Parents, you want the best for your children--that goes without saying. But despite your best, gold star efforts, your children can still develop nutritional deficiencies. Nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, are essential for good health, especially in children who are still growing and developing. We get most of our nutrients from what we eat, but today’s foods are not as nutrient-rich as your children need them to be. Worried that your children may not be getting the nutrients they need? Here are 4 types of deficiencies, their symptoms, and how to incorporate them into your children’s diet. 1. Iron
This mineral is a main component of red blood cells, responsible for transporting oxygen around the body. 47% of preschool-aged children have an iron deficiency. A lack of iron weakens the immune system, and it can cause fatigue or weakness because the brain isn’t getting as much oxygen. Severe cases of iron deficiency can develop into anemia, with symptoms such as pale, easily bruised skin, poor appetite, and frequent infections.
How do you avoid, or rectify, an iron deficiency? Incorporate red meat, seafood, beans, and dark green vegetables like broccoli, kale, and spinach, into your children’s diet. If you believe your child is experiencing anemia, you can start them on an iron supplement to boost their levels right away.
Less than half of the United States population--children and adults alike--consume the amount of magnesium a body needs. The body uses magnesium in 300 different ways, including bone and teeth development, making it one of the most important minerals your growing children can have. A magnesium deficiency can cause growth pains or cramps, restlessness, anxiety, and muscle spasms like eye twitches.
Avoid this deficiency by stocking up on magnesium rich foods, such as oats and other whole grains, nuts, and--as a treat--dark chocolate.
3. Vitamin D
Millions of children have a Vitamin D deficiency, because it is not found in many foods, and symptoms of a deficiency are hard to spot. The benefits of Vitamin D are tenfold:
- Promotes bone growth
- Strengthens the immune system
- Regulates cell growth
- Reduces inflammation
- Helps prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes
The primary source of Vitamin D is sunlight. Children are more prone to deficiencies during the winter months, when it’s cloudy, and too cold to play outside. Though symptoms of a deficiency are not obvious, children who lack Vitamin D are at risk for Rickets, a skeletal disorder that affects bone growth and density.
To keep the Vitamin D coming, even during the winter months, incorporate cod liver oil into your children’s diet, as well as seafood like salmon and trout.
4. Vitamin B12
This vitamin is essential for blood, brain, and nerve formation. Your children cannot develop normally without it. However, the body is unable to produce it naturally, and must get it from outside sources. Symptoms of a Vitamin B12 deficiency are scary: they include developmental delays, seizures, and mental retardation. A lack of Vitamin B12 can be misdiagnosed as autism, or other developmental disorders.
How can you ensure your children aren’t at risk? Feed them plenty of shellfish, red meat, eggs, and milk products.
Even if your children are eating healthy, organic foods, they might not be getting the nutrients they need to grow. Stock up on nutrient rich foods as a preventative, and keep an eye out for symptoms of nutrient deficiencies. You want the best for your children--make sure they have the nutrients to grow up strong and healthy.