MICRONUTRIENTS FOR KIDS
Micronutrients include vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals that are required in small amounts, but they are essential for growth, development, and immunity of your child. They are necessary for hormone, enzyme and hemoglobin production, cell performance, energy production...
Micronutrients are obtained from our diet. However, today many children are fed with overly processed foods that has minimal nutritional value, including low number of micronutrients.
Micronutrient deficiencies are widespread especially in children. To ensure that your child receives sufficient number of micronutrients their diet should include variety of sessional fruit and vegetables, grains and pulses.
Some kids would need additional help and on-going support with nutritional supplementations depending on their health issues.
Even if your child’s diet contains optimal amount of whole foods and fresh produce, depending where produce was grown, some essential minerals are found in minimal amounts. For example, soils in New Zealand are deficient in iodine, selenium, and zinc.
Factors that might contribute to most common micronutrient deficiencies in children and adults include:
Convenient foods (over - processed, lacking in nutrient value),
Stress (increase the rate of nutrients use)
Reduced absorobtion of nutrients due to gut inflammation, dysbiosis or other issues
Environmental toxins (reducing availability of nutrients)
Farming methods and poor mineral content in soils
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in children. Iron is an essential mineral for healthy growth and development, normal synthesis of certain hormones and neurotransmitters, and DNA synthesis. Iron is necessary for carrying oxygen in the blood. Deficiency of iron can lead to anaemia, where the amount of blood cells is decreased. A lack of iron affects energy levels , immunity, and body temperature regulation.
Children and adults with anaemia can feel fatigued or have a harder time playing or exercising. Anaemia can cause significant developmental delays in children because less oxygen is getting to the growing brain. It can lead to, picky eating, poor appetite, recurrent infections, ADHD, learning disabilities, or other behavioural problems.
Current recommendations are to offer iron-rich foods as early as 4-6 months to ensure that there is enough iron available for the period of growth and development that happens in the first year.
Children fed vegetarian or vegan diet are in higher risk for iron deficiency as animal sources have higher bioavailable iron compared to vegetable and grain sources.
Adding food sources of vitamin C like lemon, kiwi or bell pepper can increase absorption of iron. Sometimes a squeeze of lemon over the food can be just enough to make a big difference
High cow milk consumption can affect child’s ability to absorb iron.
Food reach in IRON include:
Beans – Lentils, black beans, kidney or lima beans.
Quinoa is a complete protein (containing balanced amino acids). Children may enjoy cooked quinoa with almond milk, cinnamon and a touch of real maple syrup.
Blackstrap molasses – Make sure to get organic molasses (no pesticides), and mix a teaspoon or two in with sweet potatoes, quinoa, or mix with fruit and veggies.
Green leafy vegetables like kale, collard greens, spinach, parsley and turnip greens.
Sesame seeds or pumpkin seeds – are high in many minerals, including iron, calcium and zinc. Tahini and pumpkin seed butter are delicious spread on crackers, toast or cut vegetables.
Meats & organ meats –Ground meats can be mixed with potatoes, yams, squash, pasta.
Zinc is another common mineral deficiency in children. Zinc is necessary co-factor for over 100 chemical reactions in our body. From maintaining immune system, hormone production, tissue repair, brain function and appetite regulation.
Zinc plays main role in production of antioxidants that protects genes from becoming damaged, & helps detoxification of the body. Studies has demonstrated that zinc has antiviral properties and fight viruses by stimulating antiviral activities.
For children this is mineral necessary for healthy growth, neuro development, proper immune function, and metabolism. Deficiencies in children can cause slow growth and increased risk of infection. Signs of zinc deficiency in children include:
Eczema, diaper rash,
Slow wound healing
Picky eating (due to changes in sense of taste & smell)
Learning & memory
Irritability, anxiety, depression
Zinc deficiencies are connected with eating processed food, foods lacking in protein and having poor variety of food intake. However, poor digestion and impaired absorobtion could cause zinc deficiency despite optimal intake of zinc rich foods. Exposure to toxins, medications, and stress could also influence zinc absorobtion.
Increasing intake and variety of zinc rich foods and in some cases zinc supplementation is required to increasing zinc balance.
Foods rich in zinc include:
Meat from grass fed beef, lamb, chicken, livers, salmon, almonds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, beans, lentils, spinach, asparagus.
Oysters are very high on zinc but probably not attractive option for kids.
Ground meats mixed with ground livers, beans and veggies, and home baking that include nuts and seed are easy way to increase zinc intake for your child.
Consult with your health care practissioner if you need a help battling with picky eater, or constantly runny nose, infections, skin issues.
Over last several decades Mg deficiencies in children and rest of population is increased due to increased intake of processed food, sugar loaded drinks, and change in food preparations.
Mg reach foods include leafy greens, legumes (beans, lentils, peas), grains (oats, buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice), nuts (almonds, cashews), seeds (chia, flex, hemp, sesame, pumpkin seeds) bananas.
Considering that many children do not intake recommended amounts of vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, with their diet it is not surprising that Mg deficiency is prevalent today.
If insufficient intake of Mg via diet and conditions like anxiety, stress, asthma, are present, supplementing is required. There are many forms of Mg, so before buying consult myself or any other natural health practitioner for the right type and dose of Mg.
Epsom salt added to kids baths are also a great way to increase magnesium, which is absorbed through the skin.
Common symptoms of Mg deficiencies include:
Agitation & irritability
Muscle spasms and weakness
Restless leg syndrome
Magnesium contributes to mental wellness as it is involved in neurotransmitters function and signaling and also plays a role in nerve functioning and supporting a healthy mood. Mg deficiency has been linked to restlessness, anxiety and learning disabilities in children.
Deficiency of Mg is more common in in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) than children without ADHD. Many studies demonstrated improvements in behavior when vitamin B6 and magnesium supplementation included.
Mg has shown positive effects on sleep- in infants increased the length of deep sleep, while in children in adults increased length of restorative sleep.
The best source of vitamin D is sunlight. Vitamin D is made in the skin after exposure to sunlight, then transformed by the kidneys and the liver into the active form, 25-hydroxy vitamin D. But, many people do not produce enough vitamin D on their own.
Vitamin D deficiency is one of most prevalent nutritional deficiencies in both children and adults. Yes, even here in our beautiful sunny New Zealand vitamin D deficiency is common.
Vitamin D is essential for:
Healthy bone growth and calcium metabolism,
Regulation of Immune function
Adequate vitamin D levels demonstrated reduction in risk for some chronic diseases like colon and breast cancers, multiple sclerosis and respiratory infections.
There are no clear signs or symptoms in people with low vitamin D levels, but could be associated with tiredness and frequent illness.
Children deficient in vitamin D can experience bone and muscle pain, and some of them may start walking later than their friends in the same age group. Low vitamin D can cause low calcium, which can lead to muscle cramps and seizures in children. Very low vitamin D can cause softening and weakening of bones leading to condition called rickets in children or osteomalacia in adults.
Risk of vitamin D deficiency would include:
lack of sun exposure
living away from the equator
having darker skin tone
inflammation blocking the conversion of vitamin D
There are only few foods rich in vitamin D including, fatty fish, eggs, mushrooms and cod liver oil.
Exposure to sunlight without sunscreen, about 15 min (for children) – 30min (for adults) several days per week is recommended for optimal Vitamin D production.
For some kids and adults supplementation with Vitamin D is required to get to the optimal level.
There are other micronutrients that are equally important for kids development including Vitamin Bs, Vitamin A, E, K, potassium, calcium, iodine, selenium... Each one of those micronutrients have important role in the body and children development. If you like to find out if your child is deficient in any micronutrients give us a call or book an appointment with Change Naturopathy.