Nutrients every child needs

Nutrients every child needs

Baby Steps

Monday, October 26, 2020

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THE foods children eat during their early years can impact not only on their physical well-being, but also on their intellectual capacity as they grow.

A sound nutritional diet is of critical importance, given the fact that the child requires certain nutrients for proper growth.

If children are fed a diet devoid of essential foods, this can lead to mental and physical deficiencies. Children need certain nutrients for growth, and if they are not getting enough of these in the diet, they will suffer.

Here is a list of some of the key nutrients every child needs, compiled from health sources including the World Health Organization (WHO), Mayo Clinic, and local nutritionists.


Iron deficiency is a major concern for toddlers particularly around the first 24-month period.

A lack of iron in your child may result in anaemia which can affect the development of physical and mental faculties. Children, however, may be protected against these by feeding them iron-fortified foods such as cereal, bread, crackers, fruits and vegetables.

Iron deficiency is one of the nutritional deficiencies of children who have poor diets. Iron deficiency may lead to shortened attention span, irritability, fatigue and difficulty with concentration in school. In addition, children who are anaemic tend to do poorly in vocabulary, reading, mathematics and other subjects.


Recent global estimates indicate that over a quarter of children under five years of age are stunted. Zinc is known to play a critical role in biological processes including cell growth, differentiation and metabolism, and deficiency in this micronutrient restricts childhood growth and decreases resistance to infections, which contribute significantly to morbidity and mortality in young children.

Good food sources of zinc include beans, nuts, certain types of seafood (such as crab and lobster), whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products


For toddlers, one crucial part of this stage is bone development, which means that milk should form a large part of their diet because it also encourages normal growth and brain development.

Since by 12 months many parents would have already weaned their children from breast milk and formula, other whole milk sources should be explored to provide the calcium necessary for this phase of development. So whether this is going to be whole cow's and goat's milk and cheeses, you must ensure the child gets enough.


A lack of iodine can cause mental development problems. Iodine deficiency is the main cause of brain damage in childhood. It results in impaired cognitive and motor development which affects a child's performance at school. In adulthood, it affects productivity.

Young children are also particularly at risk because the brain still needs iodine for its development during the first two years of life. In addition, iodine deficiency in children is responsible for disorders in physical and cognitive development, and hypothyroidism.

Fish (such as cod and tuna), shrimp, and other seafood, are generally rich in iodine. Dairy products (such as milk, yoghurt, and cheese) are also major sources of iodine.


The WHO suggests an increase in potassium intake from food to control blood pressure in children aged 2–15 years. Bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, apricots, grapefruit some dried fruits, such as prunes, raisins, and dates, are also high in potassium. Cooked spinach, broccoli, ripe bananas, potatoes, peas and cucumbers are also good sources of potassium.

Vitamins A-E and K

This alphabet of vitamins are essential for children. Vitamin A is important for healthy skin and normal growth, and it also helps vision and tissue repair. Vitamin A can be found in rich quantities in yellow and orange vegetables, dairy products and liver.

Vitamin B helps the body produce red blood cells and assists in metabolic activities. Vitamin B is found in meat, poultry, fish, soy, milk, eggs, whole grains, and enriched breads and cereals.

Vitamin C is the body's tool for healing and fighting off infection, and it also strengthens tissue, muscles, and skin. For healthy doses of vitamin C, look to citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and broccoli.

Vitamin D helps the body form and maintain strong teeth and bones and assists with the absorption of minerals such as calcium. Vitamin D is found in fortified dairy products and in fish oils. Adequate exposure to sunlight is also a way to get enough vitamin D.

Vitamin E protects your cells and tissues from damage. It is also important for the health of red blood cells. Foods such as whole grains, leafy green vegetables, vegetable oils, egg yolks, nuts and seeds are rich sources.

And vitamin K helps the blood to clot. Foods such as leafy green vegetables, dairy products and broccoli are good sources of vitamin K.

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