Why do you need it?

Copper is a key mineral in many enzymes (compounds that make chemical reactions possible) in the human body and is essential for healthy blood, nerve function and energy metabolism. It’s also important for making collagen – one of the main proteins in your bones, cartilage, tendons and skin.Copper also helps iron move into your red blood cells, without it, they couldn’t work normally and because of this, copper and iron deficiency can have similar symptoms.


Symptoms of copper deficiency include tiredness, anaemia, fragile bones, weak immune system, muscle and joint pain and easy bruising.

How much do you need?

The Joint Food and Agriculture Organisation/World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) says that to meet the nutritional requirements of adults, two to three milligrams a day is needed and for infants, 0.5 to 0.7 milligrams a day.

Source: Evaluations of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). Available at:

Where to find copper

The best plant-based sources of copper include nuts, seeds, cocoa, pulses, root vegetables, wholegrains, green leafy vegetables, avocados and dried fruits. 

  • Nuts and seeds: Sesame (simsim) seeds, cashews, sunflower seeds, peanuts and almonds are a good source of copper and can be eaten as snacks or added to savoury or sweet dishes. A small (28 gram) handful of cashews contains 0.6 milligrams of copper and a tablespoon (nine grams) of sesame seeds contains 0.4 milligrams.
  • Cocoa and dark chocolate: Packed with copper but also high in fat and sugar, chocolate should be eaten in moderation but cocoa can be added to smoothies. A small (28 gram) handful of dark chocolate contains 0.5 milligrams of copper. 
  • Pulses: peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils are a good source of copper and should be eaten every day as part of a varied, vegan diet. Soya beans, edamame and tofu are an excellent source if you can find them. One cup (164 grams) of cooked chickpeas contains 0.6 milligrams of copper. Sprouting pulses can increase how easily minerals like copper, iron, zinc and magnesium are absorbed in the body. In other words, sprouting turns a dormant seed into a nutritional powerhouse! 
  • Root vegetables: Potatoes and sweet potatoes are a good source of copper and can be eaten boiled, mashed or added to soups and stews but make sure you cook them with the skins on as most of the copper is found in the skins. A cup (156 grams) of boiled potatoes contains 0.3 milligrams of copper.
  • Wholegrains: Millet, sorghum, quinoa, brown rice and wholewheat pasta are all moderate sources of copper if eaten regularly as part of a varied vegan diet. 
  • Green leafy vegetables: Amaranth leaves, spinach and kale are a moderate source of copper and can be eaten steamed as a side dish or added to soups, stews and curries. 
  • Avocados: One medium (150 gram) avocado contains 0.3 milligrams of copper, which can provide a boost to your daily intake. 
  • Dried fruits: Currents, raisins, sultanas and apricots provide a good source but sundried tomatoes are better with one cup (54 grams) containing 0.8 milligrams of copper.