3 Nutrients Every Child Needs
Moms and dads all around the world want the same thing for their children. They want them to be safe, happy, and healthy. This article focuses on the third aspect: health. We know the best way to promote a healthy lifestyle in children is to start young. Up until six months, breast milk or formula is the only source of nutrition that a baby needs. It has all the nutrients that a child is likely to need for the first months of their life.
But at about six months, the child will need complementary foods as they develop a growing interest in solids. Foods like pureed veggies and fruits or cereals support breast milk/formula to meet the baby’s nutritional needs. This is an exciting time for parents as well. They get to introduce a variety of foods to their little one and watch his/her reaction to these new tastes. Irrespective of what foods are included in a baby food diet, here’s what constitutes healthy nutrition.
1. Iron, Omega-3, and Vitamin E
These are brain-building nutrients that keep the brain healthy and improve mental tasks like memory and concentration. The brain consumes a lot of energy–almost 20% of the body’s calories are required fuel to stay alert and active throughout the day. Some of the essential nutrients include omega-3 fatty acids. They help build the membranes around the brain cells and improve cognition. Vitamin E protects the brain cells from oxidative stress and also improves cognition. Iron carries oxygen to the brain. A diet deficient in iron results in a lack of focus and irritability.
2. Healthy Gut Flora
Around 100 million bacteria can be found in the gastrointestinal tract between the esophagus and the rectum. These bacteria collectively form the Enteric Nervous System (ENS). Scientists have now found that the ENS could be important enough to be called our second brain. This system not only affects the digestion process but also regulates mood. In fact, it is now found that anxiety and depression could sometimes be tracked to unhealthy gut bacteria. Researchers have found healthy gut bacteria are established by the time a child is two-and-a-half and after this point, there’s hardly any change.
It grows in three different and distinct phases: the development phase from 3 to 14 months, the transitional phase from 15 to 30 months and stable phase from 31 months on. The first few years of life are more important to establish microbiomes. Different bacteria perform different functions. For example, lactobacillus rhamnosus promotes a well-functioning metabolism and even reduces the risk of infections. Building up healthy gut bacteria early on can be critical for a child’s lifelong health.
3. Prebiotics, Zinc, and Vitamins to Build the Immune System
Most people know vitamin C is essential for building a healthy immune system, but not many know prebiotics are also an essential element of a healthy immune system. These healthy bacteria work by increasing the expression of anti-inflammatory cytokines and reducing the effects of proinflammatory cytokines in the body. Deficiency in micronutrients such as zinc, selenium, Vitamins A, B6, C, and E are known to negatively affect immunity.
Having a better understanding of the necessary nutrients a baby needs for a long and healthy life can help guide parents to choosing the best foods as their little ones are introduced into the wide range of solid foods the world has to offer.