6 Best Nutrients for Children’s Growth

Childhood Nutrition: Is a healthy diet enough?

We can all agree that – for adults and children alike – a healthy diet is essential for good health and nutrition.  A healthy, balanced diet which includes a variety of foods and limits salt, sugars and saturated fats should of course the first port of call for parents looking to give their child the very best start in life.

But, if we’re honest, how many of us can say that we always eat the amount of fruit and vegetables we are supposed to? And, how confident are we in the quality of the food we do eat? It is widely recognized that processing, storing and cooking foods can often deplete their nutritional value.  It is also known that modern crops have lost nutritional value – for example, in 2020 you would need to eat 53 peaches to achieve the same level of Vitamin A provided by just two in 1953!

As a result, many studies have shown that even healthy diets will often fall below suggested dietary intakes for key nutrients. In truth, not one of us will have a truly balanced diet. With children, it can be even more difficult to feel sure they are getting the nutrients they need.

How can children’s nutrition supplements offer support?

Vitamins and supplements are no substitute for a healthy diet. However, many parents – and nutritionists – do advocate for complementing a child’s diet with supplements. Supplementation helps to counteract both the nutrient deficiencies of food produced by modern farming techniques and the fussy eating habits of small children which mean that many nutrient dense foods are not consumed regularly enough, if at all.

Therefore, nutritional supplements for children can help to fill the gaps left by a less than ideal diet. It can be helpful to think of supplements as providing a bridge between what they should eat and what they do eat.

What nutrients does a child need?

Children require a wide range of nutrients to ensure optimum health and wellbeing.  Six of the best children’s supplements – and the things parents often ask about – are:

1. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential during childhood and adolescence, where it plays a vital role in:

  • the structure and development of healthy bones and teeth
  • cell growth
  • the absorption and utilisation of calcium

As highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic, vitamin D is also one of the best vitamins for childrens’ immune systems.

In fact, vitamin D is so important for youngsters that the UK’s Department of Health recommends all children, from birth to the age of five, take a vitamin D supplement providing 400iu vitamin D.

2. Calcium

Calcium is needed for healthy bone and tooth growth and development in children and also supports normal muscle function.

Building strong bones as a child will support an individual later in life. With 99% of the body’s calcium being stored in the bones, a regular supply from the diet is essential. There are lots of great natural sources of calcium – the best being dairy foods, followed by leafy greens, almonds, white beans, red beans, figs and prunes.

However, factors including dairy intolerance and a move to a more plant-based diets mean that many children do not achieve their minimum requirements for calcium intake. A children’s calcium supplement can therefore be a great addition to their daily routine.

3. Vitamin C

Most of us are familiar with vitamin C and aware of its importance in supporting our immune systems. However, vitamin C also plays a key role in the formation of collagen which is required for the normal function of blood vessels, bones, cartilage, teeth, gums and skin, all of which are vital for a growing child’s development.

Most animals in the animal kingdom make their own vitamin C, however, humans are one of the exceptions. Our bodies cannot manufacture vitamin C therefore we need to consume it regularly in our diet. It can be found in citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers, potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage and cauliflower.

Unfortunately, cooking these foods does reduce the vitamin C content and consequently the diet can become deficient in this important nutrient.

Did you know? The UK Government recommends that all children aged 6 months to 5 years should be given a vitamin C supplement every day. 

4. Omega-3

Childhood is a vital period of brain growth and development.  The long chain Omega 3 fatty acid DHA is recognised as essential for normal brain function. It has many important roles, including supporting:

  • the maintenance of normal brain function
  • normal visual development in infants
  • normal brain and eye development in infants
  • normal heart function

The period from birth to 2 years of age is a primary growth phase for the human brain and this development continues throughout childhood and into adolescence. Key spurts of development have been identified at 2 years, 7-9 years and during mid adolescence. Tissue content of DHA is thought to be important for this development.

The body is unable to manufacture DHA, so it is essential that it is provided in our diets or supplements.

The best food sources of DHA are salmon, fresh tuna, trout, mackerel and sardines. Typical intake of these foods in children worldwide is low, which is why children’s omega-3 supplements can be helpful.

5. Iron

Iron is an essential nutrient which is required to form the healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. Iron also plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy immune system and helps to reduce tiredness and fatigue.  In children, one of the most important roles it plays is in supporting healthy cognitive (mental) development.

If the mother has not become iron deficient during pregnancy, a healthy full-term new-born baby will generally be born with enough iron stores in their body for the first six months of life.

After this first six months, it is important to ensure that the weaning foods start to provide some iron, to help meet the baby’s needs.  Babies being weaned onto a largely plant-based diet, or those remaining on a mainly breast milk-based diet, may benefit from supplementing their diet with iron, to support cognitive development.

A lack of iron in a child’s diet can adversely affect mental development and, especially if they develop anaemia, a lack of healthy red blood cells.

6. Zinc

Due to the role that zinc plays in supporting the immune system, this essential nutrient has been extremely popular with those looking to support their immune function.

However, zinc has a role to play in much more than just immunity. In fact, more than 80% of the zinc present in the human body is found in bone, hair and skin and as a component of biological processes. The roles that zinc plays in protein synthesis and cognitive function are particularly important for a child’s growth and development.

The best food source of zinc is oysters! There is also plenty in red meat and poultry. Other good sources include beans, nuts, crab, lobster, whole grains, breakfast cereals, and dairy products.

Follow @naturesaidjuniors on Instagram for fun facts, games and tips to support your child as they grow.

Children’s Supplements From Natures Aid

Natures Aid have been experts in natural health since 1981.  We are proud to offer nutritional support for the whole family, including two extensive ranges of children’s supplements.

We know that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to children’s nutrition.  The child’s age, the size and format of the supplement, and specific nutritional needs are all important considerations.

Mini Drops – Nutrition for Infants & Children Aged 0 to 5 years

Mini Drops are Natures Aid’s best-selling range of children’s vitamins, carefully developed to support infants and children under five.

We recognise that large tablets can present a choking hazard for young children.  We also know that flavour is important – the product needs to palatable and enjoyable for the child to take!  Ease of use for mum and dad was also an important consideration for us. 

Considering all of these factors, the Mini Drops range includes five liquid drops and one powder, creating a fuss free range which can be easily added to foods or drinks.

Mini Drops are made from naturally sourced ingredients, contain no added sugar and no artificial sweeteners, with no artificial flavourings or colours. The range includes:

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