Five Nutrients For Children

HEALTHWATCH: vitamins, minerals, kids CBS/iStockphoto

Are your children eating what they should for good health and growth? Well, the latest government dietary guidelines say: Maybe not, especially when it comes to five essential nutrients. Dr. Mallika Marshall shared more information on The Saturday Early Show.

Here are five nutrients children need that they might lack:

  • Calcium: A person's need for calcium grows rapidly with the years. Children ages 9 to 19 need nearly three times as much as toddlers. Teenagers, especially girls, often get far less calcium than they should. Calcium in the blood helps maintain heart rhythm, and promotes proper bloody clotting and muscular function. It's the key to strong bones. When you have strong bones, especially in the pre-teen years, a person is a lot less likely to develop problems like osteoporosis later in life.

    Some good sources of calcium include milk (whole, skim or even lactose-free), yogurt and cheese, and orange juice with added calcium. Of course, calcium supplements are an option, too.

  • Fiber helps head off Type 2 diabetes, and it's vital for staying "regular" and avoiding constipation. It also helps reduce the risk of high blood cholesterol and heart disease later in life.

    Some sources of fiber are breads that are 100 percent whole wheat or whole grain, whole-grain cereals, fresh fruit with the skins on, and fresh vegetables, along with dried fruits, brown rice, beans and lentils, nuts (unsalted) and even popcorn, especially if you air-pop it. Beware of misleading labels; bakers can color white bread brown and call it "wheat," so check the ingredients.

  • Magnesium is important to 300 bodily functions, including the muscles, nerves and heart. It boosts your immune system and strengthens bones. Food labels don't often list it, but you'll get the job done by giving your kids dark green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, whole-grain breads and cereals, nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds) and white, black and navy beans.

  • Vitamin E is vital for a strong immune system. It's a powerful anti-oxidant, meaning that it fights harmful by-products of everything from air pollution and cigarette smoke to ultraviolet rays and even your own natural metabolism. That makes it vital for building and maintaining a strong immune system.

    Some good sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils like those contained in sunflower and safflower oils (especially in light salad dressings). Sunflower seeds are great snacks. Give them cereals fortified with Vitamin E. Wheat germ, nuts and nut butters are good, but not peanut butter, since peanuts aren't true nuts at all.

  • Potassium helps head off high blood pressure and maintains a proper fluid balance in your body and promotes strong bones. Good sources include bananas and other fresh fruits like cantaloupe and honeydew melon. Prune, tomato and orange juice are good, along with potatoes and sweet potatoes, leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard, plus milk and yogurt. Once again: the real key to all of this is whole, not refined, and fresh, not processed.
    • Ellen Crean

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