For adults and especially children, diet and nutrition should be a top priority! A healthy and varied diet will help you and your family thrive. You truly are what you eat! When it comes to your children, it is crucial to ensure they get the nutrients they need while they are growing and developing.
Nutrient deficiencies are common, but with the proper care, you can adjust your diet or add supplements to prevent these deficiencies and their associated effects..
What is a nutrient deficiency? It’s technically defined as the lack of nourishing substances, such as vitamins and minerals, necessary for health and growth. It is caused when not enough nutrients are consumed or absorbed to meet your body’s daily requirements.
Many processed foods have some of the nutrients kids need, but not enough. Supplementation is sometimes required. However, it is important early on to model eating a colorful, plant-based, whole food diet to avoid these common nutrient deficiencies.
Top 5 Common Nutrient Deficiencies
Iron is an essential mineral that allows red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. This is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies affecting 25% and more of the population. Children under 1yo and in toddlerhood are also at increased risk for iron deficiency and should be screened. Risk factors for iron deficiency include cow’s milk ingestion, breastfeeding, and low-iron formula-use. Toddlers tend to be picky and preferentially choose carbohydrates and fruits. Anemia, fatigue, slowed growth, poor wound healing, a weak immune system and impaired brain function can be a result of unaddressed iron deficiency. Common sources of iron are found in red meat, organ meat, shellfish, and canned sardines. Other sources for vegetarians and vegans include beans, seeds, and dark greens. Ask your ND about how to add iron to your family’s diet, and when supplementing, remember to confirm dosage with your ND and keep all iron-containing supplements out of your child’s reach as too much iron is also be dangerous.
Iodine is important for normal thyroid function and thyroid hormone production. It regulates metabolism rate, growth, brain development, and bone maintenance. This currently affects nearly a third of the world’s population. The deficiency can cause developmental abnormalities. Symptoms include an enlarged thyroid gland (called goiter), shortness of breath, increased heart rate, and weight gain. Some sources for iodine are seaweed, eggs, fish, and dairy. In most first-world countries, iodine is provided in fortified foods such as bread and in salt.
Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that functions as a steroid hormone in the body. When skin is exposed to the sun, vitamin D gets produced from the cholesterol in the skin, where it then is processed in the kidneys to its active form. People who live far from the equator are more likely to have this deficiency. Numbers also rise for older people and those with darker skin. For children, deficiency can cause growth delays and soft bones because Vitamin D acts to promote Calcium absorption and retention. The best food sources for vitamin D are cod liver oil, fatty fish, egg yolks, and sun exposure. Vitamin D drops are also recommended for babies and children when breastfeeding.
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Also known as cobalamin, B12 is one of the many water-soluble B vitamins. Vitamin B12 is essential for the formations of the brain, blood, and nervous system function. It can be obtained from food and supplements, and every cell needs this vitamin. The absorption of this vitamin decreases as we age. Sources of the vitamin include shellfish, meat, eggs, and dairy products. There aren’t as many vegan or vegetarian options in food when it comes to Vitamin B12, but supplements can do the trick in that case.
Calcium is vital for bone growth and dental health, especially in growing children. It is also important to heart, muscle and nervous system function. When the body absorbs enough calcium in the blood, the rest is deposited into the bones. When people are calcium deficient, the most common symptom is osteoporosis (fragile and soft bones). Make sure to consume boned fish, dairy products, and dark green veggies.
There are so many more essential vitamins and nutrients than just the top 5 common nutrient deficiencies that we described here. We have to supply our bodies with what it needs in order for it to grow smart and strong. Talk to a Naturopathic doctor for your child’s health to get individualized recommendations on supplements and nutrition. You’d be amazed the sneaky ways we can get these nutrients into your kiddos.