The Importance of Vitamins and Your Children
Although many of us are concerned about trying to stay healthy and fit, for parents it is an especially important issue because we are responsible for the health of our children, and most parents want their children to be happy and healthy. The food that is pushed at us these days doesn’t offer many good alternatives. Food manufacturers seem to put most of their effort into marketing unhealthy processed, fast or “junk” foods. The nutritional value of these foods is questionable at best. That’s why as parents we should consider providing our children with the vitamins and nutrients that they are probably not getting from the food they eat. Below are some of the most important.
Vitamin A is essential for normal growth and also has a well-earned reputation as being beneficial for good vision. It also promotes healing, and helps maintain a healthy immune system. Sweet Potato, Carrots, Spinach, Kale are all high in Vitamin A.
Since there is a whole family of B vitamins, it is important to be sure children are getting the most important ones such as B-2, B-3, B-6, and B-12. Together, these vitamins help to keep energy levels up, and are also extremely important for the development and on-going health of the nervous system. The circulatory system also benefits from an adequate supply of these B vitamins. The B vitamins include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate (also called folic acid or folacin), vitamin B6, vitamin B12, biotin and pantothenic acid. The B vitamins work collectively and individually in every cell to perform many different jobs, including helping the body release the energy it gets from carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Thiamin: Some of the best sources of thiamin are pork, ham, dark green leafy vegetables, fortified whole-grain cereals and baked goods, wheat germ, enriched rice, green pea, lentils and nuts such as almonds and pecans.
Riboflavin: Consume riboflavin for healthy skin. Milk and milk products such as yogurt and cheese are rich in riboflavin. Asparagus, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, chicken, fish, eggs and fortified cereals also supply significant amounts of riboflavin to the diet.
Niacin: Chicken, turkey, salmon and other fish including canned tuna packed in water are all excellent natural sources of niacin. Fortified cereals, legumes, peanuts, pasta and whole wheat also supply varying amounts. Niacin promotes healthy nerve function, benefits your cardiovascular system and aids in energy production.
Folate: To remember which foods are high in folate, remember that the word folate has the same root as the word foliage. Leafy greens such as spinach and turnip greens and other fresh fruits and vegetables are all excellent sources of folate. All grain products such as breads, pastas and rice are fortified with folate. Consume 400 micrograms of folate daily. It promotes red blood cell health and nervous system function.
Vitamin B6: Some of the best sources of vitamin B6 are poultry, seafood, bananas, and leafy green vegetables such as spinach, potatoes and fortified cereals.
Vitamin B12: Animal foods are the only natural source of vitamin B12, but many products, including soy products and cereals, are fortified with B12 so it is widely available in the food supply. Other good natural sources include shellfish, such as clams, mussels and crab, fin fish and beef.
Biotin and Pantothenic Acid: Liver and egg yolks are the richest dietary sources of biotin — a nutrient needed for a healthy metabolism — but fortunately this B vitamin is well distributed throughout the food supply, so it is unlikely that anyone eating a balanced, varied diet will experience a deficiency. Salmon, pork and avocado are good sources; most fruits and vegetables contain a little biotin, as do cheeses and grain foods.
Yogurt and avocado are both excellent sources of pantothenic acid, a vitamin needed for enzyme function, but it is also available in a wide variety of foods such as legumes including lentils and split peas, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and broccoli.
Who does not think of oranges and orange juice when this vitamin is mentioned? Although someone may get an adequate supply of vitamin C from drinking orange juice all day long, most people will require a supplement to meet their nutritional requirements. Vitamin C plays a very important role in maintaining a healthy immune system, and also promotes muscle development and healthy skin. High vitamin C foods include bell peppers, dark leafy greens, kiwis, broccoli, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and peas.
The “sunshine vitamin” is one that may not be needed in supplement form if kids get adequate exposure to the sun. Sunshine prompts the body to create its own supply of vitamin D, which is also another one that is vital for proper function of the immune system. Kids are likely to need more vitamin D during the winter months due to decreased exposure to light from the sun. For our bodies to synthesis vitamin D using the sun, we need 20 minutes’ exposure daily without sunscreen and a good bit of skin exposed. Some great sources of Vitamin D is Salmon, Tuna, Fortified Milk, Fortified Cereals, Eggs, Mushrooms, Pork, Cod Liver Oil and Ricotta Cheese
This mineral is extremely important for the development of strong bones, which is especially important for children since they are developing the bone structure that they will live with for the rest of their lives. It should be noted that adequate levels of vitamin D are necessary before the body is able to properly absorb the calcium it needs. Foods such as Dark Leafy Greens (Watercress), Low Fat Cheese (Mozzarella Nonfat), Low Fat Milk & Yogurt (Nonfat Milk), Chinese Cabbage (Pak Choi, Bok Choy), Fortified Soy Products (Tofu), Broccoli, Green Snap Beans, Almonds and Fish Canned (Sardines, in Oil, with Bones)
This mineral is not only greatly beneficial for a healthy immune system, studies have found that there could be a link between zinc deficiency and both attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHS). Zinc promotes healthy brain function and since it tends to accumulate in the area of the brain called the hippocampus, it is likely that it can enhance memory and learning ability. Zinc is found in Seafood (Cooked Oysters), Beef and Lamb (Cooked Lean Beef Shortribs), Wheat Germ (Toasted), Spinach, Pumpkin and Squash Seeds, Nuts (Cashews), Cocoa and Chocolate (Cocoa Powder), Pork & Chicken (Cooked Lean Pork Shoulder), Beans (Cooked Mung Beans) and Mushrooms.
Although more and more is being revealed about the importance of having a sufficient number of “friendly” bacteria residing the digestive system, it is still an issue that seems to be overshadowed by others, such as the need for vitamins and minerals. Taking acidophilus, either from supplements or food products that contain these beneficial bacteria is another good way to boost immune system function, as studies on children in daycare centers has shown. Kids who took acidophilus were less likely to suffer with ear infections, colds and the flu. Yogurt, milk and other dairy products enriched with live acidophilus cultures are available in grocery stores and serve as an efficient way to boost your acidophilus intake. You can get acidophilus from plant sources, such as whole-wheat foods, barley, onions, tomatoes, bananas and garlic. Honey also contains varying concentrations of acidophilus.
***Please note: If you are taking antibiotics, your doctor may recommend that you also take probiotics to help your body maintain a healthy balance of bacteria. Although antibiotics are an effective tool to kill bacterial infections, they do not differentiate between helpful and harmful organisms, potentially eliminating bacteria that is good for you. To prevent adverse gastrointestinal effects of antibiotics, including diarrhea, some health care providers recommend eating acidophilus-rich foods two to three hours after you take the antibiotic medication.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that we would not be able to survive without. Insufficient levels of magnesium has been linked to ADD and ADHD as evidenced by a medical research study that was conducted in Poland. Children with ADHD were more likely to be deficient in certain nutrients and magnesium in particular. High magnesium foods include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit, dark chocolate, and more.
Vitamins and minerals are substances that are found in foods we eat. Our bodies need them to work properly, so we grow and develop just like we should. When it comes to vitamins, each one has a special role to play. It is important that we give our children the vitamins and minerals that their little bodies need to grow and develop.