The A-Z’s Of Zinc Deficiency

February 27, 2014 | Filed Under Nutrition Update 

Zinc deficiency is common in the developing world today. Even in the United States, about 12 percent of the population, and perhaps as many as 40 percent of the elderly, are probably at risk for zinc deficiency. Other affected regions include South Asia (Bangladesh and India in particular), Africa, and the Western Pacific.

According to the Linus Pauling Institute, clinical zinc deficiency in humans was first described in 1961, when the consumption of diets with low zinc bioavailability due to high phytic acid content was connected with “adolescent nutritional dwarfism” in the Middle East. Since then, zinc insufficiency has been recognized by a number of experts as a significant public health issue.

There are many causes and many high-risk groups for zinc deficiency, including:

  • Pregnant and lactating mothers – Since a developing fetus requires higher amount of nutrition, the mother’s supply of zinc and other minerals become depleted. Similarly, there is also a generous amount of zinc lost through breastfeeding after giving birth.
  • Infants older than six months – Babies older than six months who are still exclusively breastfed are most likely deficient in zinc. This is because the zinc they get from breast milk is no longer sufficient to meet their nutritional needs. In this case, age-appropriate solid foods should be slowly introduced into their diet.

How Much Zinc Does Your Child Need?

It is important to understand that RDA refers to the daily average intake that is enough to meet the nutrient requirements of most healthy individuals.

The current recommended daily allowance (RDA) of zinc for children is 11 milligrams for adult men and eight milligrams for adult women. Lactating or pregnant women need about three milligrams more. Children need about five milligrams, while nine- to 13-year-olds need eight milligrams. Infants need only about three milligrams.

Nutrition – The Best Form of Zinc Supplement

Although there are many commercially available zinc supplements that you can conveniently give your child, you need to understand that this conventional approach to nutrients is oftentimes not the best to take. Taking zinc supplements indiscriminately is not advisable, especially for children due to risks of toxicity.

The thing to do is to simply increase foods rich in zinc and other beneficial minerals in your child’s diet.  Fortunately, improving your child’s zinc levels through food is not difficult, since there are many dietary sources. These include veal liver, grass-fed beef, crimini mushrooms, roasted pumpkin and squash seeds, chickpeas (garbanzos beans), and morel mushrooms.

How to Keep Zinc in Your Greens

Broccoli, spinach, and asparagus are among the many vegetables that are high not only in zinc, but other essential nutrients as well.  However, according to experts, zinc is better absorbed from animal sources than plant sources. This is because the way you cook, store, process, or prepare food plays an important role in maintaining vegetables’ nutritional value.

To keep your vegetables in their best shape, follow these techniques:

  • Steaming – When steaming vegetables, use a steamer and do not use a lot of water. A half cup of water is all you need. It would be best to bring the water to a boil before putting your greens in. This way, nutrient or mineral loss is minimized. Steam your vegetables for about five to 10 minutes. Do not overcook. You can also save the water used in steaming for future soups and stocks.
  • Blanching – In blanching you have to boil your greens briefly, chill them in ice-cold water, and then drain. This easy cooking technique stops the cooking process to prevent sogginess. It’s also a good way to keep your vegetables’ color, texture, flavor, and nutritional value.
  • Juicing – Studies suggest that nutrients are more bioavailable and easily consumed in beneficial quantities when vegetables are juiced. Juice vegetables with your kids and turn it into a fun bonding activity. Since kids are attracted to colors, carrots, broccoli, and spinach will surely make good starters. You can use honey or yogurt to make the taste more appealing to them, too.
  • Eating veggies raw – Teach your kids to eat their vegetables raw. Pair these raw vegetables with delicious but nutritious dips made with creamy kefir and yogurt that your kids will surely love. Serve carrots, cucumbers, and zucchini slices during snack time.

Note: Frying, grilling, or roasting vegetables are the worst ways to cook vegetables, because they involve high heat, which destroys most of the nutrients.

Additional tips:

  • Keep vegetables refrigerated until use to slow down nutrient degradation.
  • Put chopped or juiced vegetables in secured airtight containers to prevent oxygen exposure from destroying vitamins.
  • Choose only organic and pesticide-free vegetables from trusted sources.

Sources:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=115

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/zinc/#food_source

http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/vitamins-minerals/keeping-the-vitamins-nutrients-in-cooked-veggies.html#b

http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/

Arrianne Nellaine Hernandez is a writer for Mercola.com. She has written health and fitness content and has also transcribed many in-depth interviews with several natural health experts.  Arrianne is currently writing and researching about the most common nutritional and mineral deficiencies in kids today like zinc deficiency.

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