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Does Your Child Need a Multi?

An Aussie Mum's Guide To Eco Friendly Babies: Does Your Child Need a Multi?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Does Your Child Need a Multi?

Nearly every big vitamin brand makes a kids multi and most parents who buy them do so for pretty valid reasons.  Picky eaters or restricted diets, low soil quality, increased exposure to germs and pollutants- but how do you know if your child needs a multi, and which one do you choose?

Firstly, what is your child likely to be lacking?

Iodine deficiency is very common in Australia- Iodine is essential for brain development, hormone production and energy and is of particular importance for kids, pregnant women and menopause.  To combat rising levels of iodine deficiency, most breads now include an potassium iodide and you can also buy iodized salt- neither of which is easy to absorb.  The best source of iodine is seaweed and how many Aussie families use seaweed in their daily diet?  The best way to top up iodine levels is to sprinkle a teaspoon of kelp, wakame or dulse powder over dinner (don't mix it in before as heat destroys a lot of nutrients).  These seaweeds also contain calcium, iron and magnesium. The best way to describe the taste is slightly salty and 'like the ocean'.  Once you try it you'll see what I mean.  You don't need much so it's easy to blend into various dishes.

Another thing we don't eat a lot of in Australia is oily fish, kind of silly considering we live on a great big island.  Though a great source of omega 3, many people are currently avoiding seafood altogether due to the Fukushima power plant meltdown.  It's pretty easy to get omega 3 from your diet though- just make sure to include lots of wholegrains, and you can use flaxseed meal or chia seeds for a super boost.  These can be added to breakfast cereal, yoghurt or a smoothie.

Iron is a little trickier; most people assume low energy is caused by iron deficiency but they don't realise too much iron can cause the same symptoms.  Before supplementing iron always check with a naturopath or doctor.  Meat has the highest concentration and easiest to absorb iron, but it's easy to get through vegan sources as well, like the seaweeds mentioned above, pepitas, sesame seeds, soybeans, tofu, lentils and spinach.

Calcium can be a concern for parents who live a vegan lifestyle, or have kids who are intolerant/allergic to dairy or just plain don't like it.  Again, Google can be your friend and using 'vegan' in the search term will pull up all the non dairy calcium option.  Chickpeas, tofu and non-dairy, calcium fortified milks (including almond, buckwheat, rice and quinoa) can easily replace milk in the diet.

The other thing you can do is look at the food you eat, and how it's prepared.  A varied diet rich in fresh, organic produce will maximise the nutritional content.  Cooking foods in a microwave destroys nutrients so stick to steaming, stir-frying and baking where you can.  Raw is great too- add things like capsicum, broccoli, beetroot and other colourful veg to raw salads.  You can add superfoods to the diet too, things like blueberries, spirulina, wheatgrass, chia and goji are all packed full of great nutrients for a healthy body.

Sometimes despite best intentions a supplement is needed.  Kids with digestive disorders or special needs, those on a very restricted diet, limited access to fresh, healthy food or kids that just don't eat enough.  How do you pick from the array of bright boxes and bubblegum flavours?

1. Look at what's NOT in your kids multi- there should be no artificial preservatives, sweeteners, colours or flavours.  Make sure they use natural fruit flavouring and stick to natural sweeteners like Xylitol and stevia.

2. Look at the type of ingredients- are there lot's of oxide (heavy metal, hard to absorb) based minerals or are they chelates and citrates (much easier to assimilate).  If you are after a specific ingredient like magnesium, is there enough?  You might have to consider a more specific product than a multi.

3. Look at the dose and how to administer it- a one-size-fits-all dose of one a day for 2-12 year olds mean the 12 year old is probably not getting nearly enough for it to be useful.  Age specific dosing is always better.  Compare the quantities of a few ingredients between brands and consider taste too.

4. Check for allergy ingredients and other things you want to avoid.

So far, all the best kids supplements I've seen are practitioner only brands like Metagenics, which means you need to see your Naturopath or Herbalist to get them.  It's definitely worth it though- much better dosing, powder formulas for easy administering and better quality ingredients.  The only off the shelf product I really, really like is the Natural High Supershake, which is more a superfood/protein powder than anything.  I also like Lifestream Ultimate Veggies to give a boost to the diet.  Both are food based for maximum absorption and range of constituents.

Whether you use a single multi for your kids or a tailored supplement regime, they will always get the best out of life if their diet is good.  So eat up, get plenty of fresh air and sunshine and enjoy life to the fullest :)


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