There have been at least a hundred thousand clinical tests and scientific studies delineating on the importance of vital nutrients in the development of children in various stages of their lives. With an increase in the rate of global child obesity and the mortality rate of children across the world due to malnutrition, educating people on the growing importance of nutrition has become all the more relevant. According to statistical studies and surveys undertaken by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a staggering 161 million children across the world are victims of malnutrition in one form or another. Now it is time to make sure that your children do not become a part of the statistics.
Ensuring that your young one gets the right amount of nutrients at the right time, can aid not only in their development of a healthy brain, but also determine their physiological function later on in life.
What is child development?
Basically, child development, in simple terms, refers to a complete process wherein your child, after birth, is able to perform all and every action. This means that a fully developed child does not suffer from any neurological of other physiological disorders that may otherwise hamper their daily lives. And the key to complete early childhood development is through nutrition.
At which stage of early child development do nutrients matter?
People believe that when it comes to incorporating nutrients in early childhood development, children need them as toddlers. But believe it or not, nutrients are important during pregnancy too, for the complete development of the growing embryo.
If a woman is malnourished or does not get the right kind of nutrients during her pregnancy, the child’s brain development is affected, and unfortunately, it cannot be corrected or cured later on when they are older.
What are the leading causes for lack of nutrition?
Lack of proper nutrition, also called malnutrition, affects more than one third of the world’s population of children. Primarily, it occurs due to some of the following reasons:
• Lack of proper food: In poor, developing or third world countries, children and pregnant mothers often suffer from malnutrition, which in turn, arises out of poverty and their inability to afford proper meals. As a result, not only does the child suffer from improper development while in the womb, but even as toddlers, they do not get enough nutrients to make up for it. This leads to stunted growth, recurring diseases as well as incomplete brain development.
• Lack of awareness: Even though it is the 21st century, there are more than the fair share of families in the remote parts of the world who are still unaware of the importance of nutrition for the family, the child as well as the mother. Since they do not know about what it is they should and should not eat, they do not consume enough nutrients and consequently, suffer from malnutrition.
• Diseases: In homes which have an unhygienic and unclean atmosphere, children as well as adults are exposed to increased risks of contracting diseases like diarrhea, dengue and so on. When children get sick, their bodies start losing important nutrients very quickly, and this threatens their lives more than adults.
• Unhealthy alternatives: While third world countries suffer from lack of enough food, developed countries like USA suffers from obesity, resulting from an increase in the consumption of processed and unhealthy food. More and more children are turning towards “fast food” or “junk food”, which not only does not consist the important nutrients needed for early childhood development, but they lead to obesity, which in turn, causes heart problems and other diseases later on in life.
What are the important nutrients that affect your child’s growth?
Some of the most essential nutrients and minerals that are a must have in your child’s diet, includes:
• Iron: Important for the hemoglobin content in your blood, which is basically responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. Lack of iron can lead to anemia, prolonged weakness, pain in the muscles as well as fatigue. Iron is present in leafy vegetables, beef and beans.
• Potassium: Along with magnesium, potassium maintains the water content of the body and the blood pressure. Studies show that it reduces chances of developing kidney stones later in life. Potassium can be found in bananas and sweet potatoes.
• Vitamin A: Helps fight the body against infection, and in the development of the color rod cells and cone cells, which are important for night vision and color perception. Any yellow or orange vegetable is a good source of Vitamin A.
• Vitamin C: Important for fighting off infections, protecting gums, preventing mouth sores, and repairing of any damaged tissues. Citric acid containing substances like oranges, limes and lemons are rich in Vitamin C.
• Calcium: the primary component of bone tissue, it helps in healing and strengthening bones as well as cartilage tissue. Lack of calcium can cause osteoporosis. Calcium rich foods include dairy products like milk and cheese.
• Vitamin D: Vitamin D is important for the body’s ability to absorb and use calcium. It also helps develop the body’s immune system as well as cellular growth. The primary source of Vitamin D is sunlight and foods like fish and lean meat.
• Magnesium: Magnesium is not only responsible for provide the muscles with energy, but it also helps the heart maintain its natural rhythm. Magnesium can be obtained from foods like tofu and various types of nuts.
• Zinc: Zinc is important in the body’s ability to produce more than seventy different kinds of digestive enzymes, as well as the immune system’s development. Zinc rich foods include beans.
What are the negative effects of lack of nutrients in early childhood development?
Studies conducted over the years involving many children, have shown the following results due to lack of nutrients during early childhood development:
• A lack of complete development of the immune system. This means that the children cannot fight diseases and infections that effectively, and consequently, fall sick more often when compared to other well developed children. This, in turn, prevents their physical development even further.
• Lack of proper iron containing food during pregnancy and the first two years of the child’s life are associated with lack of complete brain development. This means that the child does not have fully developed motor skills.
• Breast milk of mothers who are well fed during pregnancy, proves more effective at preventing skin and ear infections in infants, and diarrhea than the breast milk of mothers who have malnutrition.
• Later on in life, children suffering from malnutrition develop a high risk of suffering from Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD), even though there is no family history of it.
• Children who suffer from lack of proper nutrition have been observed to develop emotional and psychological problems in the future, like clinical depression, bipolar disorder, autism as well as schizophrenia.
• Nutrients also contribute to a child’s behavioral development. Children who suffer from malnutrition, later on develop a severe social paralysis, in that their communicative and social interactive skills are severely affected.
Thus, each and every scientific study that has been ever undertaken, all point to the same fact, that nutrients play the biggest role as child development milestones. Not only is it important to just feed the new born child properly, but it is also vital that the pregnant mother be well fed as well.
Yes, children are fussy and they may develop a dislike for some important foods, but it is always up to the parent to keep introducing other healthy alternatives to make sure that the child has a complete brain development as well as a complete physical growth. Also, it is important to make sure that the child stays away from processed food.
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