A balanced diet includes a variety of foods rich in vitamins and minerals. Newborns get all the nutrients that they need from mother’s milk or iron enriched formula.
As children grow, however, many parents choose to give their children vitamin and mineral supplements.
If you are concerned about your child’s nutritional status, check with your paediatrician for recommendations about diet and possible supplementation.
These are the bulk minerals that many people first think of when considering their nutritional needs. This group includes:
- Calcium helps to build and maintain bones and teeth, regulates heart rhythm, helps regulate the passage of nutrients into cell walls, assists in blood clotting, helps maintain nerve and muscle function, lowers blood pressure, and reduces blood cholesterol level.
- Magnesium helps metabolize carbohydrates and amino acids, helps promote absorption and metabolism of other vitamins and minerals, and is necessary for proper functioning of all muscles, including the heart.
- Phosphorus is found in every cell and helps the body utilize carbohydrates, fats and protein for growth, maintenance and cell repair. It is needed for healthy nerves. Niacin and riboflavin cannot be digested without phosphorus.
- Potassium and sodium help regulate water balance within the body. Potassium, along with phosphorus sends oxygen to the brain. Protein and carbohydrate metabolism are dependent upon potassium. It also stimulates the kidneys to eliminate body waste and works with sodium to help regulate the heartbeat.
Trace elements are required in very small amounts, but they are vital for good health, nonetheless. This group includes:
- Boron reduces calcium loss from bones.
- Chromium is important in carbohydrate metabolism. Chromium stimulates the activity of enzymes involved in the metabolism of glucose for energy and appears to increase the effectiveness of insulin and its ability to handle glucose, preventing hypoglycemia or diabetes.
- Cobalt is necessary for normal functioning and maintenance of red blood cells, as well as all other body cells.
- Copper is found in all body tissues. It is an important antioxidant and helps the cells remain healthy.
- Iodine is converted into iodide in the body. It aids in the development and functioning of the thyroid gland. Iodine helps to regulate the body’s production of energy, promotes growth and development and stimulates the rate of metabolism, helping the body burn excess fat.
- Iron is present in every living cell. It is found in the largest amounts in the blood and is involved in respiration by carrying oxygen to all the cells in the body.
- Manganese plays a role in activating numerous enzymes that are necessary for utilization of choline, biotin, thiamine and vitamin C.
- Selenium is one of the essential body substances that can be used in a preventive manner for many diseases, including cancer, arteriosclerosis, stroke, cirrhosis, arthritis, and emphysema. Selenium is a natural antioxidant and diseases that are associated with aging are affected by the workings of selenium.
- Sodium, along with potassium, helps regulate water balance within the body.
- Sulfur is involved in functions of hemoglobin, insulin hormone, adrenal hormones, enzymes and antibodies.
- Vanadium aids in glucose (blood sugar) oxidation and transport. It enhances insulin effectiveness, decreases cholesterol production, increases effectiveness of heart muscle contraction, and has anti-cancer properties.
- Zinc occurs in the body in larger amounts than any other trace element except iron. Zinc helps to fight disease and protects the immune system.
Minerals, like vitamins, need to be in balance to work most efficiently. Typically, when supplementation is recommended, it is through the use of a high quality multi-vitamin and mineral product.
Some paediatricians recommend daily vitamin/mineral supplements beginning at about 6 months of age and continuing throughout life.
An excess of some vitamins and minerals can be harmful, however, so always check with your paediatrician for advice before beginning your child on dietary supplements.