Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Why vitamins are important for children

Published:Thursday | November 6, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The needs of every child and their family are different, and this applies to nutritional needs, too! Most of us lead busy lives, we may not have the time, ability or, dare we say it, will to cook healthy home-cooked foods daily for our family. Children can be notoriously difficult, too, and it is not always easy to ensure they are eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. it is vital that you consult your doctor before giving any vitamin, mineral or fish oil supplements to your child if he or she is taking any medications.

First, let's look at what your children should be eating - the 'Eat well' plate applies to all children over four years old. Here is a checklist for you - does your child fulfil these criteria every day?

One third of everything he/she eats is a fruit or vegetable.

12 per cent is meat, fish, eggs, beans or non-dairy protein.

Only eight per cent of total calories are from high fat and sugar food and drinks.

Your child eats three to four servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

Does our food really contain the nutrients that it used to?

Although a complex debate, it seems that the foods that we buy from the shops nowadays have different levels of nutrients than those grown in previous generations. While the scientific papers debate what exactly is missing and whether these nutrients need to be added back into the soil artificially, it is worth noting that:

A US study of 43 garden crops showed a significant reduction in levels of protein, calcium, potassium, iron, vitamins B2 and C) from 1950-1993.

A comparison of the mineral content of fruits and vegetables grown in the United Kingdom (1930s vs 1980s) found that the levels of calcium, magnesium, copper and sodium were significantly reduced in vegetables, and magnesium, iron, copper and potassium were significantly reduced in fruit.

Again, there is a raging debate in the science as to what exactly is contributing to these changes, here are some of the theories.

Crops are grown more intensively, and deplete the soil of nutrients.

Not all minerals in the soil are replenished by fertilisers as these are primarily based on phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium, which means that minerals like calcium, iron, selenium and zinc are gradually depleted.

New crop varieties are selected for shorter harvesting times, higher yield and NOT nutritional value.

Less time in the ground means less time to absorb the nutrients.

For some nutrients, 1000s of miles travel before reaching the UK supply chain results in a loss of nutritional value.

Packaging systems prolong the appearance of fresh - with unknown nutritional impact.

Interesting - but the overall point is that our kids may well be getting lower levels of nutrients from the fruit and vegetables than they actually are eating.

Specific considerations:

If you have a child that has a restricted diet as a result of several allergies, e.g., dairy, gluten, nuts, is a vegetarian or just plain fussy, it is likely that they may not be receiving all of the nutrients that they need from their diet. Equally, kids who are seriously into sports may need additional nutrients because of increased nutritional requirements.

If you do have a child who is unwell, it is especially worth considering extra nutritional support, although the complications of medication and specific considerations according to their health needs must be discussed with your GP.

In summary, despite the best efforts of parents, some children may not get all the nutrients they need from their diet alone. Only you will know if your child is likely to be getting the best start with a diet rich in nutrients and healthy oils, Omega 3, 6 and 9. If you are in any doubt, a good-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement can be beneficial. They must never be used as a substitute for healthy food, but can help if you and your family are struggling to achieve the diet that we all know is best for our health and well-being.

Find more information at www.seven-seas.com.