Essential nutrients for school aged kids

Essential nutrients for school aged kids

Author -  Good Health


1. Vitamin C

A new school year often brings with it new bugs and germs. Vitamin C helps to support children’s immune and respiratory systems so that they are less likely to get sick. Common dietary sources include kiwifruit, citrus fruit, strawberries and summer stone fruits, which are plentiful at this time of year! Vitamin C can also be found in vegetables such as raw broccoli and red capsicum. 


2. Vitamin D3

Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is essential for an optimal immune system, positive mood and skeletal health, especially in growing children. Vitamin D is activated predominantly by exposure to sunlight, however due to the harsh summer sun in New Zealand, we need to slip, slop, slap & wrap, meaning that it is more difficult to get enough direct sun exposure for vitamin D activation. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include muscle weakness, soft bones and a poor functioning immune system. It can be difficult to get your children to eat enough vitamin D rich foods such as oily fish, cod liver oil and egg yolks, so supplementation with the active form, Vitamin D3, can help to ensure that they are receiving their daily requirements. 


3. Iron

Iron boosts energy, helps oxygen uptake and needs vitamin C for absorption. A lack of iron (or vitamin C) may cause tiredness, weakness, dizziness and may lead to anemia. Signs to look out for in children are dark circles under the eyes, paleness, and reduced energy for play or to concentrate at school. Iron comes in two forms: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron comes from red meat and seafood; and non-heme from plants including beans, spinach, broccoli and kale.


4. Calcium

Calcium is essential for development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth. During times of rapid growth, children need more calcium than ever. Strong bones in childhood lay the foundations for strong bones into adulthood. Symptoms of calcium deficiency include weak bones, soft bones (rickets), dental problems, muscle cramps and weak or brittle nails. Despite calcium’s important role, the body does not produce calcium naturally. To gain the recommended daily intake, calcium requirements must be achieved through supplementation or dietary sources such as dairy products, bony fish and dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach.

5. Magnesium

Involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, magnesium is fundamental for a growing body and mind. Magnesium helps to support kids through growth spurts, soothes muscle tension and helps with relaxation for a better night’s sleep, so that their mind can stay focused at school. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include growing pains, muscle cramps, restlessness and anxiety or stress. Common dietary sources of magnesium include whole grains such as oats; nuts such as almonds; and leafy green vegetables. 


6. Omega-3s

Omega-3s are the building blocks of a child’s development, where brain development is at its peak. Essential for memory retention, mental focus and a healthy nervous system, omega-3s cannot be made in the body, and must be obtained in the diet through sources such as oily fish, flax seeds, chia seeds and avocado. 


7. Pre and probiotics

Pre and probiotics help to maintain a healthy gut bacteria balance. Healthy gut bacteria not only help to strengthen the digestive system, they support the immune system, nervous system and can reduce the risk of allergies. Common dietary sources include yoghurt, soft cheese, fermented foods, kombucha and kefir. As these can be difficult to include in sufficient amounts in child’s diet, supplementation at a child’s dosage can be a helpful way to restore balance in the gut.

Help your child reach their full potential as they head back to school. Ensuring your child is having a nutritionally balanced diet and supplementing where necessary will help lay the foundations they need to support their growing minds and bodies.

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