Vitamins are essential substances that cannot be manufactured by the body and we need small amounts of vitamins for growth and development. Plenty of foods naturally contain vitamins but it is not always easy to get all the nutrients we need from diet alone. This guide can help you discover the relevant nutrient information for each vitamin or mineral and how it can benefit your child.
Vitamin A helps support healthy eyes
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin and is stored in the liver. It can be taken into the body in two forms:
When children do not eat enough dairy, eggs or oily fish they run the risk of having low intakes of Vitamin A. Vitamin A helps to maintain healthy skin and vision as well as a healthy immune system.
Vitamin B6 contributes to the release of energy from food
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxal phosphate) actually comes as a group of compounds that are converted into their most active form in the body, this is called pyridoxine. B6 is water soluble and therefore a constant supply from the diet is required as the body does not keep long term stores.
Good sources of B6 include:
whole-grains, turkey, lentils and liver, oily fish, soy products, nuts, egg yolk and dark green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin B6 contributes to the release of energy from food and is important for the production of red blood cells in your body. It can also help normal energy yielding metabolism and be important in maintaining a healthy immune system
Vitamin B12 contributes to the release of energy from food
B12 (cobalamin), although water soluble, can be stored by the body.
Good sources of B6 include:
animal derived foods: oily fish, eggs, oysters, tuna, cottage cheese, turkey and chicken. There are no naturally occurring vegetable sources of B12 therefore vegetarians and in particular vegans may benefit from a B12 supplement.
Vitamin B12 contributes to the release of energy from food and is important for a healthy nervous system. It can also help normal energy yielding metabolism and be important in maintaining a healthy immune system.
Vitamin C helps support a healthy immune system
Vitamin C is widely known to have a wealth of health benefits, and is available to some degree in most fruit and vegetables.
Good sources of Vitamin C include: blackcurrants, oranges, strawberries, green peppers, broccoli and kiwi fruit.
Care should be taken when cooking and storing foods however, as vitamin C can easily be destroyed by heat, light or oxyegn. Vitamin C is water soluble and needs to be replenished regularly therefore it is vital to ensure a constant supply through your diet.
When children do not eat enough fruit and vegetables they run the risk of having low levels of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is important in maintaining a healthy immune system which is important for children all year round.
Vitamin D is essential for the growth and development of healthy bones and teeth
Vitamin D is also known as calciferol
Good sources of Vitamin D:
Our body produces vitamin D in the summer months from the action of sunlight on our skin. It is also available from foods including oily fish (herrings, sardines, trout, mackerel) and eggs. Fortified foods are a good source including low fat spreads and breakfast cereals, soya products, although be careful – these are often processed.
It is recommended children are exposed to 10 to 15 minutes of sunshine several times a week to obtain the recommended intake of vitamin D. This is not always easy in the winter months, especially as there are limited food sources. Vitamin D is important for the absorption of calcium and is therefore needed for normal growth and development of bones in children.
Omega 3 helps support healthy brain function
Oil from fish contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both are Omega-3 fatty acids which help maintain healthy triglyceride levels.*
Good sources of omega 3 include: mackerel, salmon, herring, sardines, sablefish (black cod), anchovies, albacore tuna and wild game. Omega 3 fish oils are also formulated to contain high levels of EPA and DHA
Fish oil contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acids present in fish oil help to balance omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in vegetable oils
While both EPA and DHA are important for good health, it is DHA particularly which is thought to be important. Many of our everyday foods such as milk and margarines have been fortified with Omega-3 but at much lower levels. Research has shown that eating 250mg DHA as part of a healthy lifestyle contributes to normal brain function.
Calcium is required for normal bone growth and development in children
Calcium is an essential mineral most strongly associated with bone health and 99% of the body’s Calcium is found in bones and teeth. Good sources of Calcium include: dairy products (Note: many people are intolerant to dairy products and they are high in saturated fats), kale, tofu, sardines (when soft, edible bones are consumed), seaweed, figs, sesame seeds, prunes, parsley, pumpkin seeds and almonds.
Calcium absorption is dependent on the presence of Vitamin D. Calcium levels in the blood are carefully controlled and the body uses the stores of calcium in the bone as a bank.
Milk and other calcium-rich foods have always been a must-have in kids' diets. From an early age, we are required to eat three servings of dairy every day to give us strong bones and teeth. During childhood and adolescence, the body uses the mineral calcium to build strong bones for later life.
Vitamin E provides antioxidant protection of body tissues
Vitamin E is fat soluble and widely available in common foods. It is measured in both international units and milligrams, but do not be alarmed, they are measuring the same actual chemical. The vitamin E content of foods is significantly reduced by freezing, heating and some food processing.
Good sources of Vitamin E include:
nuts and seeds, oily fish, unrefined corn oil, avocado and wheat germ oil.
Small amounts of Vitamin E are needed to maintain good health. This vitamin can be important in providing antioxidant protection of body tissues.
Zinc helps support a healthy immune system
Zinc is found in every cell of the body, adequate levels of zinc are essential for good health.
Good sources of Zinc include:
Oysters, beef, crab, sardines, pumpkin and sesame seeds, eggs and cheese.
This mineral is important in maintaining general good health and for keeping the immune system strong.
Iron supports energy metabolism
Iron is an essential mineral.
Good sources of iron include:
liver, meat, shellfish, soya, egg yolk, dried apricots, nuts and dark green leafy vegetables.
Iron can be particularly important for babies, toddlers and young children, because their increased needs for iron may not be met if their diet is not balanced. Iron helps the body release energy and helps maintain general good health.*
*Iron taken in excess may be harmful to very young children.