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children's supplements: dad and daughter at breakfast

Your Ultimate Guide To Children’s Supplements

Many adults have a stockpile of supplements they rely on to fulfill their daily nutritional requirements and support their health goals. However, there’s still plenty of confusion out there about children’s supplements.

The truth of the matter is this: Even with the best, most varied, phytonutrient-rich diet, most people—kids included—have nutritional deficiencies and insufficiencies that cannot be addressed by food alone, says Elisa H. Song, M.D., Stanford- and UCSF-trained holistic pediatrician.

“About 25 percent of children aged two to eight in the U.S. have been diagnosed with some type of chronic disease, which creates a greater need for certain nutrients,” says Song. “Now more than ever, our children have increased nutritional needs, even with the best diet.”

As many parents know, kids don’t exactly pine for the recommended one to three cups of fruits and veggies daily. Because of this, they tend to eat more processed foods, which are significantly less nutrient-dense and may contribute to the disease epidemic, says Maya Shetreat, M.D., an integrative pediatric neurologist and author of The Dirt Cure. 

It’s important to discuss your child’s nutritional needs with a healthcare provider experienced in nutrition and supplements. “Their conventional pediatrician may or may not qualify,” Shetreat says. “They often have no experience in nutrition or dismiss the benefits of supplements.” (This is especially important if your child has specific health concerns, takes medications, or has a known insufficiency or deficiency.)

With that in mind, the following six children’s supplements are some of the most beneficial.

1. A Multivitamin 

One of the most basic children’s supplements is a multivitamin, which is composed of all of the essential nutrients they need. These include B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, and many others that are critical for healthy body and brain function, explains Shetreat. 

Don’t worry, it won’t push them overboard on certain vitamins and minerals. “Most of the nutrients in a multivitamin are water-soluble, so the body will excrete whatever it doesn’t need,” Shetreat says. 

“The one downside is that if there’s one nutrient your child needs a lot of, like magnesium (which is good for improving sleep and easing feelings of anxiety and headaches), a multivitamin may not offer a large enough dose to do the trick,” she explains. 

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2. Vitamin C

One specific nutrient that’s likely already on your radar for your child, vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and several vegetables, including bell pepper and broccoli. “Vitamin C is one of our most important antioxidants, supporting our kids’ brains and immune systems from free radical damage called oxidative stress,” says Song. 

Read More: 7 Immune-Boosting Snacks Nutritionists Love

“Our modern world is filled with chemicals, air pollution, and psychological stress, which all cause oxidative stress,” she explains. “Extra vitamin C can go a long way in keeping our kids as healthy as possible.” If your child isn’t getting enough vitamin C through diet alone, discuss supplementation with your pediatrician. 

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3. Vitamin D 

A 2019 study by the Outdoor Foundation found that Americans currently spend less time outdoors than ever before, with children taking part in 15 percent fewer outdoor activities than even in just 2018. Given this, it’s no surprise that vitamin D deficiency is common among children ages six to 12 years old, a concern demonstrated in a 2016 Annals of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism study

For these reasons, “taking a vitamin D supplement can be important,” notes Shetreat. After all, vitamin D is important for immune health and more. Shetreat recommends that all children over the age of three take 1,000 IU daily. But, as always, check in with your pediatrician first. 

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4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

These brain- and heart-boosting fats can be found in fatty fish, milk, eggs, nuts, and seeds. “Omega-3s play a critical role in keeping the nervous system healthy and are also immune-supporting,” Shetreat says. They’ve also been linked to mood and cognitive health, among other things.

Since many children do not get sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, Shetreat recommends adding a supplement to their routine. “Children over two-years-old can take up to 1,000 milligrams of combined omega-3 fatty acids, which is usually about one teaspoon, daily,” she says.

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5. Probiotics

You’ve probably heard plenty about the gut-boosting benefits of probiotics, but you may not realize the crucial role they play in your child’s health. “These beneficial bacteria are necessary for the digestive tract, immune system, and even brain to function optimally,” Shetreat says. 

Read More: 5 Common Health Issues That Trace Back To The Gut

You can find probiotics in many foods, including yogurt, kefir, miso, and tempeh. Plus, you can take them in supplement form. In fact, Shetreat recommends that any child who’s been treated with antibiotics take a probiotic supplement during their course of antibiotics and for at least a month afterward. “Probiotics are also a good daily choice for children who have allergies, frequent infections, or neurological or mental health issues,” she adds. 

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6. Elderberry

This berry-based supplement has been hailed for its ability to provide immune support. In fact, research (including one 2016 Nutrients study) has found elderberry supplementation to benefit those facing a cold or flu. 

Shetreat recommends elderberry children’s supplements as a preventative measure during the winter months and suggests that children over age three take half to one teaspoon daily. If your little one is feeling under the weather, you can up the amount to one teaspoon three times a day, she says.

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