All About Copper

Why is Copper important? How much do you need each day? What do deficiencies look like? Which foods and recipes contain it?

Bella Grace
All About Copper

What is Copper?

Copper is the third most abundant trace mineral in the body after iron and zinc at an estimated total weight of 70-80 mgs. Copper is found in its greatest concentration in the liver and the brain but is also found in muscle, bone and skin.  

Why is Copper important and what does it do in the body?

Copper is important as it helps to convert iron into hemoglobin – the protein in the blood that carries oxygen to all tissues. A copper deficiency can lead to low iron and ultimately to anemia. Copper is important for the utilization of Vitamin C and of the amino acid tyrosine, producing the pigmentation of skin and the hair. It is required for the production of collagen. Deficiencies manifest with blood vessels rupturing or bone and joint abnormalities. Copper is required for use in our metallothionein proteins. These are the protein carriers of metals in the body, especially cadmium and mercury, but they are also required to remove excess minerals and metals like copper, if the level becomes too high in the blood. Copper is also required for cellular energy production and it acts as a modulator in neurotransmitter function and also supports the immune system. It is used in one of our main antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase to aid the disarming of damaging free radicals.

What amount of Copper do you need each day?

Copper levels are controlled by metallothionein protein uptake and zinc and must be maintained in a very narrow range for us to function at our highest level.

Menkes disease is a copper deficiency caused by excessive excretion of copper from the brain and gut. Conversely, Wilson’s disease is a condition that has elevated copper levels.

Prior to any supplementation with copper please seek advice from your health care professional.

The DRI (Daily Recommended Intake) /RDA (Recommended DailyAllowance) of dietary Copper are listed below:

Please Note: By definition, the DRI/RDA recommendations apply only to 98% of healthy individuals and are not sufficient for those with higher nutrient requirements based upon their biochemical individuality, genetics, health status, medications, deficiencies, lifestyle, and toxic exposures.

The following lists provide the recommended daily dietary intake of copper for children and adults from the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine.


  • For infants from birth - 6 months: 200 mcg daily
  • For infants 7 - 12 months: 220 mcg daily
  • For children 1 - 3 years: 340 mcg daily
  • For children 4- 8 years: 440 mcg daily
  • For children 9- 13 years: 700 mcg daily
  • For children 14 - 18 years: 890 mcg daily

Children should get copper from foods. Do not give copper supplements to children.


  • For adults 19 years and older: 900 mcg daily
  • For pregnant women: 1,000 mcg daily
  • For breastfeeding women: 1,300 mcg daily

If you take a copper supplement, you should also take a zinc supplement (8 - 15 mg of zinc for every 1 mg of copper) as an imbalance of these two minerals can cause health problems.

Source: Copper | University of Maryland Medical Center

Recommended Daily Allowance: None established

Optimal Daily Allowance: 2mg/Day

Source: Holford. Patrick. The Optimum Nutrition Bible.2012

What are possible Copper deficiency conditions and symptoms?

Alzheimer’s disease




Diabetic neuropathy


Glucose intolerance

Idiopathic seizure disorder

Low white blood cell count

Menkes disease  


Rheumatoid arthritis


Shortness of breath

Skin de-pigmentation

Skin sores

Slow ligament repair

What are possible Copper excess symptoms?

Copper supplementation with as little as 10mg may induce nausea. Dosages of 60mg may produce vomiting. Excess may also induce insomnia, hair loss, irregular menses (periods) and depression. Copper should not be provided for children unless prescribed by a health care practitioner.

Note: Supplementation will impact zinc status and should be provided in a 10:1 Zinc to copper ratio. What that means is that, if 10 mg of zinc is given, 1 mg of copper should also be given.It is common to find that the ratio is not accurate in many multi vitamin and mineral supplements.

Copper is present in cigarette smoke, car fumes, birth control pills and water supplies from copper pipes.

What steals Copper from the body?

Zinc, iron and Vitamin C compete with copper and may impair copper absorption.

High fructose (sugar from fruits) diets may reduce copper absorption.

Phytates from foods such as grains and legumes can bind to copper and reduce its absorption.

Prolonged periods of diarrhea.

Inositol hexaphosphate (commonly known as IP-6 is a vitamin like substance found in animals and plant foods) may inhibit copper absorption.

High fiber diets binds copper as it travels through the gut and this reduces absorption.

Anti-rheumatic drugs such as Penicillamine.

Antacid drugs such as aluminum –containing antacids: Gaviscon,Maalox, Mylanta.

Calcium-containing antacids: Mylanta, Rolaids, Tums.

Magnesium-containing antacids: Gaviscon, Maalox and Mylanta andAlka Seltzer.

Anti viral drugs: Zidovadine, Retrovir (AZT).

What tests can be used to assess Copper levels?

Red Blood cell copper levels

Serum ceruloplasmin

Copper levels in urine

Elevated HVA (homovanillic acid):VMA ( vanillylmandelic acid) ratio in urine will help identify Menkes disease and elevated copper levels.

What foods contain the highest amounts of Copper?

Top 10 Copper rich foods are:

1. Liver Pâté 15mg/Day

2. Oysters 5mg/100g

3. Sesame seeds or Tahini 4.1mg/Day

4. Dark Chocolate 3.8mg/Day

5. Cashews 2.2mg/100g

6. Calamari (squid) 2.1mg/100g

7. Hazelnuts 2.0mg/100g

8. Lobster 1.9mg/100g

9. Sunflower seeds 1.8mg/100g

10. Sun Dried Tomatoes 1.4mg/100g

What are the best Copper products?

Copper citrate, gluconate and sulfate are all acceptable dietary supplements.


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Balch. A. Phyllis CNCPrescription for Nutritional Healing 

Beef Bulgogi Bowls

Makes 2 Large Bowls


1 lb. grass-fed rib eye or sirloin steak

2 tablespoons cooking oil of choice

2 tablespoons coconut aminos

2 tablespoons freshly minced garlic

1 tablespoon raw honey or sweetener of choice

2 stems of green onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

4 cups dark leafy greens

2 cups roasted broccoli

3 large carrots, roasted

3 cups cauliflower rice

Homemade Mayo

+ hot sauce (to taste)

= spicy mayo!


1) To make the roasted vegetables, throw frozen broccoli and carrots onto a baking sheet, drizzle in cooking oil of choice, salt and pepper, and roast in the oven at 375F for 30 minutes or so. Remove and set aside.

2) Place the steaks in a large bowl with coconut aminos, minced garlic, raw honey, salt and pepper. Let marinate for 10-30 minutes.

3) In a large skillet, add cooking oil and saute the steaks (along with sauce) over medium high heat or until the steak is medium-well done.

4) Set the beef aside and slice into thin pieces.

5) Using the same pan, heat up your cauliflower rice in the skillet until piping hot.

5) To each bowl, add 2 cups of greens. Top greens with 1-2 carrots, 1 cup roasted broccoli, 1 1/2 cups cauliflower rice, 1/2 lb of steak and chopped green onion. Add a dollop of spicy mayo on the side, sprinkle with sesame seeds and enjoy!

Bella Grace

Isabella Grace is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner focusing on toxin-free, natural living to its fullest extent. Her mission is to provide personalized integrative health solutions to create sustainable, lifelong change and enable you to live, love, and serve at your fullest health potential.

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