6 Essential Vitamins and Minerals for Childhood
  /   Dr. John Snow

6 Essential Vitamins and Minerals for Childhood

As a parent, it’s natural to prioritize your child’s health. You want to be sure that your youngsters are getting everything they need to grow, develop, and thrive. A balanced diet plays a crucial role in this process, especially in terms of the vitamins and minerals on your child’s plate. 

Here’s what parents need to know about providing their children with well-rounded meals that address the needs of their growing bodies. 

Which Vitamins Are Essential for Children?

Every vitamin is important. It’s the amounts of each vitamin and mineral that matter the most.

All vitamins are essential for children. There isn’t a single vitamin your child does not need for processes that support their growth, development, and continued health. Children need the same vitamins, and minerals adults require, such as vitamin C, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, vitamin E, and key minerals like magnesium, potassium, and manganese. 

They simply require them in different amounts.

Requirements for certain vitamins and minerals will fluctuate throughout a child’s life, eventually settling at a standard daily amount after puberty or into early adulthood. A toddler’s needs will be different from a six-year-old child’s needs, and a six-year-old will have significantly different needs from a pre-teen.

What Happens When Children Do Not Get Enough Nutrients?

Severe micronutrient deficiencies are rare in developed countries where children have access to fresh and nutritious food for three meals a day. 

Minor deficiencies are somewhat common. They’re usually easy for pediatricians to identify and can quickly be rectified before they cause serious harm to a child’s overall health. However, there is no sole way that vitamin or mineral deficiencies symptoms present themselves.

Since each vitamin and mineral interacts with the body differently, it can be challenging to pinpoint a specific deficiency without blood testing. 

Many deficiencies can cause fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and muscle aches. If your child is experiencing these symptoms and they don’t directly correlate to a clear cause (like staying up too late or a long day of rambunctious play), a trip to the pediatrician is in order. 

What Are The Essential Vitamins and Minerals for Childhood?

Parents should always watch their children’s diets and provide well-rounded meals that meet proper nutritional metrics. Protein, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, healthy fats like avocado and fatty fish, and minimal added sugar are the building blocks of a healthy meal. 

Within each block, meals should provide adequate micronutrients in the form of necessary vitamins and minerals. 

1. Calcium (and Vitamin D)

Calcium is the primary building block of bone, and vitamin D3 supports calcium in its quest. They’re most useful together. Fortified breakfast cereals, fortified juices like orange juice, and dairy products like low-fat milk, cheese, and even low-fat frozen yoghurt are excellent sources of calcium and vitamin D. 

Calcium can also be found in dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, and our bodies naturally produce some vitamin D from sunlight.

The body also produces vitamin D naturally with sun exposure. If your children like to play outside, it’s likely that sun exposure is providing them with most of the vitamin D they need throughout the warmer months. 

Sunscreen is important for skin protection, but it also reduces the body’s amount of vitamin D. While you can rely on the sun to provide support, it shouldn’t be your child’s sole source of vitamin D.

3. B Vitamins

There are eight B vitamins: thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (b7), folate (B9), and cyanocobalamin (B12). 

  • Thiamin helps the body derive energy from glucose and supports normal nerve health.
  • Riboflavin helps to facilitate energy production and supports ocular health. 
  • Niacin helps the body use foods like fats and carbohydrates to produce energy. It also promotes and preserves skin health, digestion, and the body’s nervous system.
  • Pantothenic acid is vital for metabolism and the production of hormones and blood cells. 
  • Pyridoxine helps the body manufacture cells and hormones. It also plays a crucial role in brain development and supports the immune system.
  • Biotin supports a host of metabolic processes and helps the body store fat. 
  • Folate is necessary for children and pregnant people. It plays a crucial role in fetal development, particularly in the development of the human nervous system. It’s vital for producing red blood cells and DNA synthesis. 
  • Cyanocobalamin protects the nerve endings in the brain and is necessary for normal cognitive ability. The body uses this vitamin to create blood cells and metabolize amino acids. 

4. Vitamin A

Vitamin A naturally occurs in fish, fruit, dairy products, and vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. The body needs vitamin A for a whole host of crucial processes

Vitamin A plays a key role in optical health, promoting healthy vision. When someone becomes deficient in vitamin A, they may not be able to see in low light conditions. 

Vitamin A plays an important role in reproductive health and the overall function of the immune system. Like the heart and kidneys, many organs require sufficient amounts of vitamin A to adequately perform their duties. 

5. Iodine

Iodine helps the body manufacture thyroid hormones, making it one of the most essential minerals for metabolic health. The body uses these same hormones to promote brain development and the normal growth of bones. 

Iodine is critically essential for infants and young children. An iodine deficiency can lead to stunted development. 

Iodine naturally occurs in dairy products and oily fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines. It’s commonly added to salt, making it easier for families to introduce more iodine into their diets simply by seasoning their food. 

Infants and young children should have a minimal amount of salt in their diets but may receive iodine through breast milk or fortified baby formula. 

6. Zinc

Zinc optimizes immune system function, helping the body cope with germs that may otherwise cause illness. Children are often exposed to a wealth of germs, and the zinc they receive through their diet helps protect them and promote resiliency. 

The body uses zinc to create genetic material like DNA and synthesize protein. Without zinc, the body cannot grow, develop, or mature. 

Oysters and shellfish contain an abundance of zinc.

Children with shellfish allergies and children who have not yet developed a taste for shellfish have a few other options. Beans, legumes, and dairy products also provide smaller amounts of zinc. Incorporating these foods into most meals can adequately supply your child with zinc throughout the day. 

Introducing More Vitamins and Minerals Into Your Child’s Diet

Ideally, children will be able to obtain every vitamin and mineral they need through their diet. However, parents know that this is often easier said than done. 

Children with allergies or intolerances cannot have certain vitamin and mineral-rich staples. Children in vegan households can’t meet their animal products’ requirements and generally need to eat more foods with fortified ingredients.

There is also the issue of picky eating. Picky eating behavior is normal throughout childhood. Children don’t inherently understand the importance of nutrition, and they allow their preferences to dictate their dietary choices. 

While it’s a fair assessment that boiled sprouts don’t taste as good as french fries, children don’t understand the merits of prioritizing healthy foods over the treats that make them happy. Slowly introducing more nutrition into your child’s diet without frustration or punishment is the key to expanding their tastes. 

Many parents find that explaining nutrition and actively enjoying healthy foods in front of their child gradually provides enough encouragement that children are willing to dabble with new vegetables or healthy proteins. 

This process may take a while, and your child’s nutritional needs cannot wait until you’ve worked through these obstacles or allergy barriers. You need a solution you can use immediately.

Do Children Need Supplemental Vitamins and Minerals?

For children who cannot have many foods or are still learning to enjoy healthy foods, vitamin and mineral supplements can help to fill the gaps in your child’s diet. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about introducing supplements into your child’s wellness routine. 

Extreme picky eaters, children with allergies, and children on vegan diets often significantly benefit from multivitamin supplements that contain the vitamins and minerals they’re lacking through their diet, and iron deficiency is especially common. 

Which Health Supplement Is Best for Kids?

The best multivitamin supplement for your kids is a supplement that contains everything your child needs. Hiya worked with pediatricians to discover the vitamin and mineral gaps in most American children’s diets. We created a multivitamin designed to address the needs of as many children as possible. 

Hiya’s Kids Daily Multivitamin is gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, non-GMO, sugar-free, and eco-friendly. Our chewable tablets are easy for children to take, and they don’t contain any gummy junk, artificial colors, or artificial flavors. 

We made our vitamins suitable for as many households as possible. It’s the perfect solution for concerned parents who just want the best for their child’s growth, development, and health. 

Sources:

Six things you should know about vitamin D | Harvard Health

Vitamin A - Consumer | National Institutes of Health

Iodine - Consumer | National Institutes of Health

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