypt
  • Humna Maryam Ikram BS, Pharmacology, University of Dundee, Scotland, UK


Copper is an essential mineral that is naturally found in some foods as well as in dietary supplements. It is absorbed in the small intestine and found in bones and muscle tissue.

Copper plays a role in many important functions in our body, such as the production of energy, red and white blood cells and connective tissue. In addition, copper also plays a role in infant growth, brain development, and the immune system. As the body does not produce copper on its own, it must be obtained through your diet.1

This article will tell you everything you need to know about copper, including the recommended daily intake, the highest food sources for copper, and the consequences of copper deficiency and toxicity. 

Copper recommended daily intake

The recommended daily intake of copper for adults aged 19-64 is 1.2mg

You should be able to get all the copper you need from eating a healthy, balanced diet. The maximum daily intake that is unlikely to cause harm is 10mg. However, you should avoid taking too many copper supplements as copper toxicity can be harmful to your health.

Consequences of copper deficiency and excess

Copper plays a critical role in many metabolic processes in our body and therefore both a deficiency and excess of copper can disrupt these normal processes and have a negative effect on health. However, the body is usually efficient at stabilising copper levels and abnormal copper levels are usually a result of genetic mutations, ageing, or environmental factors.

Copper deficiency

A deficiency in copper can have negative effects on health as it affects a range of processes in our body, such as blood pressure control and heart function, cholesterol and glucose metabolism, and immunity. Also, children who have copper deficiency are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, as copper plays a critical role in bone development mineralisation.1

Copper deficiency plays a role in cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Copper deficiency can lead to changes in blood lipid levels, which is a risk factor for atherosclerotic CVD. The heart muscles contain high levels of copper, and therefore, both a deficiency and toxicity of copper can have negative effects.

Research also shows that a deficiency in dietary copper plays a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Multiple studies show that people with high levels of copper have a lower risk for the disease.

Common symptoms of copper deficiency include:

  • High cholesterol
  • Anaemia
  • Increased infections
  • Osteoporosis
  • Loss of skin pigment

Copper toxicosis

Our body requires only a small amount of copper, and therefore, too much copper can be toxic. Copper toxicosis is rare in humans as the body is efficient at removing excess copper. It is more commonly found in people with Wilson’s disease, which is a rare genetic condition that prevents copper from being excreted out of the body and, therefore, leads to high blood levels.1

Common symptoms of excess copper include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Damage to the liver and kidneys

Top food sources high in copper

The richest dietary sources of copper include organ meats, nuts, seeds, shellfish, fish, whole grains and chocolate. Tap water can also be a source of copper, but the amount of copper varies. The body's absorption of copper is dependent on the amount of copper in the diet. This means that the absorption of copper will increase if the diet contains less copper and decrease if the body has enough copper.1

Shellfish and seafood

Shellfish such as oysters are a good source of copper as well as other nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin b12, and zinc. 85mg of cooked oysters provides 539% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults. However, the high zinc content in oysters can interfere with the amount of copper absorbed by the body.

Lobster, crab, and mussels are also good sources of copper.

Organ meats

Organ meats such as beef liver are an excellent source of many nutrients such as iron, vitamin b12, vitamin A, and choline. Beef liver is also a good source of copper. 113 g of raw beef liver provides 9.8mg of copper, which is 488% of your recommended intake.

Dark leafy greens

Spinach is a rich source of copper as well as vitamin C, vitamin K, and iron. One cup of spinach provides 34% of your RDA for copper. 

As spinach does not have much of a taste, it can easily be added to your meals, smoothies, and sandwiches. 

Cocoa and dark chocolate

Cocoa, dark chocolate, and baking chocolate are all excellent sources of copper. Around 28 g of dark chocolate provides 56% of your RDA for copper. Even more impressive, 28g of unsweetened baking chocolate provides 104% of your RDA for copper.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds such as cashews, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds are a great source of copper. In fact, a ¼ cup of sunflower seeds provides 68% of your RDA for copper. 

Eating just a small serving of nuts and seeds can be very beneficial for your overall health. They can be enjoyed as a snack or even added to salads or baked into a loaf of bread.

Copper supplementation

Copper is available in the form of dietary supplements containing only copper, combined with other ingredients, and in many multivitamin products. These supplements usually contain different forms of copper, such as copper gluconate, cupric sulphate, cupric oxide, or copper amino acid chelates. The amount of copper in supplements ranges from a few micrograms of copper up to 15 mg.1

You will likely only need copper supplements if you have a copper deficiency. Certain people are more likely to have a copper deficiency than others, such as:

Copper supplements should be avoided by people with conditions that increase the risk for copper toxicosis, such as Wilson disease (WD), biliary cirrhosis, and atresia.1


In summary, copper is an essential mineral that plays a role in many important processes in our body, such as the production of red and white blood cells, bone, connective tissues, and blood vessels. Adults are recommended to get 1.2mg of copper a day, and you can easily get this through your diet by eating shellfish and seafood, organ meats, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds. The body is efficient at stabilising copper levels, and therefore, copper deficiency and toxicity are rare and usually a result of genetic mutations, ageing or environmental factors. Copper supplements are usually only needed for people with a copper deficiency and should be avoided by people with conditions that increase the risk for copper toxicoses, such as Wilson disease (WD), biliary cirrhosis, and atresia.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an essential step in getting all the nutrients and minerals your body needs to function, such as copper, calcium, iron, magnesium, and various vitamins. If you think you have a deficiency in any nutrient or mineral, you should contact a healthcare professional for personalised advice.


Burkhead JL, Collins JF. Nutrition information brief—copper. Adv Nutr [Internet]. 2021 Dec 23 [cited 2023 Aug 4];13(2):681–3. Available from:

This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Suad Mussa

Bachelor of Science – BSc, Biology. Queen Mary University of London

Suad Mussa is a biology graduate with a strong passion for medical writing and educating the public about health and wellbeing. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
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