Ruling out mineral deficiencies
Most vitamin and mineral deficiencies are uncommon in the UK because British people tend to eat a varied diet and many foods are also enriched with nutrients. Two common mineral deficiencies in the UK, however, are iron and calcium.
“Iron-ing it out”
Without iron, your child can’t make enough red blood cells and her organs won’t function well. Iron deficiency can also affect your child’s growth and lead to learning and behavioral problems. Babies under the age of 1 year usually get enough iron, because breast milk is a natural iron source and formula milk is usually fortified with iron. Toddlers and young children are more prone to iron deficiency, because cows’ milk is low in iron and can even decrease the absorption of iron. Good sources of iron include red meat, dark poultry, tuna, salmon, eggs, pulses, dried fruits, leafy green vegetables, and whole grains.
Iron-deficiency anemia often has no symptoms to begin with because the body’s supply is depleted slowly. But as the anemia progresses, some of the following signs may appear:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Pale skin
- Rapid heartbeat
- Decreased appetite
- Dizziness or light-headedness
If your child has any of the above symptoms, ask your doctor to do a simple blood test to find out whether your child has iron-deficiency anemia If she does have iron-deficiency anemia the doctor may prescribe iron supplements. Excessive iron intake can cause health problems, so never give your child iron supplements without consulting your doctor first. Keep iron supplements well out of your child’s reach, as accidental overdosing can be extremely dangerous.
Catching up on calcium
Without enough calcium, your child’s bones and teeth won’t grow strong and straight. Calcium also helps the body to absorb vitamin D, and so calcium deficiency is related to rickets and osteoporosis (brittle-bone disease) later in life. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, calcium-fortified orange juice, and white beans. If your child is on a dairy-free or vegan diet, you may find it a bit harder to provide the right amount of calcium. Vegetables contain calcium, but other important non-dairy sources include calcium-fortified soya milk, tofu processed with calcium sulphate, and nuts and seeds. Giving your child milkshakes or yoghurt-based smoothies made from semi-skimmed milk is an excellent way to boost calcium intake.