7 Important Minerals And Vitamins For Kids' Growth

check_icon Research-backed

Image: Shutterstock

IN THIS ARTICLE

Vitamins are vital organic compounds that the human body needs to grow and function. A well-balanced diet can provide all the necessary minerals and vitamins for kids. However, at times, children may not receive adequate nutrients from their diet, or the body may not absorb enough vitamins to meet their needs. In such instances, the child may need vitamin supplementation.

However, any supplements should be given only as per your doctor’s prescription. Read this post to learn more about a child’s daily vitamin needs, vitamin supplementation, and ways to ensure optimum vitamin intake for your child.

How To Ensure Children Get Enough Vitamins From Diet?

Eating a well-balanced diet containing healthy food from different food groups ensures your child gets adequate nutrition. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and dairy products are sources of various vitamins and minerals. You must include age-appropriate quantities of these foods to meet the child’s nutrient needs.

Before learning the need for supplementation, parents must know the vital vitamins and minerals their children need.

7 Important Vitamins And Minerals For Children

Water-Soluble Vitamins

They dissolve in water, making them efficient at moving through the bloodstream. The body does not store these vitamins, and excess is excreted through urine. Therefore, the body needs a daily replenishment of water-soluble vitamins (1) (2) (3).

1. Vitamin B

Vitamin B comprises a group of B-vitamins, such as vitamin B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), and B9 (folate), and B12 (cyanocobalamin). Each of these vitamins serves a specific physiological function necessary for growth, development, and sustenance. They are also essential for energy production and DNA synthesis (4).

Best food sources: Whole grains, nuts, wheat germ, beans and peas, soy, eggs, milk, poultry, meat, and fish

2. Vitamin C

Also known as ascorbic acid, this vitamin is vital to maintain the health of several body tissues, such as gums, bones, and blood vessels. Besides, it supports the healing of wounds, production of hormones, and immunity. It also works as a powerful antioxidant that combats free radical damage within the body (5).

Nutrient requirements for boys and girls: 

  • 2 to 3 years – 15mg/day
  • 4 to 8 years – 25mg/day
  • 8 to 13 years – 45mg/day

Best food sources: Citrus fruits (lemon, oranges, grapefruit), guava, strawberry, and potato

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

These vitamins are dissolved and stored in fat tissue and the liver. They are transported through specialized carrier compounds via the bloodstream. Can lead to toxicity when consumed in large quantities.

3. Vitamin A

The body needs vitamin A to maintain good cell health and function, including maintaining healthy skin and eyesight. It is necessary to support cellular growth, especially in the hair and nail, and white blood cells’ production (6). There could be several forms of vitamin A, such as retinol and retinyl ester.

Nutrient requirements for boys and girls: 

  • 2 to 3 years – 300mcg RAE/day
  • 4 to 8 years – 400mcg RAE/day
  • 8 to 13 years – 600mcg RAE/day

RAE – retinol activity equivalents

Best food sources: Beef liver, fish oils, dark green vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, kale, collard, and orange-colored veggies, such as sweet potatoes, squash, and carrots

4. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption. Calcium combined with potassium and magnesium is vital for bone and teeth development and maintenance. Typically, the body produces vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight, thus it is also important toget at least 20 minutes of sunshine daily. However, one can also receive vitamin D from different animal-origin foods and fortified foods (7).

Nutrient requirements for boys and girls:

  • 2 to 3 years – 600 IU/day
  • 4 to 8 years – 600 IU/day
  • 8 to 13 years – 600 IU/day

IU – international unit

Best food sources: Milk, liver, egg yolk, and vitamin D fortified cereal and cooking oils

5. Vitamin E

Vitamin E has several forms, but alpha-tocopherol (AT) is the only form that the human body can use. The vitamin has antioxidant effects that help combat free radical damage within the body. Besides, it is necessary for the health of red blood cells (RBC), eyes, and skin (8).

Nutrient requirements for boys and girls:

  • 2 to 3 years – 6mg day
  • 4 to 8 years – 7mg day
  • 8 to 13 years – 11mg day

Best food sources: Seeds, nuts, fortified oils, mango, avocado, and bell peppers

Minerals

There are several minerals available through food. Below are the vital ones needed for healthy growth and development.

6. Calcium

It is an essential mineral which children need for the development of healthy bones and teeth. A deficiency of calcium during childhood can reduce bone density, weakening the bones over time. It can lead to poor growth and an increased risk of fractures.

Nutrient requirements for boys and girls:

  • 2 to 3 years – 700mg/day
  • 4 to 8 years – 1000mg/day
  • 8 to 13 years – 1300mg/day

Best food sources: Low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, fish, soy, pulses, nuts, and fortified cereals

7. Iron

Iron is vital for the production of RBC, building muscles, and improving cognitive function. Your child can get iron from animal-origin foods (heme iron) and plant-origin foods (non-heme iron). The body absorbs heme iron most efficiently, whereas non-heme iron is best absorbed when consumed with vitamin C. Tannin in tea inhibits the absorption of iron, therefore it is important not to consume iron-rich food with tea.

Nutrient requirements for boys and girls: 

  • 2 to 3 years – 7mg/day
  • 4 to 8 years – 10mg/day
  • 8 to 13 years – 8mg/day

Best food sources: Liver, red meat (beef, pork, and lamb), fatty fish (salmon and tuna), chicken, dark green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, and fortified bread and cereals

Iodine and zinc are some other minerals that children need to grow, develop, and sustain healthy body functioning. These minerals are required in small quantities and can be obtained easily through food.

Do Children Need Vitamin Supplements?

According to the American Academy Of Pediatrics (AAP), children eating a healthy, well-balanced diet don’t need vitamin supplements (9). A well-balanced diet containing foods from different food groups can fulfill the child’s nutritional needs. However, in some cases, a regular diet might not be sufficient, and you may need to consider vitamin supplements.

When Do Children Need Vitamin Supplements?

Children may require vitamin supplementation when at risk of nutritional deficiencies due to (10):

  • Prolonged picky eating in which the child eats only selected foods in their daily diet. Selective eating may cause deficiencies affecting the child’s quality of life. Most children can recuperate through dietary changes. However, severe deficiencies could require supplementation.
  • Imbalanced vegan or vegetarian diets often lack vital nutrients, such as vitamins B12 and D. A well-planned vegan and vegetarian diets can fulfill your child’s nutritional needs. However, if not planned correctly, it could lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
  • Food allergies and intolerances cause restrictive eating, increasing the risk of deficiencies. Most children can obtain the nutrients through alternative sources. For instance, a child with cow milk allergy could consume plant-based milk, such as soy milk. However, children with multiple food allergies may require supplementation.
  • Improper digestion or food absorption could lead to inadequate levels of vitamins and minerals in the body. A few examples of conditions that lead to poor nutrient absorption are inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and cancer.

Besides these conditions, there could be several other situations, such as an illness, that could cause vitamin deficiency, requiring supplementation eventually.

How To Choose Vitamin Supplements For Children?

If you feel your child needs vitamin supplementation, consult a pediatrician/dietitian. They can help you determine whether your child needs only a specific vitamin or multivitamin supplementation. Additionally, they can ascertain the exact dosage appropriate to fill the nutritional gaps as per the child’s age, medical history, and overall health condition. They can also suggest trustworthy and child-friendly vitamin supplements.

Most vitamin supplements come in the form of flavored syrups, drops, and gummies. They contain nutrients and substances appropriate for children. Nevertheless, check the nutrition information table and ingredients to determine the presence of additional nutrients and additives.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What vitamins help kids grow taller?

Vitamin D-containing foods can help children grow taller (11). However, dietary sources of vitamin C and B can also contribute to a child’s healthy height by encouraging healthy growth and development.

2. How do I know if my child is lacking vitamins?

Some signs of vitamin deficiency in children are severe hair loss, burning sensation in the feet or tongue, bone pain, vision problems, longer healing time for wounds, and so on (12) (13).

For overall healthy growth and development, adequate intake of minerals and vitamins for kids is essential. This can be ensured by making them wholesome and balanced meals that include all the food groups. If your child eats well and is healthy, a nutritious meal may be enough to ensure they get the necessary minerals and vitamins. But picky eaters or children who are sensitive to certain foods may require supplements. However, consult your pediatrician before administering any supplements to know the correct dosage and whether they are required.

Key Pointers

  • Water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins and iron are important nutrients for children.
  • Children having a healthy diet containing foods from different food groups don’t need vitamin supplements.
  • Food allergies, intolerances, and improper digestion suggest nutritional deficiencies.
  • Consult your pediatrician or dietitian before providing vitamin supplementation to children.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Dietary Guidelines For Americans 2020-2025; USA Government
2. Vitamins; Kids Health From Nemours
3. Kids Need Their Nutrients; Stanford Children’s Health
4. Vitamin B; Better Health Channel
5. Vitamin C; Harvard T.H Chan
6. Vitamin A; Harvard T.H Chan
7. Vitamin D; Harvard T.H Chan
8. Vitamin E; Harvard T.H Chan
9. Where We Stand: Vitamins; AAP
10. Vitamins and minerals; Raising Children
11. Susanna Esposito et al.; Vitamin D and growth hormone in children: a review of the current scientific knowledge; Journal of Translational Medicine (2019)
12. Disorders of Vitamin Absorption; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
13. 6 Signs of Nutrient Deficiency; Rush University Medical Center
Was this article helpful?
thumbsupthumbsdown
The following two tabs change content below.

Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different... more

Moloko Mehlape

(MSc Dietetics)
Moloko Mehlape is a registered dietitian in private practice with special interest in nutrition education, sports nutrition, weight and chronic disease management. She is a philanthropist passionate about making a positive impact in public health through nutrition. Dt. Mehlape has completed extensive formal education and training, and holds qualifications BSc Dietetics (Hons) - Medunsa, MSc Dietetics from the University of... more

LATEST ARTICLES