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Zinc: Boosts the Immune System

Other Key Nutrients for the Mom-to-Be

Zinc supports a healthy immune system. It is needed for wound healing, helps maintain your sense of taste and smell and is needed for DNA synthesis. Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence.

Red meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc in our diets. Other good food sources include beans, nuts, certain seafood, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products. Zinc absorption is greater from a diet high in animal protein than a diet rich in plant proteins. Phytates, which are found in whole grain breads, cereals, legumes and other products, can decrease zinc absorption.

Women need 8.0 milligrams of zinc daily. Pregnant women should get 11.0 milligrams per day while 12.0 milligrams is recommended for nursing mothers.

A zinc deficiency in mom can slow the growth of a fetus. Zinc supplementation has improved the growth rate in some children who demonstrate mild to moderate growth failure and who also have a zinc deficiency.

Human milk does not provide recommended amounts of zinc for older infants between the ages of 7 months and 12 months, so breast-fed infants of this age should also consume age-appropriate foods containing zinc. Alternately, pediatricians may recommend supplemental zinc in this situation. Breastfeeding also may deplete maternal zinc stores because of the greater need for zinc during lactation. It is important for mothers who breast-feed to include good sources of zinc in their daily diet and for pregnant women to follow their doctor's advice about taking vitamin and mineral supplements.

Food Source Milligrams (%RDA)
Oysters, battered and fried, 6 medium 16 (145%)
Breakfast cereal, (fortified with zinc) 3/4 cup serving 15 (136%)
Beef, cooked 3 ounces 8.9 (81%)
Pork, cooked, 3 ounces 4.2 (38%)
Chicken leg 2.7 (25%)
Yogurt, plain, low fat, 1 cup 2.2 (20%)
Baked beans, 1/2 cup 1.8 (16%)
Chickpeas, 1/2 cup 1.3 (12%)
Mixed nuts, 1 ounce 1.1 (10%)
Cheese, 1 ounce 1.1 (10%)
Milk, 1 cup .9 (8%)
Peas, 1/2 cup .8 (7%)
Flounder/sole, cooked, 3 ounces .5 (5%)


This article was reviewed by Tanya Jolliffe, a BabyFit healthy eating expert.

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