It’s never too early to start explaining the necessity of vitamins and minerals to your children. If they’re old enough to ask for hot dogs for dinner every night, they’re old enough to start learning why hot dogs aren’t always the best nutritional choice.
As you introduce new foods to your children, teach them about vitamin A. Vitamin A is one of the most essential building blocks that bring your child from childhood to adulthood. Here’s what parents need to know about vitamin A, including ways to naturally incorporate more into their child’s diet.
What Is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A, also known as retinol or retinoic acid, is a vitamin that the body uses for a wide array of essential processes. Vitamin A is a goldmine for almost every function of the human body. This vitamin actively nourishes the body while protecting it against potential sources of damage.
The Benefits of Vitamin A for Kids
Vitamin A is important for people of all ages. Here are some things to teach your children about the value of adding foods rich in Vitamin A to their diets. Vitamin A supports normal growth and development in children.
Children grow in the blink of an eye, and as that process is occurring, it’s essential to provide their bodies with everything they need to grow and thrive.
Supporting and Maintaining Bone and Tissue
The cells of the body that build and remodel bones are heavily supported by vitamin A. Vitamin A, in addition to calcium and vitamin D, works to support your child’s bones as they grow taller and stronger.
Hair, nails, and teeth all contain keratin, a substance the body manufactures with the help of vitamin A. Your child’s adult teeth are still inside of their gums. Providing them with enough vitamin A throughout their lives can help to fortify their tooth enamel.
Some children will be happy to hear that vitamin A can make their hair and nails healthier. Children who prefer to avoid hair cuts or eventually wear nail polish can be reminded that vitamin A will help their hair and nails.
Vitamin A Helps Organs Function
The kidneys, lungs, heart, pancreas, liver, and reproductive organs require vitamin A to maintain their health. Many B vitamins also serve the same function.
Vitamin A Is Necessary for Eyesight
The outside covering of the eyes, called the cornea, requires vitamin A to remain clear. A cloudy cornea can significantly impair vision. Vitamin A also helps keep the eye adequately moisturized, preventing chronic dry eyes.
Eyes adjust to low light conditions using a special protein called rhodopsin, which helps the eye see effectively in near darkness. The body needs vitamin A to create rhodopsin. Without vitamin A, the eyes are at risk of developing night blindness.
Vitamin A Fortifies the Immune System
Vitamin A is an important antioxidant. Antioxidants help to protect the body from oxidative damage. When pollutants or free radical cells contact healthy cells, they steal their electrons. Vitamin A will sacrifice itself instead, leaving your healthy tissues to go about their business, keeping your body safe and protected.
Vitamin A also works to protect the body from measles. Measles and vitamin A deficiency are often related. Supplementation of vitamin A can help to prevent measles from becoming fatal.
How Much Vitamin A Does My Child Need?
Needs for vitamin A will change throughout your child’s life. The body can do a lot with a very small amount of vitamin A, and because of this, vitamin A is measured in micrograms (one-thousandth of a milligram) instead of milligrams or IU.
- Birth to 6 months - 400 mcg vitamin A daily
- Seven months old to 12 months old - 500 mcg vitamin A daily
- One year old to 3 years old - 300 mcg vitamin A daily
- Four years old to 8 years old - 400 mcg vitamin A daily
- Nine years old to 12 years old - 600 mcg vitamin A daily
Speak to your child’s pediatrician about vitamin A intake. Some children may require more or less vitamin A than others. It can be difficult to self-assess your child for sufficient vitamin A intake unless your child is a picky eater who refuses to eat a wide variety of foods.
If that’s the case, mention your child’s picky eating behaviors to your child’s pediatrician. You’ll be able to work out a solution for adequate supplementation of the things your child needs to be healthy.
The Best Sources of Vitamin A For Kids
Like most vitamins and minerals, their richest dietary source is beef liver. There are two types of households. You already know which household you live in. If there’s no chance that beef liver is making its way to the dinner table, here are other valuable sources of vitamin A that most family members will enjoy.
Fruits and Vegetables
Pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, oranges, and butternut squash are naturally very high in vitamin A. Beta carotene is responsible for the orange pigment in fruits and vegetables. The body can convert beta carotene into vitamin A.
Sweet potatoes are especially easy to serve to kids. Kids who like french fries, mashed potatoes, or tater tots will likely enjoy sweet potatoes as an alternative to traditional white potatoes. If you’re looking to serve healthier versions of foods like french fries, an air fryer will be your best friend in the kitchen.
Low Fat Dairy Foods
Although it’s not a requirement, many dairy farmers choose to fortify their milk. Dairy products made with fortified milk will usually contain vitamin D to promote calcium absorption and small amounts of vitamin A.
Lactose intolerant children, children with dairy allergies, and children who consume plant-based diets can get calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D from leading brands of soy milk. Always check the nutrition label to make sure the vitamin content of soy milk is sufficient. Avoid soy milk with added sugar.
Fortified Breads and Cereals
Some vitamins are difficult to find in nature. That’s why enriched or fortified bread, pasta, rice products, and cereals exist. If you use bread and cereal in your home, consider swapping out your regular brand for a fortified version. Not all fortified bread and cereals will contain vitamin A, so be sure to check the label. Always try to avoid fortified cereals with excessive amounts of added sugar.
Desserts with Vitamin A
Vanilla ice cream, carrot cake, and pumpkin pie contain a substantial amount of vitamin A. Consider serving them up on special occasions to increase the nutritional value of your desserts. Homemade pumpkin pie can be a healthy addition to your dessert menu if added sugar and fats are used sparingly. It can even be made vegan and gluten-free.
Can Children Have Too Much Vitamin A?
Overconsumption of vitamin A can lead to rashes, dry or brittle hair, and flaky skin or lips. These side effects are very rare.
People who consume too much beta carotene, the vitamin A precursor in foods, may find that the palms of their hands adopt an orange hue. This condition, called carotenemia, only looks worrisome. In most cases, it’s completely harmless. Simply reducing carotene intake will cause the condition to resolve itself.
Can My Child Have a Vitamin A Deficiency?
Vitamin A deficiencies are very common in developing countries. They’re hardly encountered in the United States. Children with malabsorption disorders, including many premature infants, can develop any vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
Children with cystic fibrosis may be at a greater likelihood of experiencing vitamin A deficiency. Since the pancreas of a person with cystic fibrosis has difficulty processing fat and vitamin A is fat-soluble, it’s essential to work with your child’s pediatrician to develop a plan for adequate supplementation of fat-soluble vitamins.
What if My Child Needs Vitamin A Supplements?
If your child’s pediatrician feels that vitamin supplements will be beneficial for your child, Hiya is here to help.
Our children’s chewable multivitamin contains 360 mcg of vitamin A per serving, which is 120% of the daily value for children under the age of 4 and 40% of the daily value for older children.