Zinc: Is Your Child Getting Enough?
Zinc is and important yet often overlooked mineral. Along with iron, it’s one of the most common deficiencies in kids’ diets. Zinc is essential for growth and development but also plays a critical role in appetite and taste perception.
As nutritionist and author Kelly Dorfman points out in her book, “What’s Eating Your Child?”, kids with zinc deficiency typically present as picky eaters with poor appetites and poor growth (although not ALL picky eaters have zinc deficiency). Zinc is not a standard test on most pediatric lab panels so deficiency can easily go unnoticed. If your child has a lackluster appetite, picky eating and/or poor growth it’s probably a good idea to rule this out.
Foods highest in zinc are beef and chicken. Interestingly, those with zinc deficiency are often turned off by meat likely due to altered taste. Other great sources of zinc include toasted wheat germ, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate. Fortified cereals are a great source of zinc for kids. The #1 source of zinc (although not a realistic option for most kids) is oysters with 154 mg in a 3oz portion.
The daily recommendation for zinc is 3mg for 1-3 years, 5 mg for 4-8 years, 8mg for 9-13 years and 11mg from 18 years on. Zinc deficiency has been seen in patients with depression and eating disorders and according to psychiatrist James Greenblatt, MD, repletion may eliminate the need for drug therapy in some cases. For children with zinc deficiency, a therapeutic dose of 35mg a day is recommended.