We all need vitamins and minerals to help maintain optimum health. This is particularly crucial among young children because their body organs are still developing. Without vitamins aiding the different metabolic, biochemical, and physiologic processes of the body, their growth and development can be seriously undermined. That is why it is essential that they receive the right vitamins necessary to help them achieve their full growth potential.
Here are the 5 top vitamins that all kids must receive to help them maximize their potential.
5 Best Vitamins for Kids
One of the most important vitamins for optimum growth and development is Vitamin A as it is needed for the development of good vision and the maintenance of a fully functioning immune system. Children need good eyesight to help them gather as much information as they possibly can about their environment. This becomes one of the fundamental components of sensory development and is one of the building blocks for cognitive development.
Infants require about 400 to 500 micrograms of Vit A per day while children 1-3 years old will need about 300 micrograms with a maximum of 600 per day. Older children 4 to 8 years old have a daily recommended allowance for Vit A of 400 micrograms and not to exceed 900 micrograms per day. For 9 to 13 year olds, their Vit A RDA is 600 with a maximum of 1,700 micrograms. Excellent sources of Vit A include liver, sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, collard greens, egg, apricots, papayas, tomatoes, and milk.
The family of B vitamins including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid, and cyanocobalamin are needed for a variety of functions in the body. These are primarily needed for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins as well as in the production of energy. These vitamins are also important in maintaining a healthy nervous and circulatory system as well as a fully functional integumentary system.
These are important in children’s optimum growth and development particularly in terms of their psychomotor development. They need all the energy they can get whenever they have to play. They also need a healthy functioning nervous system to enable them to solve simple to complex problems while at the same time enhancing their cognitive abilities.
Excellent sources of B vitamins include milk, eggs, chicken, meat, soybeans, cheese, fish, avocados, brown rice, bananas, asparagus, mushrooms, tree nuts, peanuts, cereals, potatoes, and other vegetables.
We all know that Vitamin C is good for strengthening the immune system especially if we have colds. However, one of the more important functions of Vit C is the stimulation of the body’s ability to synthesize collagen. As you know, collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is found in almost every organ including the muscles, the bones, and the skin. It also enhances the absorption of iron which can play a significant role in improving the delivery of oxygen to the different cells of the body.
This is very important for children as they need strong muscles and bones to help them in their exploratory plays. This also allows them to enjoy more physically demanding activities such as running, jumping, and hopping. They are also able to pedal their bikes and balance on their skateboards because of the healthy levels of collagen that is brought about by the right amounts of Vit C.
Good sources of Vit C include fruits like guava, kiwi, lychee, papaya, strawberry, and orange as well as other fruits. Vegetables like parsley, broccoli, and cauliflower are also excellent sources.
There’s a popular notion that the best source of Vitamin D is sunlight. Unfortunately, this is not entirely true. You see, not many foods have Vit D; they contain either cholecalciferol or ergocalciferol, the 2 most important compounds of Vitamin D. These 2 compounds are also synthesized by the skin. However, dermal synthesis only occurs in the presence of sunlight. So, sunlight does not provide Vit D but it does stimulate the skin to start producing the 2 compounds that will be converted by the live and the kidney into what we know as Vitamin D.
Why is this important? Well, this particular vitamin is important in the more efficient absorption of essential nutrients like calcium, phosphate, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Without Vitamin D, these minerals won’t be absorbed leading to problems in the bones, muscles, and the blood. This can have serious implications in the health of children particularly their bone development. Without healthy bones, children may not be able to enjoy their childhood to the fullest.
Some of the best dietary sources of Vit D include mushrooms, fish liver oils, cooked egg yolk, beef liver, and fatty fish like tuna, salmon, and mackerel.
Known as one of the body’s most effective antioxidant, Vitamin E is beneficial among children in terms of strengthening the immune system as well as enhancing the function of the nervous system. This simply means that kids will be able to ensure the full development of their cognitive abilities while at the same time protecting them from a variety of harmful substances that they may be exposed to during playtime activities. Vitamin E is also essential in the growth and development of smooth muscles like those found in the lungs, the heart, the blood vessels, and the gastrointestinal tract. These provide a healthier picture for our kids.
Vitamin E is naturally found in nuts like peanuts, walnuts, cashew, and almonds as well as vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. It is particularly abundant in oils like wheat germ oil, almond oil, canola oil, and sunflower oil.
Do Kids Really Need Vitamin Supplements?
If we are to believe aggressive advertisements saying that all children need a daily dose of Gummy Bear or Flintstone vitamins, then our task of maintaining the optimum growth and development of our children will be much easier.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Good nutrition doesn’t come from a pill or a syrup that you pour from a bottle. Optimum nutrition only comes from fresh and highly nutritious food. These vitamins and minerals that companies market and sell can all be found in the food that we eat. Just look at the list of the food sources of the different vitamins below and you will see that we don’t need vitamins in a capsule.
- Vit A – Yellow and green leafy vegetables, ripe yellow fruits, fish, liver, and milk
- Vit B1 – Brown rice, eggs, potatoes, oatmeal, vegetables, and liver
- Vit B2 – Asparagus, dairy products, green beans, bananas, and popcorn
- Vit B3 – Eggs, fish, mushrooms, vegetables, meats, and tree nuts
- Vit B5 – Broccoli, meat, and avocados
- Vit B6 – Vegetables, bananas, meat, and tree nuts
- Vit B7 – Peanuts, liver, egg yolk, and green leafy vegetables
- Vit B9 – Green leafy vegetables, liver, pasta, cereal, and bread
- Vit B12 – Eggs, milk, meat, fish, and poultry
- Vit C – Citrus and many other fruits, vegetables, and liver
- Vit D – Eggs, fish, liver, and mushrooms
- Vit E – Nuts, legumes, seeds, fruits, and vegetables
- Vit K – Green leafy vegetables, liver, and egg yolk
These are just some of the more common food sources of these vitamins. The fact of the matter is that we don’t need vitamin supplementation.
But there’s a big exception.
We don’t need vitamin supplementation if and only if our diet is well-balanced. It means, if we have the correct distribution of the different food groups in all of our meals, then we are able to achieve the correct balance of nutrients. Then there is no need for supplementation.
The same is true with kids. If they are able to obtain the right amounts of the right nutrients from the food that they eat, then there simply is no need for supplementation. And this is where the problem lies.
Most kids are finicky or very choosy especially when it comes to food. Sometimes, we parents become hostage to the tantrums of our kids that, if they don’t like the food that you serve them, they will no longer eat. Then, we give in to their demands rather than risk starving them and face the wrath of society for neglecting to feed our children. So, they tend to eat only those foods that they like. And honestly, not many children love vegetables. Majority of today’s children love sweet and fatty fried foods. So they simply won’t get the correct nutrition that their bodies need.
It is also possible that children are drinking way too much carbonated beverages which favor the leaching of vitamins from their young bodies. Children who are eating a lot of processed foods, junk foods, and fast foods will also have insufficient amounts of the right vitamins.
To help address this issue, vitamin supplementation can be of help. However, it should be clear that these vitamins are not replacements. They are merely intended to supplement the otherwise insufficient amounts of vitamins our children obtain from their diet. It doesn’t mean that you can forego with regular feeding your kids.
The Bottom Line
What experts recommend is to use vitamin supplements only when there is really a need. The best nutrition will still be that coming from natural food. The challenge therefore, for us parents is how to encourage our kids to love eating highly diverse yet equally balanced meals. This is something that all of us have to strive accomplishing.
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