Nutrients for Growing Kids
There are many nutrients freely occurring in food that can help in childhood growth and development.
It is not appropriate to single out any one of these nutrients because each works with the other to promote total and holistic well being for the child, and for them to live a healthy lifestyle.
Of course, when child nutrition is the subject, the following five nutrients come out more often than the others.
Calcium: Kiddie Strong Bone Partner
Childhood is the stage when bone growth is most active and it is during this stage that skeleton integrity is determined for the body’s framework to be viable all throughout life. Over and above other physiological components, calcium, which helps in bone development, heartbeat normalcy, blood clotting, and muscle function, is the most abundant mineral in the body. The bones are a source of calcium for the body. To maintain normal calcium levels in the blood, the body takes some calcium from the bones. This is the reason why children’s calcium needs should be kept in check. Currently, there is a calcium crisis among American kids and this does not indicate a bright future for childhood health.
Of all the children in America, female teenagers have the lowest calcium intake in relation to their needs. It is, unfortunately so, during the state of adolescence also that half of the body’s bone mass is formed. Calcium deficiency during these stages poses the risk of developing bone thinning osteoporosis later in life. This risk is even greater for females.
Calcium needs are relative to the age of the child. Below is a list of children’s daily calcium needs according to age:
- 500 milligrams – 1 to 3 years old
- 800 milligrams – 4 to 8 years old
- 1,300 milligrams – 9 to 18 years old
To remedy children’s calcium deficiency, it is wise to give them calcium-rich drinks and snacks like 8 ouches of white or flavored milk, or yogurt, and 1.5 ounces of hard cheese; all of these contain 300 milligrams of calcium.
Interestingly enough, other than just dairy foods which are concentrated sources of calcium, the mineral can also be found in plant products such as fortified orange juice, soy beverages, tofu processed with calcium sulfate, and breakfast cereals.
Calcium in your child’s daily diet does not only influence bone development, but also helps then achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Dairy is a kid’s friend in most cases because higher calcium levels can lower the body’s fat content, usually in children aged 2 to 8.
Protein: Body Tissue Essential
There is protein in all tissues in the body, hence its importance to children who are virtually growing every single second.
More than just the calories that protein provides, it also contains amino acids which are much more important to the body. These acids serve as building blocks for new cells and tissues, and are, as well, the vital ingredient in other physiological compounds like enzymes and hormones.
Protein is abundant in almost any kind of food, especially animal and plant foods but only animal protein, particularly eggs, can give children essential amino acids, a unique component that the body cannot make. Plant foods cannot give children all of the amino acids. Vegetarians will miss out on this acid if they don’t stock up on a diverse roster of protein packed plant food, or they could eat dairy foods and eggs to make it much easier.
Infants need more protein than other children based on weight. The protein requirement increases again just before adolescence, when the body prepares itself for more growth.
The following are the daily protein needs of children:
- 13 grams – 1 to 3 years old
- 19 grams – 4 to 8 years old
- 34 grams – 9 to 13 years old
- 46 grams – Females, 14 to 18 years old
- 52 grams – Males, 14 to 18 years old
Kids don’t shy away from protein. Most of the foods that are rich in protein, like yogurt, milk, meat, chicken, seafood, or egg are kid’s favorites!
Fiber: Simply complex!
Since fiber is indigestible and kids can’t get the carbohydrates that they need from it, what makes it so special?
Fiber can prevent type 2 diabetes in children as well as it can in adults; the same goes for its effect on lowering elevated blood cholesterol levels. Fiber can give kids a satiated feeling and ensure that they move their bowels regularly. Since foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables keep kids feeling fuller longer, then they tend to eat lesser, keeping them away from weight problems. Fiber rich foods also pack in a healthy helping of vitamins and minerals.
A nifty technique in determining your child’s fiber needs per day is by adding five to your kid’s age; so if your kid is 10 years old, then he needs 15 grams of fiber a day. This number serves as a guidepost for parents and a reminder to read food labels. Of course, you don’t have to keep a watchful eye on every gram of fiber that your child eats. Simply including fiber-rich items in the family diet will give the child the fiber that he needs.
Antioxidant Nutrients: Kiddie Defense Army
Antioxidants are considered to be the power players of nutrients. These include vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and the mineral, selenium. These nutrients can prevent chronic conditions in adults like cancer and heart disease.
Antioxidants fight against the effects of free radicals which are by-products of normal metabolism and can be present during exposure to air pollution, cigarette smoke, and strong sunlight. DNA, which is vital for cell reproduction, can be damaged by free radical accumulation.
There are no pills that contain antioxidants so kids should get these from food to give their immune system a boost. There is yet no medical study that shows the benefits of antioxidants in children, but what’s there to loose? These nutrients can be everything but bad for children.
Blueberries and other berries, as well as colorful fruits and vegetables are rich in amino acids. Broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, cherries, and carrots are also rich in antioxidants.
Iron: Kids’ indispensable buddy
Childhood growth is dependent on iron. The main function of iron in the body is to distribute oxygen to the cells. It is also important for normal brain development and function. Iron deficiency can cause irreversible damage to the developing brain.
Worse, iron is also the most common nutritional deficiency in America. The victims of this nutrient deficiency include older infants, young children and pregnant women. The fast development of small children puts them at risk, so does the monthly blood losses of teenage girls and women. These groups should take iron supplements and eat iron-rich foods to make up for the deficiency. Anemia is a common disorder resulting from iron deficiency and this condition can take away the child’s energy. Hemeiron can be acquired from both plant and animal products like meat, dark meat, poultry, and seafood while nonheme iron can be derived from spinach, legumes, fortified breads, cereals, pasta, and grains.
Regular consumption of fortified grains can supply enough iron even for vegetarians. It is advisable, though, that one should take an iron multivitamin supplement for added safety.
The absorption of nonheme iron can be improved if this is taken along with Vitamin C, so kids should take in lots of oranges, orange juice, tomatoes, kiwi, strawberries, or red bell pepper with each meal to ensure the absorption of this nutrient.