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Importance of essential vitamins and minerals for children

Vitamins and minerals form important elements of the total nutritional requirements of a child. However, there are 6 Vitamins and Minerals that stand out as critical for growing children.

  • Vitamin A promotes normal growth and development; helps in tissue and bone repair; maintains healthy skineyes, and immune responses.

  • Vitamin Bs. The family of B vitamins-B2, B3, B6, and B12 – aid in metabolism, energy production, and healthy circulatory and nervous systems.

  • Vitamin C promotes healthy muscles, connective tissue, and skin

  • Vitamin D promotes bone and tooth formation and helps the body absorb calcium.

  • Calcium helps build strong bones as a child grows.

  • Iron builds muscle and is essential for healthy red blood cells

The human body itself is unable to produce adequate amounts of many vitamins, they must be obtained from the diet. The body needs these vitamins in only tiny amounts, and in a balanced diet, they are usually present in sufficient quantities. Ideally, children  should get their vitamins from a balanced, healthy diet that includes:

  • Milk and dairy products like cheese and yogurt (preferably low-fat products for kids over age 3)

  • Plenty of fresh fruits, leafy and green vegetables

  • Protein like chicken, fish, meat, eggs, lentils and beans

  • Whole grains like oats, wheat, ragi and brown rice

For some children, however, paediatricians may recommend a daily supplement. Given the reality of time-crunched parents, a well-balanced, home-cooked meals are not always possible. That is why paediatricians may recommend a daily multivitamin or mineral supplement for:

  • Children who do not eat regular, well-balanced meals made from fresh, whole foods

  • Finicky eaters who simply are not eating enough.

  • Children with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or digestive problems, especially if they are taking medications (be sure to talk with your child's doctor first before starting a supplement if your child is on medication)

  • Children eating a lot of fast foods, convenience foods, and processed foods

  • Children on a vegetarian or a vegan diet (they may need an iron supplement), a dairy-free diet (they may need a calcium supplement), or another restricted diet

  • Children who drink a lot of aerated drinks, which can leach vitamins and minerals from their bodies.

In the case of babies, breast milk or formula milk is almost everything a baby needs for the first four to six months. The exception is vitamin D, which is recommended as a supplement for breastfed babies and babies who drink less than 32 ounces of formula per day. Supplements may be necessary if a baby was born prematurely, at a low birth weight, or small for gestational age; consistently drinks less breast milk or formula than other babies his age and does not make up the difference with food: or has chronic health problems that affect his ability to eat. A mother’s own health may also come into play too.  

Always consult your paediatrician before you do decide to give your child a supplement. It is important to note that vitamin supplements should never be regarded as a replacement for nutritious foods.

References
Dietary Guidelines for Indian. National Institute of Nutrition. ICMR 1998. http://ninindia.org/dietaryguidelinesforninwebsite.pdf

 
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