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Micronutrient Needs of Toddlers

Micronutrients are necessary for the health, function, and development of the brain, body, and bones. The deficiency of micronutrients causes several health issues. Micronutrients perform various functions like immunity, blood clotting, circulation, energy production, brain function, skin integrity, bone development, and fluid balance.

Micronutrients are essential for the growth and development of every individual, especially toddlers. In this article, we get to know micronutrients, types of micronutrient supplements, and their significance.

What are micronutrients?

Micronutrients comprise both vitamins and minerals, and these vitamins are fat-soluble and water-soluble.

  • Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are absorbed with dietary fat sources and are stored in fatty tissue.
  • Water-soluble vitamins include B and C vitamins. They dissolve in water, are not stored long in the body, and are flushed out through urine when in excess.

Minerals are two types. Macro-minerals and Trace minerals

  • Macro-minerals in large amounts. These include calcium, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur.
  • Trace minerals in small amounts. These include iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, iodine, fluoride, and selenium.
 Essential Micronutrients

Some essential micronutrients required for every individual for growth and development are:

Iron

It is an essential micronutrient for motor and cognitive development. Iron deficiency causes anemia, defined as low hemoglobin concentration, which happens to most children and pregnant women.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A helps in maintaining healthy eyesight and better immune system function. The deficiency of vitamin A causes night blindness and death from infectious diseases like measles and diarrhea. It is found in dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, pistachio nuts, carrots, cantaloupe, etc.,

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is necessary for building strong bones by increasing the calcium capacity of the body. The calcium deficiency in children causes rickets, also an increased infection from bacteria and viruses. It also plays a vital role in muscle and nerve functions. It is rich in cheese, eggs, and oily fish (like salmon and mackerel). For toddlers, with no easy access to food like these, it is recommended to start them with early supplements.

Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9, called folate, is essential for the healthy development of the brain and spine of the fetus in the earliest days.

Zinc

Zinc improves immune functions and resists diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria. It also helps in growth and gaining weight among infants and young children.

Iodine

It is an essential mineral, as the body needs it to make thyroid hormones, which are crucial for development and growth. Iodine supplements help give toddlers a positive effect on their overall cognitive function and reasoning abilities.

Sodium

Sodium helps maintain stable blood pressure and essential fatty acids like omega 3 and linoleic acids, which are generally significant for the structure and function of cell membranes, vision, and nervous system function.

Some micronutrients like Vitamin B12 and Choline help in preventing damage and degradation of the nervous system. Vitamin C helps in building and maintaining immunity. Vitamin E is essential for proper growth. Calcium is the building block for proper bone formation and tooth health. Fluoride is crucial for preventing tooth decay. Magnesium controls the most important metabolic reactions in the body.

Similar read: top healthy foods for kids
Micronutrient Supplements:

Though people only need some micronutrients, consuming the approximate quantity is significant. Micronutrients fulfill most requirements. A proper micronutrients supplements definition revolves around any food fortified with a single micronutrient like iodine, iron, folic acid (folate), Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Zinc, and multiple micronutrients in the form of capsules, tablets, drops, or syrup. Micronutrient supplements are essential for maintaining and improving the all-around health of toddlers and must be adequately added to the diet, with advice from doctors or health care professionals.

Types of Micronutrient Supplements:
  • Micronutrient supplements are of two types large-scale and targeted fortification.
  • Large-scale fortification is the process of adding micronutrients to commonly consumed foods during central processing to increase their nutritional value. These are considered the best micronutrient supplements, as food materials like wheat, flour, rice, salt, sugar, oil, and milk are selected as vehicles for large-scale fortification that can be available.
  • Targeted fortification is the practice of providing micronutrient supplements through foods designed for specific subgroups of the population, such as infant formula for infants less than 6 months of age, complementary foods for children over 6 months of age, and foods for institutional programs aimed at school and preschool-aged children.
What micronutrients does my toddler need?

Toddlers’ age is the right time for parents to encourage healthy eating. During this time, toddlers need micronutrients. Generally, for most toddlers, the micronutrient requirements per day are as follows:

  • Vitamin A – 2,500 IU
  • Vitamin C – 40 mg
  • Calcium – 800 mg
  • Iron – 10 mg
  • Vitamin D – 400 IU
  • Vitamin E -10 IU
  • Thiamin – 0.7 mg
  • Riboflavin – 0.8 mg
  • Niacin – 9 mg
  • Vitamin B6 – 0.7 mg
  • Folate – 200 mcg
  • Vitamin B12 – 3 mcg
  • Biotin – 150 mcg
  • Pantothenic Acid – 5 mg
  • Phosphorus Infants – 800 mg
  • Iodine – 70 mcg
  • Zinc – 8 mg
  • Copper – 1 mg
How to feed your child with micronutrients?

The best way to meet your child’s micronutrient needs is to offer a diet full of healthy, colorful foods rich in plants.

  • Breast milk or infant formula will meet your infant’s needs until they are old enough to start weaning i.e., below six months. At that time, the first foods prepared in age-appropriate ways can be the best sources of micronutrients for kids.
  • Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can be made into purees, soft-cooked, or cut into small pieces as your child gets six months. Smoothies, sauces, and even batters for baked goods like pancakes and muffins can be the best vehicles for micronutrient-dense ingredients.
  • Kids raised on a plant-based diet have equal micronutrient requirements as other kids. But they may have a more difficult time finding certain ones usually found in animal foods. In this case, a micronutrient-containing supplement made especially for children is a good idea, in addition to a balanced diet full of plant foods.

For example, vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine, and iron may be more difficult to find in adequate amounts on a vegan diet because young children go through periods of selective eating or meal skipping. A vegan diet can be appropriate and sufficient for children if the nutrition is in balance. Be sure to have your child’s nutritional status and diet evaluated by a registered dietitian if you have any concerns. 

Did you know?
 Vitamin D is not produced in the body like the other vitamins; it must obtained either through exposure to sunlight or through supplements.

In the end, there are many more foods that are a part of your toddler’s diet which are rich in micronutrients. Also, it is the age where their relationship to a healthy diet increases which is crucial for their body growth and development.

Written by Jagannadh Ch