The Importance of Zinc Rich Foods for Preschoolers
Zinc is an essential mineral that is necessary to promote immunity, protein synthesis and wound healing. A zinc deficiency has also been associated with damage to DNA. Zinc is vital for healthy growth and development through the childhood years and the best way to meet your child’s needs is to include foods that contain zinc. The recommended daily amount of zinc for 4-8 year olds is 5mg per day.
Foods that are highest in zinc
The list below shows the foodstuffs that contain the highest levels of zinc. When looking at this list, please bear in mind that it contains nuts and seeds. Children aged 3 to 5 can handle eating some nuts (providing they don’t have an allergy) and seeds without the potential of choking. However, you should still avoid giving children this age whole nuts and seeds, as they may still pose a choking hazard. Instead, cut nuts into smaller pieces, or grind them and sprinkle on other foods, such as yogurts or ice cream. Seeds should also be hulled before being given to children. After being hulled, they can also be ground and added to salads, soups or stews.
- Oysters provide the highest levels of zinc of any foodstuff, typically 15-180mg of zinc per 100g
- Toasted wheat germ provides 17mg of zinc per 100g serving. It is available sold in jars and can be sprinkled onto any food
- Liver is rich in vitamins and minerals. Veal liver has the most zinc with 12mg per 100g serving
- Tahini (sesame butter) is popular in the Middle East as it’s commonly found in hummus. Tahini provides 4.5mg of zinc per 100g serving.
- Roasted pumpkin and squash seeds are another favourite foodstuff of the Middle East and contain about 10mg (of zinc per 100g serving
- Beef contains nutrients in different quantities, depending on the cut. Low fat beef shoulder, chuck and shank contain about 10mg of zinc per 100g serving
- Dried watermelon seeds are a popular snack for the region and give 10mg of zinc per 100g serving.
- Chocolate is a good source of zinc and contains differing amounts depending on the type. Baking chocolate provides 9.5mg per 100g whereas milk chocolate provides around 2.5mg per 100g serving
- Lamb (Mutton) provides between 4.0-8.5mg of zinc per 100g depending on the cut.
- Peanuts are a great source of zinc; a 100g serving of oil roasted peanuts will provide 6.5mg of zinc with dry roasted peanuts containing half as much zinc at 3.3mg per 100 gram serving.
Symptoms of zinc deficiency
Zinc deficiency is rare in developed countries, but if it appears in your child, it is most likely due to an inadequate amount in their diet. If you are in any way concerned, your doctor can perform a simple blood test to check their zinc levels. Children who don’t receive enough zinc in their diet may exhibit signs of tiredness and lethargy, appetite loss and suffer from poor immunity. Severe cases can result in hair loss, weight loss, diarrhoea, impaired wound healing, mental dysfunction, problems with sense of taste and skin disorders. Certain gastrointestinal disorders, such as Coeliac disease or Crohn’s disease, may also cause a zinc deficiency in children, as can sickle cell anaemia. Since zinc is found in many types of meat and animal products, a toddler who follows a vegetarian diet may develop a zinc deficiency due to the exclusion of these foods.
A zinc deficiency is typically treated by increasing your toddler’s intake by including foodstuffs that are rich in zinc. Once diagnosed, your doctor may decide to prescribe a supplement. You should never give your child a zinc supplement (or indeed a supplement of any nature) without at first consulting a medical professional.