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Zinc and Our Children

by: Vanessa Selene Williams

Zinc is an important and often overlooked mineral that is necessary for our child's development. It prevents sickness by helping the immune system. It helps children grow by helping the growth process. It also gives taste by helping the sense of smell.

Who is at risk?

As much as 6% of girls and 10% boys in the United States currently have a zinc deficiency. Those children most at risk of a deficiency are zinc is those who as have a chronic illness and those who consume vegetarian diets.

What are the signs of a deficiency?

Mild zinc deficiency is common in our children. Often the signs include decreased growth and decreased mental ability in children. You also may notice that your child becomes sick more often. Or, he or she may have a hard time having wounds heal.

What foods contain zinc?

Unfortunately, in some processed food, zinc can be destroyed. Also binding zinc, making it unabsorbable, are phytates. They are found in vegetables such as legumes, whole grain breads, and cereals. Also, competing with absorption are compounds called oxalic acid, which are also found mostly in vegetables such as spinach, tea, and berries. Fortunately, those compounds have to be present in high qualities to have an adverse affect. To counteract it, don't combine a meal containing zinc with the above vegetables.

Foods that include zinc include eggs, meat and seafood. For example, red meat such as ground beef and seafood such as oysters and crab legs. Zinc can also be found in products such as whole grain foods, cereals, and soybeans.

What are the signs of too much zinc?

Yes, zinc is an important part of our child's diet. But, don't go overboard. Most toxicities are caused by an over the counter supplement. To be safe, if your child takes a supplement ensure that it is a multivitamin to prevent ingestion of too much.

Signs of ingesting too much zinc are numerous. You child may complain of a weird taste in his or her mouth. They may develop stomach pain such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. Another symptoms of a zinc deficiency include a copper deficiency since they compete for absorption.

When it comes to our children, a healthy diet is essential for every aspect of their life. A good diet means good health. It also can mean good thinking by helping children with their mental ability.

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