Vitamins

And Minerals For Toddlers

The period in a child's development between one and three years of age can often be a difficult one - particularly when it comes to eating. Food and nutrients are the building blocks which help to form strong teeth and bones, muscles and healthy tissues. A good diet can also help to protect against illness.

Important nutrients for toddlers

Vitamins for health

Particularly important vitamins are A, C and D.

Vitamin A is needed for:

  • healthy skin,

  • eyesight,

  • boosting immunity, and

  • cell development.

Vitamin A can often be lacking in the diets of toddlers.

Vitamin C is important for:

  • the immune system,

  • helping wounds to heal,

  • healthy bones, and

  • tissues growth.

It also helps in the absorption of iron, especially iron from non-meat sources. Vitamin C intakes are often low in children who don't eat much in the way of fruit and vegetables.

Vitamin D is:

  • essential for the absorption of:
    • calcium,

    • magnesium,

    • zinc,

    • iron,

    • phosphorous and

    • other minerals

  • necessary for the assimilation of vitamin A,
  • necessary for the health of the bones and teeth,
  • necessary for the metabolism of calcium and magnesium, and
  • required for kidney function.

Vitamin D can be synthesised through the action of sunlight on the skin. In winter, and if your child is always covered if outside, make sure you include dietary sources of vitamin D, along with supplements (in tablet or liquid form) that contain this vitamin.

The B group vitamins are very important, particularly B6 which is:
  • necessary for the absorption of vitamin B12,

  • required for the production of antibodies and red blood cells,
  • required to absorb zinc,

  • essential for the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and fats, and
  • necessary for the synthesis of nucleic acid.

Minerals for health

The minerals iron, calcium and zinc are all needed by the growing toddler.

Iron is:

  • necessary for the production of hemoglobin in red blood cells and certain enzymes,
  • necessary for immune activity,
  • required to supply oxygen to the cells, and
  • required by the liver.

Iron-deficiency is common in toddlers as iron requirements are high but dietary intake is often low, especially if little or no meat is eaten. If your toddler is listless, irritable, tires easily, yawns all the time and is very pale, then it may be a good idea to have them checked for anaemia.

Poor eating habits, monotonous diets, overemphasis on foods that have a low iron content, too much liquid in the form of milk and fruit juice, can all contribute to a lack of iron in the diet.

Calcium is:

  • necessary for the action of the muscles,
  • required by the brain and the nervous system,
  • necessary for blood clotting,
  • necessary for strong bones and teeth,
  • necessary for cell structure, and
  • required for the body to absorb vitamin B12.

The recommended intake of calcium for this age group is 800 mg a day. Requirements will be met as long as the child consumes enough food sources of calcium. Good sources of dietary calcium are shown below.

Magnesium is:

  • required for most body processes, including energy production,
  • required to bind calcium to the teeth and bones,
  • required for the contraction and relaxation of muscles (including the heart),
  • required for growth and repair, and
  • necessary for bone development.

Magnesium deficiency in young children has been associated with hyperactive behaviour.

Zinc is:

  • required for growth, energy metabolism, and immunity,
  • necessary for insulin storage,
  • required for carbon dioxide transportation,
  • necessary for making the collagen in the body, including the bones, and
  • necessary for vitamin A metabolism and distribution.

A toddler with a zinc deficiency may fail to grow, have a poor appetite, and their cuts and scrapes may take longer than normal to heal. The best sources of zinc are meat and fish, especially seafood, which many toddlers may not be inclined to eat. Zinc is, therefore, a nutrient that you may have to supplement.

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