Children need a lot of things. Some of them are infinitely more important than a game console that’s constantly out of stock or a cool new pair of shoes, although your child may have you believe otherwise when they see something they want.
Growing children have a wealth of nutritional needs, and these needs are relatively simple to meet. They don’t require special vitamins or minerals that aren’t part of the average adult’s diet. Instead, they require the same things, but they require them for slightly different reasons.
Adults need vitamins and minerals to repair and maintain healthy and functioning systems within their bodies. Likewise, children require vitamins and minerals to build these healthy and functioning systems, making deficiencies a significant matter of concern for parents of picky eaters or children with dietary restrictions.
If you have concerns about your child’s growth or want to ascertain that you’re doing everything possible to support their growth, consider your child’s zinc and magnesium intake. If your child’s doctor has raised concerns, a change in diet or the addition of a well-rounded children’s supplement may be in order.
Zinc and Magnesium Are Actually Minerals
Zinc and magnesium are often included in the category of vitamins or included in multivitamin supplements, but they aren’t vitamins. Zinc and magnesium are necessary minerals that the body cannot produce on its own. This means that we have to get them from outside sources, like through our diet or using supplements.
Vitamins are things that come from organic sources, like fruits and vegetables. Minerals are inorganic. They occur naturally in rocks, dirt, and other things we shouldn’t directly eat. Instead, our food absorbs minerals through the soil it grows in (or in the case of shellfish and some fish, the things it consumes from the ocean floor) and passes the minerals onto our bodies.
The Importance of Minerals
Minerals help to create and repair bones, muscles, and organs. The body also uses them to produce enzymes and hormones. The creation of new bone and tissues and the production of hormones are two crucial processes in a child’s growth.
Although deficiencies are detrimental to fully grown adults, their effects are long-term and very noticeable consequences to growing children.
How Zinc Supports Your Child’s Growth
Zinc works to support cellular growth, the body’s metabolism, and the process of cellular differentiation. As a result, children who are deficient in zinc may have difficulty fighting off infections and may experience stunted growth.
Zinc is essential to children under age five, and children with zinc deficiencies may not grow to reach their full potential.
Severe zinc deficiency is extremely rare in children. Most children in developed countries will not experience severe zinc deficiency. However, mild or moderate forms of zinc deficiency may be common in some children. Your child’s pediatrician will be able to assess your child for zinc deficiency.
How Magnesium Supports Your Child’s Growth
Magnesium is necessary for the body to use vitamin D, and vitamin D is necessary for the body to use calcium. This key chain of events leads to bone growth and fortification, two crucial processes in children’s development. Your child will accumulate up to 40% of their total bone mass while they’re still young children and up to 90% of their bone mass by age 18. Deficiency or difficulty in accumulating bone mass can have long-term consequences.
Many young adults experience at least a slight magnesium deficiency. This is a preventable problem that requires an early solution for continued health into adulthood.
How Much Zinc and Magnesium Does My Child Need?
Health organizations have come to a consensus of daily recommended amounts of both zinc and magnesium for children from the ages of 1 to 13 years. These needs will change in teen years and adulthood.
A small avocado contains about 0.5 mg of zinc as a frame of reference, and a medium-sized banana contains about 30 mg of magnesium.
Zinc Recommendations by Age
- 1 to 3 years - 3 mg daily
- 4 to 8 years - 5 mg daily
- 9 to 13 years - 8 mg daily
Magnesium Recommendations by Age
- 1 to 3 years - 80 mg daily
- 4 to 8 years - 130 mg daily
- 9 to 13 years - 240 mg daily
Although these guidelines are a great framework, some children may require different amounts. For example, children with absorption issues or issues relating to bowel health may have significantly higher requirements, as their body may not be able to effectively process and use all of the zinc or magnesium they ingest.
Foods Naturally High in Zinc and Magnesium
Zinc is found in meat, shellfish, dairy, eggs, legumes, nuts, and dark chocolate. Shellfish, dairy, eggs, tree nuts, and peanuts are among the eight most common food allergies. Animal products are not suitable for children on vegan diets. For some households, helping children to obtain enough zinc through their diets can be tricky.
Magnesium is commonly found in nuts, legumes, fish, and soy products. Thus, fish and soy are the other two missing pieces in the “big 8” food allergies.
If your household is omnivorous and no one has any severe food allergies, it shouldn’t be difficult to help your child meet their daily needs through the food they eat -- unless you have a picky eater, which is a separate challenge.
Foods like bananas, seeds, whole grains, and leafy greens are sources of these important minerals that are food allergen safe and plant-based, but they may not be enough to prevent deficiencies in some children. Children would need to consume large quantities of these foods on a daily basis to meet their needs, and many children will quickly tire of leafy greens and daily bananas.
What to Do When Your Child is a Picky Eater
In a perfect world, everyone would get the right amount of everything they need from their diet. Adults with well-rounded diets can and often do. This proves to be more of a challenge with children.
Children have big needs, little bellies, and an opinion about everything you serve them. They are keen to eat macaroni and cheese or anything fried and shaped like a dinosaur. They’ll cross their arms and turn their noses up at a salad in a matter of seconds, failing to entertain the notion that there’s any possibility of a healthy dish being enjoyable.
It’s hard to explain the benefits of nutrition to young children, and the last thing you want to do is make them feel like green beans are the same as time out.
But, on the other hand, you don’t want to create a negative association between healthy foods and punishment, and taking a disciplinarian approach to introducing new foods will do exactly that. If you’ve ever had a standoff with a toddler, you know that it is often the toddler who ultimately wins.
Keep positively encouraging your toddler or child to try new foods, and make a show of how much you enjoy them. Don’t take a strict approach. Instead, allow your child’s natural curiosity to inspire them to try new things. As your child’s verbal skills progress, explain why these foods are healthy and what they do.
In the meantime, supplementation may prove to be a valuable solution. For example, giving your child a chewable supplement made with natural ingredients is a great way to help fill in vitamin and mineral gaps that may occur due to picky eating behavior.
Zinc and magnesium are both crucial for the growth and development of your child. Unfortunately, mild to moderate zinc deficiency is very common among children, and if it isn’t addressed early, it may pose severe consequences to your child’s health.
If you can’t get a sufficient amount of essential nutrients into your child’s diet, a supplement may be necessary. First, discuss zinc and magnesium intake with your child’s pediatrician. After an assessment, your pediatrician will be able to advise you of your child’s specific needs. This sometimes involves taking a multivitamin supplement.
Hiya’s multivitamin doesn’t contain magnesium, but it does contain zinc. In addition, our multivitamins are vegan (and therefore dairy-free), gluten-free, sugar-free, and non-GMO.
We worked with pediatricians to formulate the perfect multivitamin based on the nutritional needs of most children in the United States.
Pediatricians noted what most of their patients weren’t receiving enough of through their average diet. So we created the perfect children’s multivitamin supplement to close up those gaps.
Zinc supplementation and growth in children | World Health Organization