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Essential nutrients for your growing child

Essential nutrients for your growing child

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Nutrients present in your baby’s food play an important role in maintaining the overall health. Here is a brief discussion of nutrients that are important to ensure that your baby grows well and remains healthy.

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Iron

Is a mineral that makes up an important part of hemoglobin, it is this substance in blood that carries oxygen throughout the body and helps prevent anemia. 1

Iron deficiency in babies can make them anemic which leads to reduced oxygen carrying capacity and has long term consequences on their physical and mental development. Furthermore, iron deficiency anemia can impact the learning, thinking or problem solving ability of your child. 2,3

At six months of age, your baby is at a greater risk of iron deficiency because:

Though Her iron requirements are comparatively lesser beyond 6 months of age but since her iron stores with which she was born are depleted, thus there is a resultant increase in the iron needs beyond six months of age and your breast milk might not be enough to meet these requirements.1

Iodine

Is essential in the development of the brain and immune function of the baby.4

Insufficient iodine during this period can result in impaired neurodevelopment and brain development. Iodine deficient children have weakened immunity and poor learning skills. 5

Calcium

Is essential for bone development and helps prevent bone deformities.6

Vitamin A

Appropriate amount of vitamin A in the diet helps prevent night blindness 7

Has a role to play in immune system development

Vitamin D

Helps in the development of healthy bones and teeth.

It also helps in the absorption of calcium thus preventing rickets.

Though vitamin D can be synthesized in the body with the help of sunlight it has been seen that infants, because of limited exposure to direct sunlight, may be deficient in vitamin D. 8

Your baby undergoes rapid growth and development during the first two years of life.9 After six months of age, breast milk alone does not suffice in meeting the nutritional needs of your baby.10 Therefore, complementary  foods introduced during this time should bridge the nutrient gaps left by breast milk post 6 months.9 Micronutrients including vitamins and minerals are crucial for the optimal growth and development along with the development of immunity of your baby during the early years of life. If your baby’s food does not contain micronutrients in adequate amounts, then he/she is at increased risk of improper growth, impaired mental development, and frequent infections.11 Research has shown that feeding your baby solely with traditional family food that is nutritionally adequate for the rest of the family may put him/her at risk of multiple micronutrient deficiencies, especially iron, zinc, calcium, and vitamins. Therefore, it is important that complementary foods contain sufficient quantities of these micronutrients and be nutrient dense.9 You can include non-vegetarian foods such as eggs, liver; these are rich in iron, zinc, vitamin A, folate etc. Include dark green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, or carrots to cover your baby’s vitamin A needs. Fruits like orange, mango or passion fruits are good sources of vitamin A and C, which help in better absorption of iron from your baby’s diet. This way you are likely to ensure that your baby’s complementary food is nutrient dense and will bridge the nutrient gaps left by breast milk post 6 months of age.

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