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Dietary strategies for improving the zinc nutriture of rural, southern Malawian and Ghanaian children

Ferguson, E.L., Gibson, R.S., Opare-Obisaw, C., Ounpuu, S., Lamba, C.
Ecology of food and nutrition 1995 v.34 no.1 pp. 33-47
diet, zinc, rural areas, nutritional intervention, nutritional adequacy, eating habits, children, Ghana, Malawi
Rural African children consuming plant-based diets low in animal products are at risk for sub-optimal zinc nutriture. Consequently, we investigated indigenous dietary strategies for improving the zinc nutriture of rural southern Malawian and Ghanaian children. Seasonal dietary intakes, and the portion sizes of foods consumed by 4-6 year old Malawian and Ghanaian girls (n = 112) were determined from 3-day weighed food records. The optimal combination of food items for enhancing zinc bioavailability was determined by comparing the zinc content, and the phytate-to-zinc molar ratio (PZ) of isocaloric meals and snacks consumed by these girls. The energy content and portion sizes of the recommended meals and snacks were based on actual average intakes. Results showed that in Malawi the amount of available zinc could be enhanced by using refined corn flour nsima or a non-traditional fermented corn dough nsima with relishes prepared from small fish, and snacks with moderate to low PZ. In Ghana, fermented corn dough banku, or cocoyam, for root-based meals, together with a soup/stew of small fish, and zinc-dense snacks were recommended.