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Zinc, a mineral found in many foods, plays an essential role in the construction of your baby’s cells and DNA during pregnancy. It’s needed for cell division and tissue growth, supporting normal development as your baby grows. As pregnancy is a time when your baby is growing from a single cell into a little person comprised of trillions of cells, a healthy intake of zinc as part of a healthy, balanced pregnancy diet is crucial.
An adequate supply of zinc during pregnancy has various other benefits for your baby, too. Found in high concentrations in the brain, it’s important for normal brain function, which contributes to all future learning and development2. It also helps to build a robust immune system by helping to maintain a healthy amount of antibodies1.
It also supports your own immune system, helping protect you against infections and also helping wounds heal1, making it as important for your own health as it is for your baby’s.
Getting the right amount of zinc in your diet is especially important during pregnancy, when your immune system is naturally suppressed, leaving you more vulnerable to infection3. Maintaining a healthy intake of zinc throughout your pregnancy has also been linked to a lower risk of premature birth4.
The recommended daily intake for every woman, whether pregnant or not, is 7mg each day. Since zinc is present in many foods, you should be getting all the zinc you need from a healthy, well-balanced diet5. If you decide to breastfeed your baby, you shouldn’t need to make any special dietary changes but it’s a good idea to eat healthily. You can always talk to your midwife or healthcare professional if you’d like more advice.
Clinical studies have produced inconsistent results in terms of the effect of too much zinc or a lack of zinc during pregnancy. But what we do know is that small amounts of zinc are vital for our overall health, and since our bodies can’t produce or store it, it’s essential that we include it in our daily diets.
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are all excellent sources of zinc5.
Wholegrain bread, fortified cereals and corn also provide zinc, but the phytates they contain can inhibit the absorption of zinc from other foods. To maximise your intake from other sources, avoid regularly eating these foods at the same time.
Foods high in zinc for pregnancy6
|Food||Zinc per 100g|
|Sun dried tomatoes||13.6mg|
|Pine nuts/cashews||5.3 – 5.5mg|
|Almonds/pecans/brazil nuts||3.7 – 4.1mg|
|Lentils/kidney beans (dried)||3.0 – 4.0mg|
- Wellinghausen N. Immunobiology of gestational zinc deficiency. Br J Nutr 2001;85(Suppl 2):S81-86.
- British Nutrition Foundation. Nutrition and development, short and long-term consequences for health. London: Wiley Blackwell, 2013. p.157.
- NHS UK. Why are pregnant women at higher risk of flu complications? [Online]. 2020. Available at: www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/3096.aspx?CategoryID=5 [Accessed March 2020]
- WHO. Zinc supplementation during pregnancy [Online]. 2013. Available at: https://www.who.int/elena/bbc/zinc_pregnancy/en/ [Accessed March 2020]
- NHS. Vitamins and minerals – others [Online]. 2017. Available at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-minerals/pages/other-vitamins-minerals.aspx#zinc [Accessed March 2020]
- The medical Journal of Australia. Zinc and vegetarian diets [Online]. 2013. Available at: https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2013/199/4/zinc-and-vegetarian-diets [Accessed March 2020]
Questions about feeding and nutrition?
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