Children need vitamins and minerals for a healthy immune system, growth, mental and physical development, and overall good health.
Certain vitamins like Vitamin C and D are necessary for absorption of minerals, vitamin A helps keep eyes healthy, and B vitamins are necessary for helping the body make energy and metabolism, as well as participate in some rather important functions for brain development.
Vitamins come in two forms – fat soluble, and water soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the fat tissues and in your liver, ready and waiting for when the body needs them. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins.
Water-soluble vitamins are in the name – they dissolve in water. Basically, this means when water-soluble vitamins are ingested, they travel through the bloodstream to the necessary areas, and any excess comes out when you urinate. Therefore, these vitamins actually need to be replaced more often, as they don’t stick around.
Water-soluble vitamins – Vitamin C, and the all-important B-Vitamin group: thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folic acid (B9), and cobalamin (B12).
You may have noticed some missing numbers there… B4, B8, B10, and B11. Vitamin B4 or adenine, Vitamin B8 (inositol), Vitamin B10 (para-amino benzoic acid – PABA) and Vitamin B11 (salicylic acid) are no longer labelled as ‘essential vitamins required to be included in the diet because they cannot be manufactured by the body’.
This does not mean they are not important vitamins that some still recommend you should include. It is just that other vitamins are classed as ‘essential’ purely because our bodies require their daily contribution.
All vitamins are good for your child. However, there are four vitamins that being deficient in these vitamins is not as rare as one might think, and can result in serious developmental issues from the start, and through the child’s life.
Folate or vitamin B9 is important for children and soon-to-be mothers for development and growth of cells, red blood cell formation, producing RNA and DNA, and converting carbs into energy.
Good levels are found in Brussel sprouts, asparagus, spinach, chick peas, beans, and whole grains.
Children between 1-3 need around 150 micrograms, 4-8: 200mcg, and 9–13: 300mcg.
The general consensus for the safe dosage is 65-300mcg for children under 13.
Four spears of asparagus contain 88 micrograms, 1 cup of canned chickpeas 161mcg, 1 cup of green peas 75-95mcg, and a massive 256mcg in black beans per cup!
Toast asparagus rolls in oven for a delicious weekend brunch, smear avocado on crackers or toast with tomato, lightly fry an egg to go along with the avocado, slice a juicy orange for dessert, sauté broccoli in a stir-fry, add nuts and seeds for snacks, or in toss in some frozen papaya into a smoothie along with a frozen banana for a folate-rich snack!
Vitamin A is one of the fat-soluble vitamins that stores in tissues and the liver. Although deficiency used to not be a thing, it is becoming more prevalent in children that are picky eaters.
Vitamin A is most known for encouraging good eyesight, and improving our ability to see a range of colours! However, the benefits of Vitamin A don’t stop there. It is a rather important antioxidant to help reduce inflammation, in particular in cases of skin allergies. It assists in helping with growth, reducing risk of infection, and promotes cell production.
Children that eat a range of goods high in Vitamin A are less likely to have to take frequent trips to the doctor. And in this day-in-age of viruses going around, it is even more important for children to get a healthy dose.
The two main forms of Vitamin A are retinoids and carotenoids. Retinoids are mainly in animal sources, and carotenoids are mainly found in plant sources. Beta carotene is converted into Vitamin A by the body, and is the antioxidant compound that gives those lovely intense colours we see in fruit and vegetables.
Vitamin A tends to be high in those orange goodies like sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots, and egg yolks. Fortified milk, fish, dark leafy greens, and most other bright coloured fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin A.
The RDI for 1-3: 300micrograms, 4-8: 400mcg, 9-13: 600mcg, and older 900mcg.
A 100grams of apricots is 50mcg, half a cup of raw carrots contains 459 mcg, and here’s the whooper – Sweet potatoes contain 1,403 mcg of vitamin A!
Vitamin C is a well-known vitamin for boosting immunity. However, the benefits of this water-soluble vitamin don’t stop there. It helps to form and repair red blood cells crucial for carrying oxygen to the rest of the body, strengthening the walls of blood vessels, improving absorption of calcium for strong bones and teeth, and even helps to minimize bruising.
Citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi fruit, broccoli (also a good source of vitamin A) papayas, mango, potatoes, and tomatoes are great sources of vitamin C.
I will always come back to smoothies as an effective way to implement a range of these foods, or blending up a mixture to make frozen yoghurt, or ice blocks.
You can sneak in a surprising amount of these yummy foods without fussy eaters being the wiser.
It is recommended that 1-3s get 35mg a day, 4-8 25mg, 9-13: 45mg, and older 65-75mg.
Ages 1-3 need those extra nutrients like vitamin C for boosting the growth of blood vessels and cells in the early stages of development.
A 100g of strawberries contains 58milligrams, 100g of papaya contains 60mg, and 100g of kiwifruit or around 1-and-a-half kiwifruit has 92mg.
As you can see, there is no need to supplement Vitamin C. And fortunately, you generally cannot overdose as excess Vitamin C is excreted.
What happens if a child is deficient in B12?
Vitamin B12 is a crucial vitamin for the central nervous system, the formation of red blood cells, and turning food into energy.
Like with folate, or vitamin B9, it is also required for the formation of DNA and RNA to enable the production of new cells, and for their growth.
And, of course, it is vital for the functioning of the immune system. Research has pointed to some rather worrying theories on deficiencies in B12. It may be known to you that deficiency in this vitamin can cause developmental delay.
However, it goes even further. If children do not get enough of this crucial vitamin they can exhibit problems with speech, behavioural issues, language, social delays, and motor movements.
This condition is often misdiagnosed, and can lead to permanent issues. Symptoms of B12 deficiency or paediatric B12 deficiency mimics autism spectrum disorder; which in both cases children can display OCD behaviours, withdrawal, and writing difficulties.
Furthermore, gastric issues and irritability can be mistaken for colic and bowel issues, when in fact it may be a vitamin B12 deficiency.
The ‘late’ talkers and walkers, and the inability to thrive may come down to these issues. Which is why it is imperative more focus is given on adequate dose of B12, especially in cases of the growing trend of veganism and vegetarianism.
1–3-year-olds need 0.9mcg, 4-8: 1.2mcg, 9-13 need 1.8mcg.
Research suggests that it is pretty difficult to get too much. However, getting it from your food is better than a supplement.
Although organ meats and fish have high levels of B12, good luck getting kids to eat that.
Beef, fortified cereals, salmon, soy milk, dairy, and eggs are also good sources of this vitamin.
It seems that B12 from dairy is most bioavailable. This means even though a food may ‘technically’ be high in B12, all of that may not be absorbed adequately in the body. One cup of whole milk supplies 46% RDI of B12, along with the 46% RDI in 2 eggs. These two sources pack in a punch for dose and absorption.
Shitake mushrooms contain 5.6mg per 100g dry weight, edible algae like nori contains an amazing 63mg per 100g. Some of the nutrients in algae do diminish in the cooking stages. However, because they are so high in nutrients like B12, iodine and Omega-3, they still provide a pretty good dose for children that don’t eat meat, and contains a co-enzyme that increases the bioactive form of B12 in the body.
As with most seafood, fine in moderation. Seafood and algae can absorb other things from the ocean that are not particularly good for us. So, when going for foods high in B12, provide a lot of variety!
I will always recommend that it is best for children to get these vitamins from the diet rather than supplement form, they are more easily digested and absorbed, and decreases the risk of having too much, especially in the case of fat-soluble vitamins.
How do you sneak in those Goodies they need?
Comment below your favourite recipes that the kids love.