Zinc in your pregnancy diet
Why you need zinc during pregnancy
Your body needs zinc for the production, repair, and functioning of DNA – the body's genetic blueprint and a basic building block of cells. So getting enough zinc is particularly important for the rapid cell growth that occurs during pregnancy. This essential mineral also helps support your immune system, maintain your sense of taste and smell, and heal wounds.
Deficiencies in the United States are rare, but studies link a zinc deficiency to miscarriage, toxemia, low birth weight, and other problems during pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
How much zinc you need
Pregnant women, 19 and older: 11 milligrams (mg) per day
Pregnant, 18 and younger: 13 mg
Breastfeeding women, 19 and older: 12 mg
Breastfeeding, 18 and younger: 14 mg
Non-pregnant women: 8 mg
You don't have to get the recommended amount of zinc every day. Instead, aim for that amount as an average over the course of a few days or a week.
Food sources of zinc
Fortified cereals and red meat are good sources of this nutrient. You can also get it from some shellfish, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products.
Oysters are actually the richest food source of zinc – just one of them will give you more than a full day's supply – but experts caution against eating raw oysters during pregnancy because of the risk of food-borne illness. What's more, oysters harvested from some areas contain high levels of mercury.
Here are some good sources of zinc for pregnant women:
- 1 cup fully fortified breakfast cereal: 15 mg
- 1 cup canned baked beans with pork: 14 mg
- 3 ounces Alaskan king crab meat: 6.5 mg
- 3 ounces lamb shoulder: 6.2 mg
- 3 ounces braised pot roast, fat trimmed: 5.7 mg
- 3 ounces ground beef (85 percent lean): 5.5 mg
- 3 ounces roasted turkey, dark meat: 3.8 mg
- 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds: 2.6 mg
- 1/2 cup trail mix with chocolate chips, nuts, and seeds: 2.3 mg
- 1/2 cup tofu, firm: 2.0 mg
- 3 ounces cooked chicken, dark meat: 1.8 mg
- 1 cup fruit-flavored yogurt: 1.8 mg
- 1 cup milk: 1.8 mg
- 1/2 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans): 1.3 mg
- 5 ounces raw crimini mushrooms: 1.6 mg
- 1/2 cup boiled spinach: .69 mg
(Note that 3 ounces of meat or fish is about the size of a deck of cards.)
Should you take a zinc supplement?
Your prenatal vitamin supplement should provide the zinc you need if you're not already getting enough from your diet. Most people who eat meat get plenty of zinc from a reasonably well-balanced diet. But since it's harder to absorb the mineral from plant foods, you may have a hard time getting enough zinc from food alone if you eat a mostly vegetarian diet.
Can you get too much zinc?
More zinc isn't necessarily better. In fact, the National Academy of Sciences, the group that sets the recommended daily amounts for the government, suggests that adults get no more than 40 mg of zinc a day from all sources. (Women 18 and younger should get no more than 34 mg.)
The signs of a zinc deficiency
Zinc deficiency is rare in the United States, but it can cause impaired sense of smell or taste, a loss of appetite, failure to grow (for children), and a lower immunity to infections.
Share this article