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Adrienne Razon is a writer working for Mercola.com. She has written several guides about healthy living through proper nutrition and exercise. Her recent work is focused on how to manage zinc deficiency in children.
According to experts, about two billion people are deficient in the trace mineral zinc. 12 percent of Americans have a zinc deficiency. Children and teenagers comprise a large percentage of this statistic.
One of the main reasons why both adults and children have such low levels is zinc-deficient soil. Commercial farming practices, such as monocropping, deplete the soil of important trace minerals, including zinc. As a result, you get very little nutritive value from the food you eat.
Other factors that lead to zinc deficiency include:
- Pharmaceutical drugs that can deplete your zinc stores. These drugs include ACE inhibitors for blood pressure, thiazide diuretics, and acid-reducing drugs.
- Digestive disorders that impair nutrient absorption and storage.
- Diet plans like vegetarian/vegan diets and high-grain diets that have low zinc bioavailability and high phytic acid amounts that adversely impact zinc absorption.
In order to increase your child’s zinc levels, there are two things you can do:
- Provide a zinc supplement, or
- Add more dietary sources of zinc to his or her diet
Finding a Zinc Supplement – Things a Parent Should Know
Zinc from supplements is not easily absorbed unless it is attached to another substance. Through a process called chelation, zinc is attached to other substances to increase its bioavailability.
There are several forms of zinc available in the market. Ideal forms of zinc you should look for are:
- Zinc gluconate – This type is formed by fermenting glucose
- Zinc acetate – A combination of zinc and acetic acid
- Zinc citrate – A type of zinc with citric acid
A kind of inorganic zinc you should avoid is zinc sulfate (zinc salts), which is not as biologically effective as other chelated types.
Proper dosage varies based on age. The recommended daily allowance for infants up to six months is two milligrams, while children who are seven months to three years should be given three milligrams. Toddlers who are four to eight years should have five milligrams. Those who are nine to 13 years old need about 8 milligrams daily. For the most accurate dose, you should discuss giving your child zinc with your physician first.
Zinc Dietary Sources – Prevent Deficiency Before It Strikes
You can also increase your child’s intake of zinc dietary sources to help prevent a deficiency. Here are some of the most popular zinc sources.
- Grass-fed meats (beef and lamb) – If you’re going to feed your children meat, make sure it is grass-fed and organic. Commercial livestock are often raised in confined spaces and are given feed laden with antibiotics, synthetic hormones, and petrochemicals that affect the quality of the meat. You can get grass-fed beef from local farmers or organic food stores.
- Certain types of nuts (peanuts, almonds, and cashews) – Like with meat, it is best to eat organic nut varieties. For instance, peanuts are one of the most pesticide-contaminated crops. Also, only eat nuts in moderation. Most nuts contain a high amount of omega-6 fats that can affect the balance of omega fats in your child’s body.
- Raw cacao or dark chocolate – Dark chocolate or raw cacao is another good source of zinc. Raw cacao contains not only zinc, but also antioxidants. Do not mistake raw cacao for commercial dark chocolate, as the latter contains additional ingredients that affect the nutrients in it.
- Pumpkin and squash seeds – Popular in Asian markets, these seeds are available in Asian specialty food stores.
- Breakfast cereals – Although breakfast cereals are fortified with zinc and other nutrients, it is not advisable to include them in your child’s diet. These processed foods contain synthetic vitamins, loads of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and sodium.
Remember that deficiencies can occur without warning and it is up to you to fortify your child’s defenses. Optimizing your child’s nutrient levels through proper nutrition is definitely a more economical way than addressing a deficiency when it comes.