The Health Benefits of Copper

by Melissa Chichester

When you think of copper, you probably think of that shiny orange metal that runs through the wiring in your home.

Or maybe you think about wearable copper wellness bracelets. Copper’s known health benefits are relatively young. 

It wasn’t until 1928 where a study published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry made the connection between copper and red blood cells. In this study, rats fed a diet without copper were unable to make enough red blood cells. When copper was added to the diet again, the issue was corrected. This paper put copper on the map in the health industry – and although we do not need large amounts of this trace element, copper is essential for good health.

Copper health benefits

Copper is involved in many functions in the body. Copper aids in the formation of bone, hemoglobin, and red blood cells.** It also works with zinc and Vitamin C to form elastin, the main component of connective tissues.** 

The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements notes that certain groups of people may be more likely to experience copper deficiency.

This includes people with certain health disorders and people taking high amounts of zinc. Most deficiencies are caused by malabsorption, malnutrition, and genetics. If you are concerned about your copper levels, it is important to talk to your healthcare practitioner. 

The Recommended Dietary Allowances for young adult and adult copper intake are as follows:

AgeMaleFemalePregnancyLactation
14-18 years890 mcg890 mcg1,000 mcg1,000 mcg
19+ years900 mcg900 mcg1,300 mcg1,300 mcg

Foods that contain copper 

There are many foods that contain copper. You can get the daily recommended amounts of copper by eating a variety of foods. 

Beef liver and oysters contain the highest amounts of copper. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, one serving of beef liver contains 12,400 micrograms of copper. Oysters contain 4,850 micrograms of copper per serving. 

Other foods high in copper include:

  • Unsweetened chocolate 
  • Mushrooms
  • Potatoes
  • Nuts and seeds (cashews, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds)
  • Salmon and crab
  • Avocado 
  • Tofu

When you eat a balanced diet, you are likely consuming the proper amounts of copper. 

Copper supplements 

Copper is available as a standalone supplement and in multivitamins, including:

Copper is most likely a mineral that you don’t think about every day. However, the more you know about how copper impacts health, the more information you have to be an advocate for your wellness.