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Zinc is a micronutrient that plays an important role in the growth of a child and also helps strengthen the immune system. Zinc also strengthens the nervous system, hence zinc-rich foods are a must include in a child’s diet. To give you a better understanding of the importance of this nutrient in a child’s diet, this article explains, the health benefits of zinc for a child. It will also provide you with a list of zinc-rich foods that you can include in your child’s diet, because naturally when you read the health benefits, you are going to wonder about the foods that are high in zinc!
What is Zinc?
Zinc is a trace mineral that over 70 digestive enzymes rely on for regulating digestion and metabolism in the body. Children with zinc deficiencies experience growth defects and abnormalities which makes this a vital nutrient in every diet. It is also essential for the proper growth and development of reproductive organs in kids.
Benefits of Zinc for Your Child
The following are the benefits of zinc in children-
- Promotes healthy height and weight ranges.
- Aids in cognitive development.
- Improves mood and memory
- Prevents ADHD and enhances focus.
- As it is an immunity booster, it works well for kids as they are vulnerable to infection.
- Heals wounds and prevents age-related macular degeneration.
- Treats common cold and diarrhoea.
- Prevents retinal damage and loss of vision.
- Topical zinc ointments are applied to children’s skin to eliminate diaper rashes and prevent sunburns
- Zinc acts as a powerful antioxidant and lowers the risk of cancer in children
Zinc Dosages for Children
If you’re wondering about how much zinc to give kids, then we’ve got you covered. According to The Office of Dietary Supplements, these are the following zinc dosages for children-
- Ages 4 to 8 – 5 mg/day
- Ages 9 to 13 – 8mg/day
- Ages 14 to 18 – 9mg/day
Intake of about 25-50mg of zinc and copper has been reported to interfere with a metabolism so teenagers are highly recommended to not consume zinc-and-copper-rich foods in limited amounts.
Zinc-rich Food Sources
You can increase the zinc intake in your child’s diet through natural food sources. You can add these zinc foods for kids to your child’s diet-
- Red meat (pork, chicken, beef etc.)
- Whole-grain cereals
- Unskinned potatoes
- Breast milk
A well-planned vegetarian diet can provide adequate zinc for all age groups, and vegetarians appear to be at no greater risk of zinc deficiency than non-vegetarians. Important sources of zinc for vegetarians include whole grains, legumes and soy products, nuts, seeds, as well as fortified cereals and dairy.
Caution If You Are Planning to Give Zinc Supplements to Kids
If you are planning to give zinc supplements to your kids, then here are a couple of things you should know
- May experience side effects like vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea and abdominal pain, fever, and lethargy.
- High zinc dosage in children has been linked to increased blood cholesterol levels, low levels of HDL, and recurring infections.
- May interact with other medications such as immunosuppressants, blood pressure drugs, and antibiotics.
- Children below the age of 18 are not recommended to take over-the-counter zinc supplements unless prescribed by a doctor.
- Do not use intranasal zinc if you choose to give your child a zinc supplement since it has been associated with the loss of the sense of smell.
Although plant-based foods have zinc, they are in low doses and often not enough to cover the daily recommended intake. You can add zinc in your child’s diet by encouraging them to consume yeast-risen whole-grain pieces of bread and soy-based foods like miso and tempeh to up their intake of this mineral. Zinc-fortified cereals and whole-grains are other options for kids who don’t eat meat and dairy products and are vegetarians or vegans.
Please consult your family doctor or a certified nutritionist before choosing to use a zinc supplement for kids since they may experience the above-mentioned side-effects with an overdose of the mineral.
Also read: 13 Iron Rich Foods For Your Kids