7 Zinc-Rich Foods For Your Child

Zinc-rich foods for children like legumes, seeds, nuts, yoghurt, whole grains and eggs can prevent zinc deficiency. Here is a list of zinc-rich foods which you must include in your kid’s diet.

By Monali Bordoloi

7 Zinc-Rich Foods For Your Child
Zinc is essential for healthy growth of children

Did you know that breast milk contains a small amount of zinc? It helps the newborn build immunity. Zinc is essential for your child’s overall development as it is required to produce proteins and DNA for the body, to digest nutrients present in food, to re-grow and repair body tissues.

Sheela Krishnaswamy, leading diet, nutrition and wellness consultant from Bengaluru says, “Zinc is important to maintain immunity and protect against infections. It is also an important part of many enzymes and plays a role in wound healing.”

What is Zinc?

You now know that zinc is critical to our physical and mental well-being, but what else do you know about this metal?

Zinc is a trace element that is found in cells throughout our body. It is a nutrient which is essential for a healthy immune system, good brain function and decreasing the risk of certain diseases.

However, our body is not capable of producing zinc. So, we need to consume zinc-rich foods to supply our body with this essential element.

Benefits of zinc for your child

  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Boosts learning and memory
  • Decreases risk of age-related diseases
  • Reduces the severity of common cold
  • Helps the body produce protein and DNA
  • Speeds up the wound healing process
  • Prevents age-related macular degeneration

Zinc dosages for children

Although zinc is essential for the proper functioning and growth of our body, it should only be consumed in the recommended doses.

Here is the age-wise daily recommended allowance for zinc

  • 0–6 months — 2mg
  • 7 months to 3 years — 3mg
  • 4–8 years — 5mg
  • 9–13 years — 8mg
  • 14–18 years — 11mg

7 Zinc-rich foods for children

Sheela Krishnaswamy adds, "Zinc is easily available in common foods like sesame seeds, almonds, egg yolk, chana, poppy, cumin (jeera) and mustard seeds.”

Since our body cannot store zinc, we have to include zinc-rich foods in our child’s daily diet. Here is a list of 7 zinc-rich foods for children:

1. Seeds: Most seeds are a rich source of zinc; however, some seeds are better options. Seeds like sesame, hemp, mustard, pumpkin and chia seeds have an ample amount of zinc. Seeds are an excellent addition to your child’s diet as they contain fibre, good fats, essential vitamins and minerals. 

2. Whole grains: Your child can get his share of zinc from whole grains like wheat, oats, rice and quinoa. However, keep in mind that grains contain an anti-nutrient called phytate, which reduces the absorption of zinc by the body. Whole grains are still preferred as it provides other important nutrients like fibre, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese and selenium. A diet rich in whole grains is beneficial for your child too.

3. Meat: All meats have generous amounts of zinc. Go for skinless poultry or lean cuts of meat with fewer fats to get your quota of zinc.

4. Low-fat milk and yoghurt: We all know that dairy products have plenty of calcium. But do you know that most dairy products like low-fat milk and yoghurt pack a good amount of zinc too? Daily intake of milk or yoghurt can fulfil your child's requirement for zinc. All you need to have is a cup of low-fat plain yoghurt — it has 2.2mg of zinc.

5. Legumes: If your child is zinc-deficient, give him boiled chickpeas as snacks. All kinds of legumes, lentils, beans have an abundant amount of zinc. However, absorption of the zinc found in legumes is less, because of the presence of the anti-nutrient, phytates. If your children are vegetarian or following a vegan diet, legumes could still provide some amount of zinc. You can also include legumes in your family's diet for the high protein and fibre content.

6. Seafood: Oysters are the best choice for fulfilling your zinc requirements. A medium-sized oyster contains around 5.3mg of zinc. Lobsters and crabs also have a large amount of zinc.

7. Nuts: Nuts like almonds are an excellent source of zinc. Use roasted nuts like cashews, peanuts, walnuts as snacks for your hungry teenage children. 

Are excessive amounts of zinc bad for your child?

Small amounts of zinc that you get from food does not harm your child. However, be careful if your child is having zinc from vitamin supplements. An excessive amount of zinc from supplements could cause diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and headaches. Long-term use of zinc supplements could lead to toxicity. 

The amount of zinc your child need may be minimal but zinc deficiency could lead to many development issues. Zinc supplements are available in the market, however, it always good to get it from food sources for your child. 

About the author:

Written by Monali Bordoloi on 20 September 2018. Last updated on 8 May 2020.

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