Does My Kid Really Need Vitamins? 4 Supplements That Are Worth Your Money & Why

It seems as though we live in a world full of magical potions, powders, drinks, and pills! Products marketed toward our children are just as vast and varied. If you question the need for them, good - you should! Not only can supplements be pricey, but some of them fail to deliver, and many of them are unnecessary. First, let's talk about what a supplement is and the types of supplements out there.

Supplements are anything that you take to add to your existing diet in efforts of attaining the balanced nutrient levels needed for overall health. I would like to point out, here, we do not call them "replacements", we call them "supplements." They are intended to fill in the gaps, not to replace whole foods altogether.  You should also take them in moderation. The name supplement is an umbrella under which many different products fall. Vitamins, Minerals, Herbals, Essential Fatty Acids, Enzymes, Amino Acids, and Botanicals are all examples of supplements. 

So, who needs to take supplements? In general, there are specific demographics that benefit mainly from supplements. People experiencing pregnancy, illnesses, food allergies, limited diets, and lack of quality food due to geography are examples of someone who might want to supplement. It's fair to say that busy people and adults over the age of 50 also benefit from supplements. For the sake of this post, we're going to focus on our busy tiny humans, who often have limited diets. It's nerve racking as a parent to make sure our little ones are getting the nutrients they need to remain healthy and develop properly.  Let's talk about 4 supplements that are worth your money and your kids might benefit from taking.

1.  A Whole Food Multivitamin

Multivitamins can be ideal for rounding out gaps in a diet - such as that of a toddler or small child. There are three different types of multivitamin supplements on the market. 

1. Synthetic Supplements
2. Natural Supplements
3. Whole Food Supplements

Think of #1 being lowest, least useful, and #3 being highest, or most helpful to the body. Synthetic supplements are laboratory made, contain additives like coloring, fillers, and lubricants, and only contain isolated nutrients (not recognized and absorbed by the body).  Whole Food Supplements, on the other hand, are the next best thing to Whole Foods. They are made up of concentrated whole food and contain vitamins and minerals TOGETHER the way the body recognizes and uses them. 

Think of a car. A synthetic supplement is like giving someone a set of four wheels. That's great and all, but you can't drive anywhere with just four wheels. You need the whole car to get anywhere! A whole food supplement is like giving someone an entire car, rather than fragmented parts. There are a handful of whole food supplements on the market, but my first choice is Juice Plus.

First and foremost it's Pediatrician recommended. It's what Dr. Sears recommends, and if you're an Orlando local, it's also what Dr. Cannizarro, AKA Dr. C (Eat This and Live for Kids), recommends. Lastly, it is the most thoroughly researched (by a 3rd party) supplement IN THE WORLD. 

2.  Omega - 3

Omega -3 is an Essential Fatty Acid that is vital to many systems in our body - primarily brain function (Refer to my Blog about NDD: 5 Ways to Improve Your Family's Brain Function). Omega-3 something that we MUST obtain through diet - our bodies cannot create it. We can get Omega-3's from two types of sources: plants, and animals (specifically Marine life). Marine Omega-3 is the #1 Diet Deficiency! Unless your child is eating 2-3 servings of fatty, cold, water fish (such as salmon, cod, or halibut) a week, they need to supplement. 

You can get Omega-3 by eating Walnuts, Pumpkin Seeds, and Flax oil/meal, however,  it's not brain use ready. Our bodies have to convert this plant Omega-3 before the brain can use it and it's believed that only about 3-5% of it ends up being available for brain function. Marine Omega-3's are brain ready right off the bat. The Standard American Diet, AKA the SAD diet, is known for lacking the proper amounts of fish. Almost all of us, especially our kiddos need to be supplementing Omega-3. Skin conditions such as eczema are signs of Omega-3 Deficiency. 

When shopping for Fish Oil Supplements you want to be mindful. You want to make sure it is from a safe and purified source, preferably a fatty, wild, cold-water fish - the smaller, the better. Think Sustainably Caught Krill, and Cod Liver for omnivores, and Algae for Vegans. Dr. Sears recommends Nordic Naturals Gummies for the kids. It's what we give our girls what I recommend to my clients. As a bonus, they are a company that gives back! For those of you who know my values, you know I have a heart for philanthropy. They have teamed up with Carter's Kids and are currently raising money to build a community playground in an at-risk community in CA. Purchase the Omega-3 Gummy Worms (Evie's Favorite) by 9.30.16 and part of the proceeds will fund the playground. 

3. Probiotic

85% of our immune system is in our gut or intestinal tract! We need good bugs (bacteria) in our gut to be healthy. Gut health has been linked to brain health and there is talk that it may even contribute to anxiety and autism spectrum disorders (although this is still being studied), to name a few. A few things you need to know before going on a probiotic are that these good bugs need specific things to live. Enter Prebiotics. Prebiotics are fiber rich foods that leave fiber in the digestive tract - onions, garlic, and bananas are examples of prebiotics. 

Secondly, sugar and processed foods will undo a well-meaning probiotic supplement. Sugar and processed foods wreck havoc on the gut, and if you can't commit to limiting these foods, it might be best not to invest in a good probiotic. There are two pediatrician recommended brands I suggest. Xymogen and Culturelle, which are Dr. C and Dr. Franz (Common Sense Pediatrics) approved. 

4. Vitamin D3

Our bodies convert direct sunlight into vitamin D. Vitamin D promotes a healthy immune system, strong bones, teeth & muscles. If your child is getting 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight a day, then they probably do not need to supplement. However, if you are a diligent sunscreen user, or they are not getting the 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight it's suggested you provide a supplement. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 400IU. However, that is the minimum that a child needs to maintain overall health. Our girls receive 1000IU daily (we like Rainbow Light), as recommended by our pediatrician. Check with your care provider if you are unsure about a dosage. 

Remember, supplements are not replacements! We still need to do our part to ensure we are providing healthy whole foods for our kids, but these 4 supplements can help us stress less when our kids have those eat nothing days. As always, if you think your child might benefit from the supplements above check with your care provider or pediatrician for the green light. 

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