Nutrients – Functions and sources – A quick guide ~ Guest Post by PJ!

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Read the article on Nutrition for Children part 1 by Padmajha Suresh.


In my previous article, I discussed on Nutrition for Children, with brief introduction to various aspects related to it.

Today I will focus on some facts that you may want to consider while planning a meal for the little one..

Nutrients – Functions and sources- A quick guide

1.Energy – It is required for the overall growth and development of the child and the sources include cereals, pulses, milk products, nuts, fats and oils.

2. Protein – It is the basis for tissue building and development of skeletal muscles. Sources – Pulses[lentils/legumes],milk and milk products[including cheese, yogurt etc], tofu, nuts, egg whites, soy products, meat, etc

3. Fats – These are the concentrates source of energy and are also the carriers of fat soluble vitamins- A,D,E,K. Major sources- Oil, Ghee, butter, margarine, nuts and egg yolk, cream

4. Fibre – As we are aware, fiber gives satiety and avoids constipation. Sources – Raw fruits, vegetables, cereals and pulses.

5. Vitamins-We can classify them as Fat soluble and water soluble vitamins…

A] Fat soluble vitamins –

i] Vitamin A – Needed for good vision, immunity and an adequate diet with Vitamin A prevents night blindness. Green leafy vegetables are the best source, along with yellow/orange colored vegetables/fruits like papaya, mango, carrots, pumpkin, papaya, mango, sweet potato, winter squash, cantaloupe and spinach, eggs and milk.

ii] Vitamin D- It is needed to help the body assimilate Calcium from our diet and hence indirectly helps in building strong teeth and healthy bones. Milk and egg yolk are the best sources of this vitamin. It is also found in Fatty fish, liver and fortified milk. 5-10 minutes of exposure to direct sunlight 3-4 times a week also an additional way to get this vitamin.

iii] Vitamin E- It is an anti-oxidant and is required for proper cell functioning. Sources include vegetable oils, butter and margarine, broccoli, whole grains, peanuts, sunflower seeds, mayonnaise, wheat germ, yam and sweet potato.

iv] Vitamin K – This vitamin is vital for normal blood clotting and is found in Green leafy vegetables, fruits, potato, beets, fruits, dairy products, eggs, seeds, and meats.

B]Water soluble vitamins

i] Vitamin B – It is a group of vitamins, each one performing a crucial function in our body.

ii] Vitamin B1 –It is needed for energy production and also for transmitting the nerve impulses. It can be found in cereals, green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, sunflower seeds, whole grains, pork, and seafood.

iii] Vitamin B2 – It aids in the release of energy and promotes healthy skin and eyes. Its sources include milk, yogurt, milk, breads, green leafy vegetables, cereals, fruits, almond and chicken.

iv] Vitamin B6 – Its functions are to maintain the nervous tissue and regeneration of red cells and can be found in whole grains, fortified cereals, oats, chick peas, banana ,vegetables, baked potatoes, chicken and peanuts.

v] Vitamin B12 – Proper functioning of the cells are ensured by including adequate quantities of this vitamin by including a liberal portion of dairy products in the diet along with eggs, fish, beef, pork, yeast and fermented foods.

vi] Niacin – Helps to convert food to energy. It is found in breads, cereal grains, nuts, vegetables, peanut butter, brewers yeast, tuna, chicken breast, sunflower seeds and beans.

vii] Folacin- It is required by the body to use up the proteins and also to prevent blood disorders. Include dried beans, wheat germ, nuts, oranges, bananas, beets, beans, peas, , broccoli ,Popeye’s favorite-spinach, other green leafy vegetables and mushrooms.

Vitamin C-It is an antioxidant vitamin needed for the formation of collagen to hold the cells together and for healthy teeth, gums and blood vessels. It improves iron absorption and resistance to infection. Good sources of this Vitamin include citrus fruits like oranges, sweet lime, lemons, guava, Indian gooseberry, strawberries, melons, broccoli, green peppers, Brussels sprouts, red peppers and cranberry juice, pineapple.

6] Minerals

A] Calcium, which is required for the formation of healthy bones and teeth, is also needed for blood clotting and proper functioning of the heart .It is found in milk and milk products, green vegetables, broccoli, cabbage, kale, tofu, sardines and salmon.

B] Phosphorus works with calcium to promote the formation of teeth and bones, maintain acid base balance in the body. Found in Milk and milk products, grains, nuts and legumes, lean meats

C] Sodium – It regulates the fluids in the body and thus regulates the blood pressure. It is also essential for the nerve function and energy production .It is present in Table salt and most processed foods and hence care should be taken when the diet has too much processed foods as higher sodium levels will lead to increase in blood pressure. Other sources include baking soda, monosodium glutamate (MSG), various seasonings, additives, condiments, meat, fish, poultry, dairy foods, eggs, smoked meats, olives, and pickled foods.

D]Potassium – It also balances the fluid level in the body and can be found in milk, yogurt,oranges, bananas, raisins, apricots, oranges, avocadoes, dates, cantaloupe, watermelon, prunes, broccoli, spinach, carrots, potato, sweet potato, winter squash, mushrooms, peas, lentils, dried beans, peanuts, lean meats.

E] Iron –This important mineral is necessary to prevent anemia and is an essential component of hemoglobin. A diet rich in leafy vegetables, dried beans, beaten rice, jaggery, dried fruits, nuts, lentils, meats, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains and enriched food products is a sure way to keep anemia at bay.

F] Zinc- It promotes the tissue growth and also helps prevent anemia. It is found in Eggs, milk, meat, seafood, and liver, whole-grains.

G] Iodine- It is essential for the proper functioning of thyroid gland and can be included in the diet by using iodized salt and milk.

There are quite a few other minerals like Magnesium, chromium which are needed a for energy metabolism. They can be found in whole grains, breads, vegetable oils, milk and cheese.

No single food can meet the total nutritional requirement for a day, hence the meal should be planned in such a way that at least a few foods from each food group are included and distributed in the menu.

Please note that Nutrition in itself is a vast topic and it has been consolidated here to provide the details in a nutshell.

In my next article, I will be talking about how to make food more interesting with the things we learnt from above.

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  1. That was an awesome post, Srivalli..! Not just for the kids, but also for the junk-eaters like me 😀 Pls pass my thanks to Padmajha for her wonderful contribution! 🙂

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