There are five minerals every child needs every day to ensure optimal growth and functioning. Do you know what they are?
Minerals are natural substances that are absorbed by the body through food and other supplements. They’re necessary for many bodily functions, including growth in babies and children.
The best way to get all the minerals the human body needs is to eat a variety of foods every day, explains clinical paediatric dietician Kath Megaw. “Whole or unprocessed foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, legumes, lean meats, fish and poultry are the best choices for providing your body with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and grow properly. This applies to children too.”
Megaw outlines the five most important minerals children need:
This is an incredibly important mineral in childhood. Calcium is essential for the proper development of bones and teeth. It’s also important for blood clotting and for good nerve, muscle and heart function.
Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, salmon, sardines (with bones), seafood, almonds and green leafy vegetables.
This mineral is stored in the body tissues and plays a role in more than 300 enzyme reactions within the body.
Magnesium is a versatile mineral, vital for the growth and maintenance of teeth and bones, relaxation of muscles, maintenance of blood-sugar levels and for the development and functioning of a healthy heart and nervous system.
Magnesium is found in nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and grains. Protein-rich foods such as chicken, fish and meat aid the absorption of magnesium, along with the intake of calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamins B1, B6, C and D.
Adequate iron intake is important during childhood and is positively associated with learning. Iron is essential for building healthy blood and for carrying oxygen to body cells.
This mineral is found in eggs, fish, liver, meat and organ meats (liver), poultry, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes and iron-enriched cereals.
Many of the body’s hormones and enzymes depend on zinc to perform their functions. Zinc is also related to a child’s ability to grow.
Zinc is found in whole grains, seafood, fish, eggs, dairy and nuts.
This is a trace mineral that assists in many of the body’s processes. It’s present in virtually every cell but is most abundant in the kidneys, liver, spleen, pancreas and testes.
Many experts now believe selenium could prove to be one of the most important disease-fighting nutrients in the body, specifically in the prevention of heart disease, cancer, inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, and for people suffering from infections that compromise cell immunity.
Selenium-rich foods include Brazil nuts, seafood, poultry, meat, oats and brown rice.
Kath Megaw, Clinical Paediatric Dietician. Visit www.nutripaeds.co.za for more information.
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