Five Must-Include Minerals for Child Development – Childhood Nutrition Made Easy

Protein, fibre and good fats are crucial for the development of a child. However, there are some other nutrients that ideally should be included. In most cases, where your child has a ‘balanced’ diet, they will probably be getting enough. Unfortunately, there are many foods that may be looked upon as healthy, and in fact they don’t contain what is actually needed.

We all need a variety of vitamins and minerals to encourage the healthy functioning of cells and organs, promote strong physical and mental growth, as well as reduce the risk of behavioural and other issues.

There are 5 crucial minerals children should consume every day to give them the best start in life, and for the future.

Let’s look at 5 minerals that boosts immunity, promotes healthy bone growth, and is necessary for brain development.

Iron

If a child is deficient in iron, this can cause behavioural and concentration problems. Iron is crucial for energy production, immunity, gastrointestinal processes, and regulation of body temperature. Most importantly, iron is in haemoglobin – the component in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the rest of the body. Without enough iron, oxygen cannot effectively circulate throughout the rest of the body, resulting in organs and cells malfunctioning.

Babies tend to get a good amount of iron in breast milk and/or milk formula, but when they are weaned off it, they need to consume foods that have good levels of iron in them.

If your child has a diet based mainly around carbohydrates, they could run the risk of being deficient in iron. The other tricky part to this is dairy can decrease the absorption of iron, irritating the stomach lining, and causing small amounts of iron to be lost in the stools.

One of the key points to ensure adequate absorption of this essential mineral is to avoid consuming dairy foods when eating iron-rich foods. Vitamin C helps the absorption of iron, so including vegetables like carrots and sweet potato with the protein meal is ideal.

Meat, enriched grains, beans and tofu are perfect protein and iron sources, accompanied by foods like broccoli, tomatoes, or strawberries for dessert. 

Most people know that red meat is high in iron; however, it’s not ideal for children or adults to have too much red meat.

So, what are the other options?

One cup of soybeans contains a whooping 8.8 mg of iron. Cooking them up and mashing them with potato or sweet potato can be a useful way of introducing them into the diet. And they certainly don’t need a whole cup, even a small handful contributes to the overall intake.

About a cup of tofu is around 3.3mg, and of course, both products are great sources of protein and fibre.

Lentils, peas, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, potatoes, mushrooms, whole grains. and quinoa are other sources that contribute to the overall iron intake. 

Children can be very fussy when it comes to foods like this, so mixing them with other foods can make it a little easier to get it in the diet.

It is recommended 7-12 month-year olds get 11mg, 1-3: 7mg, 4-8: 10mg, 9-13: 8mg, and older 15mg.

You may have noticed that infants need more iron. This is because in the early development stages, it is critically important for the production of new red blood cells, muscle cells, and brain development.

Calcium

The importance of consuming calcium is nothing new. We all know it is the building blocks for bones and teeth. We only get one chance to get it right, and getting enough calcium in when they are young greatly reduces the risk of bone problems later in life.

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. Not only necessary for bones, your muscles require it for movement, for neurones to carry messages to the brain, and for a strong heart.

Vitamin D and calcium go hand-in-hand. Like iron and vitamin C, calcium needs vitamin D to increase the bioavailability of this crucial mineral. Children only need about 10 mins in the sun a day to get enough Vitamin D to boost absorption.

It is recommended children should limit their intake of dairy to around 2 cups a day, while some children may need to limit that even more, due to allergies and other issues that can arise from consuming a lot of dairy. Which is why, consuming a range of calcium-enriched foods is top notch.

There’s no need to worry if dairy is an issue. Green leafy vegetables (spinach is quite high in calcium, however, the body cannot digest it all), nuts, tofu, seafood, Greek yoghurt, and broccoli are good sources of calcium. Eggs provide a double whammy, as they contain both calcium and vitamin D!

Low-fat Greek yoghurt is a fantastic source of calcium, and even some children that cannot tolerate other forms of dairy, may be able to tolerate this type of yoghurt. Greek yoghurt has less lactose and is more easily digested than other forms of dairy. Just make sure ‘whey protein concentrate’ isn’t on the ingredient list.

A half a cup of Greek yoghurt provides around 200 milligrams, and a full cup 400 milligrams. Yoghurt can also be flavoured with fruit and fruit purees, poured into small ice block containers and frozen in the fridge, or spoon some in a smoothie. Instead of them just getting a cup of yoghurt, they get a fun treat that even they can help to experiment with the flavours.

Green, leafy vegetables like Kale may be more tolerated by drizzling olive oil over it and roasting them in the oven to make kale chips, or adding to a smoothie.

Children 1-3 years-old need 700mg, 4-8: 1000mg, 9-18: 1300mg.

Zinc

Zinc is one of the most important minerals for growing bodies. Required for building new tissues, healthy growth, normal functioning of the immune system, and the development of reproductive organs and the brain.

Children ages 1-3 need around 3mg, 4-8 need only 5mg, 9–13-year-olds require 8mg.

Although this amount may seem small, it is not uncommon for children to be deficient. When children are lacking in zinc and/or calcium, white spots can appear on the nails. And worse case scenario, it can restrict growth and decrease resistance to infections.

Zinc is also important for the regulation of hormones!

Red meat, potatoes, nuts, legumes, seeds, whole grain cereals, and the super-food: eggs contain good levels of zinc. Meat and seafood are the best sources of zinc. And don’t tell the kids, (but for an occasional treat, a 100g bar of 70% dark chocolate or higher contains 3.3mg of zinc.)

Not to say to consume this daily, but every now and then doesn’t hurt.

Half a cup of baked beans has 2.9mg, 3 ounces of chicken has 2.4mg, and 1 cup of milk has 1mg of zinc.

Selenium

Selenium is an essential mineral to help with the creation of antioxidant enzymes, enables the stimulation of antibodies after immunizations, and aids in the proper functioning of hormone levels, in conjunction with zinc.

Children 1-3 need 20micrograms, 4-8: 30mcg, and 9-13: 40mcg.

Selenium deficiency is rare. And popping just one Brazil nut in a shake, or finely grinding it and sprinkling it over yoghurt and other foods well and truly covers their daily dose, as Brazil nuts contain around 60-90mcg. So even just half a Brazil nut does you good.

Probiotics

Prebiotics and probiotics aid in the digestion of nutrients, and boosts beneficial bacteria in the gut. This has a two-fold benefit. Good bacteria reduces the risk of developing bowel issues, and in particular pre- and probiotics improve the absorption of other nutrients.

In some cases, children may not be absorbing all these goodies. Thus, you may be providing a healthy diet, yet for various reasons the absorption of them is not taking place (particularly in cases of toddler diarrhoea, and food allergies/intolerances). Ensuring they have a healthy gut flora will increase the absorption and benefits.

Garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas and flaxseeds are some good sources of prebiotics. And you can purchase probiotic yoghurt.

It is recommended that children get these nutrients in via food, rather than supplement form. Some supplements are not bioavailable. So, even though it might state on the bottle all of these nutrients, the body may not absorb them effectively.

How do you sneak in those Goodies they need?

Comment below your favourite recipes that the kids love.

Published by sharlene25

Sharlene Almond is the author of the genre-bending Annabella Cordova series, and a New Zealand travel book Journey in little Paradise. She has written a range of health, writing and body language articles; contributing as a guest writer on other blogs. Over the last ten years, Sharlene has attained qualifications in Body Language, Criminology, Journalism, Editing, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Pet Care, and Animal Behaviour. While setting up an online nutritional business, she is studying to specialize in Medicinal Cannabis and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sharlene is also currently editing her second Annabella Cordova novel, with two others in the works. To support her online business, Sharlene sends out a trimonthly newsletter covering health, body language, writing, and even articles centered on health topics for your pet.

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