Vitamin Expert


Mineral name
What’s it used for? Energy production, formation of key oxygen-carrying molecule, healthy bones, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, enzyme activator
Best food sources Oysters, seafood, liver, plant-based foods including wholegrains, nuts, soy beans, dark green leafy vegetables
How much do I need? NRV is 1mg per day*
Need to know If copper levels are low in the body, iron may also be low. Copper is essential for iron absorption

*A Nutrient Reference Value or NRV is the recommended level set by the UK Department of Health for daily nutrient intake


Copper is an essential trace mineral. It’s found in many foods in small amounts and in all body tissues.

Why do I need it?

Copper is important in the formation of haemoglobin, our oxygen-carrying molecule found in the blood, which explains its function as an energy producer. It also works as an antioxidant, helping neutralise free radicals (harmful molecules that can damage cells and accelerate the ageing process). It has a mild anti-inflammatory effect, hence the use of copper bracelets in cases of arthritis; the copper reacts with fatty acids in the skin to form copper salts. Copper is also essential for iron absorption.

Best food sources

Copper is available in most natural foods. This includes most plant-based foods and wholegrains such as brown rice. However, oysters are actually one of the richest sources, together with other seafood and shellfish.

Foods high in copper

lambs liver
Lamb’s liver – 9.8mg per 100g
Oysters – 5.71mg per 100g
Squid – 2.1mg per 100g
Cashew nuts – 2.2mg per 100g
soy beans
Soy bean – 0.99mg per 100g

Are you getting enough?

Mild copper deficiency is very unusual but can lead to fatigue or pale skin. It can also lead to joint pain and lowered immunity. More common however, is excess copper which can cause learning problems, depression and nervousness. A genetic disorder called Wilson’s disease affects copper metabolism which leads to high levels in the liver and brain, causing fatigue, weight loss and potential yellowing of the skin.

Women taking the contraceptive pill or who are pregnant can actually have raised levels of copper, which can affect mood. As copper competes with zinc for absorption, people who may be affected should include foods that are high in zinc in the diet and refrain from drinking tap water (drink bottled water instead).

Did you know?

Copper competes with zinc for absorption so a good balance is important. However, food sources of both minerals are fairly similar, so this balance is generally easily achieved
It is suitable to take during pregnancy or breastfeeding at recommended dosages – consult your healthcare professional for advice
Copper works with vitamin C in collagen production so is great for the skin
Copper is key in two of our most important antioxidant enzyme systems: protecting the body from free radicals and helping to produce collagen

For all the latest research on copper click here

Try this

Copper is found in the Alive! range of multi vitamins and minerals.

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