Updated 12 May 2014

5 nutrients every child needs

Minerals are natural substances that are absorbed by your baby’s body through food and other supplements. These are the 5 minerals your child needs every day.


Minerals are natural substances that are absorbed by your baby’s body through food and other supplements. They are necessary for many bodily functions, particularly the growth of your child.

Clinical Paediatric Dietician Kath Megaw explains that minerals such as chromium, copper, iodine, iron, selenium, and zinc are called trace minerals because you only need very small amounts of them each day and the best way to get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs is to eat a variety of foods every day.

"Whole or unprocessed foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, legumes, lean meats, fish and poultry are the best choices for providing your body with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and grow properly. This applies to children too," she says.

Megaw outlines the five most important minerals children need which include:

Calcium. Calcium is an important mineral in childhood. Calcium is essential for the proper development of bones and teeth. It is also important for blood clotting and for good nerve, muscle, and heart function. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, salmon, pilchards/ sardines (with bones), seafood, almonds and green leafy vegetables.

Magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral stored in your body tissues. It plays a role in more than 300 enzyme reactions within your body. Magnesium is a versatile mineral, vital for the growth and maintenance of teeth and bones, relaxation of muscles, maintenance of blood sugar levels and for the development and functioning of a healthy heart and nervous system. Magnesium is found in nuts, pumpkin, sunflower seeds and grains. Protein-rich foods such as chicken, fish and meat aid the absorption of magnesium, along with the intake of calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and Vitamins B1, B6, C and D.

Iron. Adequate iron intake is important during childhood and is positively associated with learning. Iron is essential for building healthy blood and for carrying oxygen to body cells. Iron is found in eggs, fish, liver, meat and organ meats (liver), poultry, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes and iron-enriched cereals. 

Zinc. Many of the body's hormones and enzymes depend on zinc to perform their functions. Zinc is also related to a baby’s ability to grow. Zinc is found in whole grains, seafood, fish, eggs, dairy and nuts.

Selenium. Selenium is a trace mineral essential for many body processes, and is found in soil. In the body, selenium is present in virtually every cell but is most abundant in the kidneys, liver, spleen, pancreas and testes. Many experts now believe selenium could prove to be one of the most important disease-fighting nutrients in the body, specifically in the prevention of heart disease, cancer, inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, and for people suffering from infections that compromise cell immunity. Selenium rich foods include brazil nuts, seafood, poultry, meat, oats and brown rice. 

Reference: Kath Megaw, Clinical Paediatric Dietician. Visit for more information.

(Amy Froneman, Health24, May 2012)

(Picture: Girl with bowl of vegetables from Shutterstock)




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