We’ve heard it countless times from our parents, doctors, and even the media: vitamins are important. They’re essential for kids’ health and development. They aid in children’s optimal physical development, mental functioning, and even in battling diseases and infections. But the challenge lies in your child’s choice of food.
We talk to Ms Chua Kay Tse, Naturopath Health Educator, Nutritionist, and Senior Training Manager at Blackmores Singapore, to find out which vitamins and nutrients are necessary for a child. According to her, children tend to gravitate towards sugary foods as they like the taste of it. “Overconsumption of these food not only deprives children from obtaining the required nutrients for optimal growth, it also contributes to a child’s risk of becoming overweight and developing dental cavities,” she said.
Today, let’s dig in deeper to learn about the top vitamins and nutrients your kids need and the kinds of food they ought to eat for a natural supply of these essentials.
#1 Vitamin A
Vitamin A is vital for your little one’s growth, including bone development and vision improvement. Vitamin A also aids in strengthening one’s immune system, protecting your kid from infections. It promotes healthy cell and tissue growth and repair in the body. Sources of Vitamin A include dairy products, milk, oranges, carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes.
#2 Vitamin B12
One of the most important vitamins for children is Vitamin B12. It is essential for the body’s metabolism and energy. An adequate supply of Vitamin B12 promotes cell growth that is responsible for a healthy immune system, as well as in turning food into energy. Lack of Vitamin B12 often leads to a child’s lack of appetite and energy, and weakness. Your child can get Vitamin B12 from animal-based food like beef, liver, poultry, and fish. Dairy products, eggs, and breakfast cereals also contain Vitamin B12.
You might have heard of folate as an essential nutrient when you were pregnant. Babies in the womb benefit from folate because it aids in the development of the brain and spinal cord, and also prevents some birth defects. Folate or Vitamin B9 is also vital for your growing child because it promotes cell development, boosts brain development, and keeps the heart healthy. Fruits, whole grain cereals, peanuts, and chickpeas are some of the food choices that are rich in folate.
#4 Vitamin C
If there’s a vitamin that’s largely responsible for fighting off infections, it’s Vitamin C. If your child has Vitamin C deficiency, he’s more prone to illness, causing him to miss out on school or other activities. Commonly found in citrus fruits like oranges and others such as kiwis, melons, cabbage, cauliflower, and strawberries, Vitamin C is also key to iron absorption. Iron is vital for the development of hemoglobin, which helps bring oxygen to the rest of the body.
#5 Vitamin D
If Vitamin C assists in iron absorption, Vitamin D helps in calcium absorption, making it largely important for strong bone and teeth development. Aside from getting Vitamin D from food like salmon, egg yolk, sardines, and fish oils, exposure to sunlight also gives the body an adequate amount of the vitamin. Just don’t overexpose your child to the sun because of its harmful UV rays.
#6 Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that helps protect cells from free radicals, which are known to cause cancer and other inflammatory diseases. It’s also a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that too much of it can cause problems like bleeding gums. Get your child’s Vitamin E fix from margarine, nuts, spinach, sunflower seeds, and sweet potatoes.
For optimal brain development, Ms Chua highlighted the role of omega-3 fatty acids. “These are essential fats because the body cannot produce them from other fats or raw materials, it must be obtained through diet. Omega-3s are essential for brain development. Omega-3s are also important for cognitive function and supports the brain’s ability to perform.”
Sources of omega-3s include fish, especially oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, and tuna, vegetable oils, nuts, flaxseed seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy green vegetables. If your child doesn’t like these foods, check with your nutritionist if you can give him supplements with omega-3 fatty acids instead such as Blackmores’ Kids Fruity Fishies, which are chewable fish oil capsules he can take once a day.