The Nutrient Lowdown: Eating Right for Growing Bodies
You know, of course, that your kids need vitamins and minerals as they grow and develop – but do you know what each of these nutrients do for your children? Or which foods are rich in them? If you’re looking to make sure that your kids are getting the nutrients they need – and all from the best sources, read on!
Vitamin A is important to eye health. It also helps in general cell growth and development, and strengthens immunity so that the body is better able to fight off infection and disease. Great sources of vitamin A include nearly any orange-colored fruit or vegetable (due to the presence of beta-carotene) like yams, carrots, cantaloupes, and peaches.
Vitamin B Complex
Vitamin B1, 2, 3, 6, 9, and 12 all make up the B Complex. As a group, these vitamins help create energy and break down carbohydrates. They’re also essential for a healthy brain and nervous system. And because they help build proteins, they’re great for strong muscles as well. Best sources for this group of vitamins include meats like fish, red meat, and poultry, leafy green vegetables and asparagus, as well as legumes (peas and beans), nuts, and seeds.
Most people know that vitamin C strengthens the immune system. But it doesn’t stop there. This vitamin helps to make collagen, which is important for connective tissues and skin elasticity, and for cognitive functions, bones, teeth, and gums. Citrus fruits are of course, a great source, but so are cruciferous vegetables like brussel sprouts and broccoli, leafy greens like spinach, and fruits like strawberries and kiwi.
Vitamin D is essential for growing children, as it improves their body’s ability to absorb the calcium they need for strong teeth and bones. Daily limited exposure to sunlight is the best way to get vitamin D, but there are a few dietary sources as well, including fatty fish (like salmon or tuna), mushrooms, egg yolks, and fortified milk or juice.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects cells throughout the body from damage and general wear-and-tear. Because of this, it is also particularly good for skin health. Some of the best sources of vitamin E include almonds and other nuts, avocados, leafy green vegetables, and whole grain foods.
While vitamin K helps with many things, its most important function is to help the blood form clots, which is the body’s natural way of stopping blood flow when there’s a cut or other injury. It also contributes greatly to bone health. Best sources are leafy green vegetables like spinach, and some cruciferous vegetables like broccoli.
Calcium is tremendously important for growing children, and not just for strong bones now— but because adequate amounts of this mineral can prevent osteoporosis (bone weakening) later on in life. This is especially important for girls, since they will later be at higher risk after they hit menopause. Milk and dairy products are the best-known sources of calcium, but almonds, leafy green vegetables like spinach, and soy products are good as well.
Iodine promotes healthy thyroid function; the thyroid hormones, in turn, are important for energy production and metabolism. Too much or too little can lead to chronic health problems. Most table salt is iodized nowadays, but of course you don’t want your kids getting too much salt in their diets! Healthy, natural sources for this mineral include fish and other seafood like oysters, shrimp, crab, etc.
Iron is best known for its ability to produce the red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. But it’s necessary to build up muscles as well. Red meat, shellfish, poultry, and pork have iron, with liver having the highest amounts of all. Plant-based iron sources include leafy green vegetables like spinach, legumes, and fortified grains, and cereals.
Chromium isn’t needed in large amounts, but it’s still important, especially for breaking down carbs into the glucose that cells need for energy. The best sources for this trace mineral are whole grain products like whole grain bread or pasta.
Magnesium is needed for healthy nerves and muscles, including the muscles of the heart. It also helps with energy production, and along with vitamin D and calcium, is responsible for strong and healthy bones. The best way to get magnesium is through green leafy vegetables, potatoes, avocados, and – kids always love this – chocolate!
One of the most important functions of potassium is to maintain heart health and keep blood pressure normal, as it counteracts sodium in the diet. It also helps to maintain the body’s fluid balance and is necessary for nerve and muscle function. Bananas, of course, are the best known potassium source but citrus fruits are good as well, as are legumes, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, and potatoes.
Points to Keep in Mind
You may have noticed that in order to get the essential vitamins and minerals, kids will have to eat a variety of foods, including meats, grains, fruits, veg and dairy. Balancing out is the key – try to make sure every meal has a little of each food group, if possible.
You may also have noticed that certain foods keep popping up on the list above: Legumes, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, whole grains… Foods like these are incredibly nutrient-rich and should be incorporated into the diet as much as possible.
If you are feeling a little overwhelmed right now – relax! If your kids are eating balanced meals, chances are they are getting the nutrients they need. However, it is also a good idea to talk to your child’s doctor about chewable supplements (like Flintstones Chewables) to make up for any possible gaps in the diet.
Do you give your children chewable supplements? Why or why not?Tags : health nutrition development supplements