Vitamins for Children’s Development
Vitamins are essential for the proper functioning of the body, especially during growth throughout childhood, as thousands of chemical reactions are needed for normal cellular development in children, and vitamins are essential for this.
Children’s diet and vitamins for children
As its name suggests, the word vitamin, which etymologically comes from vita (life) and amina (chemical substance), means a substance necessary for life. Most vitamins, except for vitamin D which is manufactured by the body through the skin when we sunbathe, must be ingested through food. Therefore, a healthy and balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, but also in meat, fish and cereals, provides the necessary amount of vitamins that children need.
There is no food that contains all the vitamins the body needs, all 13 necessaries for proper body development, but neither is there a food that contains only one. Therefore, a varied and balanced diet plays an important role in the growth and development of children.
The danger of overuse of vitamins for children
However, abuse of vitamins can be harmful, if we take into account the characteristics of vitamins themselves, which are divided into two groups: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins are those that are diluted in water and the body eliminates the excess through urine, while fat-soluble vitamins are those that are dissolved in fats and are not eliminated; they accumulate in the body, specifically in the liver, and an excess can be toxic.
For this reason, it is very important to refrain from offering vitamin supplements to children without medical advice. Only children suffering from chronic diseases, related to poor nutrient absorption, may require the intake of vitamin supplements.
Vitamins : exceptions for breastfed infants
The case of breastfed newborns whose mothers are vegetarians deserves special mention. Although breastfeeding provides all the nutrients the baby needs, only strict vegetarian mothers produce milk without vitamin B12, which is essential for the formation of the baby’s blood, and for this reason, it is important that these infants receive a vitamin B12 supplement during the breastfeeding period.
Of course, breastfeeding does not provide enough vitamin D for the baby either, because it is a vitamin that is not acquired through food but must be manufactured by the body through the exposure of the skin to sunlight. This is why many babies receive vitamin D supplements during their first months of life, especially if they are born in autumn and winter.
Lack or deficiency of vitamins in children
Vitamin deficiency can lead to specific diseases, which have been practically eradicated in the civilized world. Thus, vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy, vitamin K deficiency leads to hemorrhages and vitamin D deficiency leads to rickets.
However, a child with a varied and balanced diet does not need vitamin supplements. Contrary to some popular myths, vitamins do not whet the appetite but enable the body to function properly because they act as catalysts of chemical processes and function as antioxidants, improving cellular activity.
Important vitamins in children’s diet
1. Folic acid or vitamin B6
Water soluble. It is essential for cell reproduction and, therefore, for neuronal growth and development. It is found in legumes, citrus fruits, and green leafy vegetables.
2. Vitamin B12
Water soluble. It participates in the multiplication of red blood cells in the blood and intervenes in the development of the nervous system. It is abundant in fish, dairy products, red meat, eggs, and pork.
3. Vitamin A or beta-carotene
Liposoluble. It has antioxidant properties and is essential to improve the immune system and the development of vision. It helps in the formation of skin, bones, and teeth. It is present in dairy products, green leafy vegetables, carrots, pumpkin, oils, and fish.
4. Vitamin E
Liposoluble. Important for brain development, it acts as an antioxidant and is involved in the formation of white and red blood cells. It is found in eggs, oil, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables.
5. Vitamin D
Liposoluble. It helps to absorb calcium and therefore, it intervenes in the mineralization of bones and teeth. It is present in minimal amounts in fish, eggs, milk, and liver.
6. Vitamin C
Water soluble. It intervenes in the reconstruction of the tissues, for that reason, it maintains the skin and the ligaments in optimal conditions and helps to fortify the defenses of the organism. It serves to better absorb iron from food and thus prevent anemia. They are a good source of vitamin C, citrus fruits, kiwi, and vegetables.