Micronutrients that consist both minerals and vitamins are essential for development and overall health of children. These also help in preventing various diseases. Globally, half of the children aged between 6 months and 5 years suffer from at-least one micronutrient deficiency. Let’s discuss about various essential micronutrients.
1. Vitamin A: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Vitamin A is very much essential for a child’s early development. It supports the immune system. It also helps in preventing stunted growth and reduces risk of blindness and mortality due to infections such as measles and diarrhea. Vitamin A deficiency might cause dry hair and skin along with problems in bone growth. Consumption of vitamin A rich foods can help children to develop strong bones and teeth. Vitamin A is found in dairy products such as cheese, milk, and yogurt. Other foods like pistachio nuts, cantaloupe and carrots are rich in vitamin A.
2. Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency not only affects children from resource-limited countries but it also seriously impacts children from resource-rich countries. Developing children including infants require vitamin D for proper regulation of immune system and for bone metabolism. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to various respiratory infections including pneumonia, tuberculosis and bronchiolitis. Therefore, it is very important for children to consume an adequate amount of Vitamin D through their diet. It is found in foods such as oily fish (mackerel and salmon), cheese and eggs.
3. Iron: Iron deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies globally. Around half of the children in developing countries suffer from iron deficiency. Children have an increased requirement of iron during first five years and are more vulnerable to iron deficiency anemia (it is one of the most common types of anemia). Iron-deficiency anemia can also lead to impaired cognitive development and increased childhood morbidity. Some great sources of iron are green leafy vegetables, beans and chicken. It is also advised that children below 5 years of age should not drink too much milk.
4. Iodine: Iodine is required to produce thyroid hormones which are essential for body’s development and growth. There are around two billion people with iodine deficiency globally. If a child has severe iodine deficiency, it can also cause problems in his/her nervous system development and may be harmful for the brain. Less severe iodine deficiency can also lead to neurodevelopmental deficit such as lower than the average IQ. It can be given in form of iodine supplements and iodine rich foods such as seaweed and dairy products.
5. Zinc: Zinc is important for boosting body’s infection resistance and supports immune system. It supports children’s overall growth and aids nervous system. Zinc is very important for children’s linear growth. It supports their height and weight development. Dairy products, beans and nuts contain zinc.