Vitamins help the body grow and work the way it should. There are 13 essential Vitamins — Vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and Vitamin Bs. Some help in eyesight and energy production, while others support healthy nerves and cells and in fighting infection.
Vitamins are found in the food we eat and some like D, K can also be partially produced by our body. A balanced meal full of variety of grains, nuts, vegetables and fruits will meet the daily requirements of vitamins for kids. Nature has packed food in such a way that the nutrition received is well-balanced with complementary nutrients.
For example, Nuts have variety of Vitamin Bs and E. However, for the vitamins to be absorbed efficiently by the body, they have to be consumed with fiber. So consuming the vitamin naturally in the form of nut itself (vs. a pill) is not only easy but also essential for its maximum absorption by the body. Secondly, consuming vitamins through nut (or any food) fairly reduce the chance of over consumption of any vitamins vs. popping pills in the mouth (excessive consumption of any vitamin can have adverse effects on the body organs). Lastly, consuming the nut (or any food) not only gives us Vitamin Bs and E but a lot more added goodness in the form of fibre and phytonutrients. So in nutshell, its always more beneficial to consume all the required vitamins through food directly.
While it is usually preferred to get the nutrients a child needs from food rather than a pill, syrup or gummy, it is not always possible. That’s because some kids are picky eaters and their intake of food is limited to a chosen few. Or despite consuming healthy complete meals, a child may have a severe deficiency of a particular vitamin due to a prevalent health concern. This may result in a deficiency of any key vitamin in their body. The next best solution in such a situation is to consume supplements made of real food and fortified with the necessary vitamin. For example, some cereals are fortified with vitamin B12 as its found deficient in many vegetarian kids. Oils can be fortified with Vitamin D for kids who are off dairy. For kids who severely lack intake of veggies or fruits and hence have lagged development can support vitamin A intake through fortified oils too.
Most commonly we hear parents say that their child is active and looking healthy too so there is nothing to worry about nutrition. The most obvious response in defence to further questioning is ‘we also turned out fine without our parents worrying so much about nutrition when we were young’. Let’s understand this assumption closely.
- Young and active cells: Kids have new and active cells which perform all the necessary tasks they are assigned. For example, hair cells have to maintain thick growth and pigment. They do their job well. Having said that, how soon will they start to show decay in quality depends on how well we are taking care of those cells. We need to protect our cells from free radical damage by feeding them the right nutrition they need for them to work many more years in their most active state. Or else we can see outcomes such as early hair loss or greying.
- Less contaminated food: Compared to today’s times, food was far less contaminated earlier. The consumption was primarily local, fresh and seasonal without any unnecessary pesticides. This also kept the prices low and consumption up, adding to the daily nutrition.
- Occasional consumption of processed food: Children nowadays have access to far more processed food than their parents. These are not only packed months ago, but also high in sugar and sodium, both of which can work in damaging our body cells. At least two meals in a day (today) have some form of processed food on the dining table.
- Real test is yet to come: When parents say that ‘they have turned out fine’- it is only partly relevant. The real test will come when we see the bones, muscles, other organs performing their best and original function in the old age. Weakening of bones in early thirties is a sign of mistreating our body with the wrong choice of food (and lifestyle etc). Early mensuration, reduced vision, high blood sugar are some other examples which are now happening early in life. Imagine sowing a mango seed. How many fruits will the tree bear will depend on the kind of soil, sunlight, manure and water that is supplied to the seed. However, the result will only show many many years later. Similarly, what we feed out body today will only show many year later. The early years are most important as they lay the foundation of our bones and brain.
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