Vitamins and minerals for kids

Not only do children need minerals and vitamins to grow and develop physically, they also need them to feed their brains and perform well at school. In an ideal world children would get all the vitamins and minerals they need from their food, but we no longer live in that world.

Food provides enough vitamins and minerals doesn’t it?

This is the argument many people put forward but there are several reasons why it is not necessarily the case any more, depending on where you live and what you eat.

  • Much of the food we eat lacks the nutrients it used to have;
  • The widespread use of pesticides and fertilizers means that when children eat fruit and vegetables they are eating chemicals as well (see Nutrition, We Are What We Eat);
  • Fried food and sugary snacks are generally devoid of vital nutrients;
  • Fizzy drinks strip the bones of phosphorus.

The case for kids’ vitamins

Author and nutritional therapist Barbara Cousins is adamant, ‘Parents must be prepared to make their children eat sensibly. Children desperately need minerals because they come from parents who haven’t got enough.’

Patrick Holford, author of The Optimum Nutrition Bible and founder of the Institute of Optimum Nutrition believes that children need supplements as soon as they come off breast milk.

He says, ‘The evidence shows clearly that both adults and children who achieve optimal intakes of nutrients are healthier. I therefore recommend that children have superhealthy diets and this means supplementing’.

  • Optimal levels of Vitamin C are 300 to 500mg a day but it is unlikely that any children will eat that much.’ Additional Vitamin C will definitely boost their immune systems,’ Patrick says.
  • Vitamins B and C are essential for brain development which is most crucial between two and 12.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids which include fish oils or flaxseed (linseed) oil, are essential for healthy brain development;
  • Once girls have started their periods they need iron, calcium and zinc;
  • Calcium is essential for growth at all young ages and some children get precious little if they are not keen on cheese or milk.

What supplements kids need

Multivitamins that have been specially made for children ensure that they are getting a good spread of nutrients. Taking one supplement also prevents them getting too much of one vitamin or mineral. Children are much more susceptible to overdosing than adults and should only be given the recommended dosage for their age.

Recommended intake
Vitamin A 2,500 iu a day for under 1, up to 5,500 iu for 12+ Can be toxic, so don’t overdose. Don’t mix with fish oils.
Vitamin B (1-12) B1, B2: 3mg for under 1, 20mg 12+; B12: 3mcg for under 1 up to 10mcg for over 12s; B3, 5,6: 7mg for under one, to 35mg for 12+ Could be toxic in the long term if overdosed. B6 taken at night can prompt vivid dreams.
Vitamin C 100 mg for under one year to 625mg for 12+ Overdosing could cause diarrhoea, and other stomach problems, but excess is quickly excreted.
Vitamin D 200 iu up to 11, 300iu for 12+ Can be toxic, so must not be taken in large doses. Don’t mix with fish oils.
Vitamin E 10iu under 1, going up in increments of 5, to 70 at 12+ Unlikely to be toxic as it is eliminated. Too much could cause stomach upsets.
Selenium from 7mcg (under 1) to 20mcg at 12+ Very toxic if overdosed so only take from one source only (multi-vitamin).
Iron 2mg under 1, up to 8mg at 12+ Can be very toxic if taken in too large quantities, or when not needed (by boys who eat lots of meat).
Calcium 150mg any age Too much long-term is dangerous.
Magnesium 25mg (under 1) to 95mg for 12+ Not toxic, but can be dangerous is too little calcium in the body.
Zinc 3mg (under 1) to 12mg (12+) Non-toxic unless the dose is exceeded by several times.
Chromium 10 (under 1) to 30 (12+) Unlikely to be toxic.
Manganese 0.7mg (under 1) to 2 (12+) Not toxic as a supplement.
Fatty acids: (Omega 3 & 6) Best way to take is to have a mixture of ground seeds or a supplement made for children Not toxic for healthy children, but fish oils should not be mixed. High doses of cod liver oil can be toxic. Evening Primrose Oil is best for teenage girls to balance hormones.
Folic acid 50mcg for under 1s, and 100mcgs for 12+ Overdosing could cause upset stomach, lack of energy and insomnia
Garlic Only needed in food – no need for children to take capsules Safe in food, unless it causes stomach upsets

Sources: various

For details of recommended intake see The Optimum Nutrition Bible by Patrick Holford – click on the Amazon carousel.

A good multi-vitamin is the safest way of giving children what they need ensuring that they do not overdose on Vitamins D or A or selenium. There are special children’s vitamins and ones for teenagers too.

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Multivitamins and Minerals Junior Biocare 60 £10.25
Junior Omega 3 and 6 tablets Essential Balance 120 £14.90
Teenvital tablets Health Aid 30 £6.49
Dinochews Higher Nature 30 capsules £5.50
Animal Parade Omega 3/6/9 Nature’s Plus 90 £21.10
Viridikid Multivitamins and Minerals Mini Viridian 90 vege caps £15.20
Viridikid Nutritional Oil Blend 100% Organic (Omegas) Viridian 200ml £9.50
*** Please click here to order these products from the Nutri Centre ***

Food is important

Healthy eating isn’t seen as ‘cool’ like junk food, but it does improve skin condition and hair – very appealing to teenagers who want to attract the opposite sex.

A multivitamin should be accompanied by healthy eating with plenty of:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Fresh fish
  • Garlic in meals
  • Water to drink instead of  squashes or fizzy drinks full of either sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Vitamins – choosing and using

As many as 41 per cent of Britons obviously do believe they need vitamin and mineral supplements because they spend over £350 million a year on them. Here we look at how much to take, what to purchase, and when to take them.

For some people a good multivitamin and multimineral provides sufficient intake.
Combining vitamins and minerals

A number of supplements depend on the presence of others for optimum absorption and effectiveness:

  • Vitamin C or foods rich in the vitamin when you are taking iron;
  • To release Vitamin A into the system you should take zinc;
  • Vitamin E and selenium are helpful to each other;
  • The body can’t use calcium effectively without magnesium;
  • Vitamin D assists the absorption of calcium too;
  • Vitamin B6 requires Vitamin B2 to be effective so a B complex may be better
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Ester C Vitamin C Viridian Nutrition 30 x 950mg £9.85
Floravital Yeastfree Iron Formula (Liquid) Salus Haus 250ml £9.80
Balanced Zinc Complex Viridian Nutrition 30 veg caps £6.80
Super Selenium Complex with Vitamin E Nature’s Plus 90 tablets £12.85
Selenium 200ug Viridian Nutrition 30 veg capsules £6.20
Calcium + Vitamin D Vega 30 caplets £4.95
High Six B6 with Vitamin B complex Viridian Nutrition 30 veg caps £6.65
High Five B complex/Magnesium Ascorbate Viridian Nutrition 30 veg caps £6.50
Calcium, Magnesium,Vitamin D3 Nature’s Plus 60 £12.85
You can purchase these products at and get a 5% discount with the promotion code: HSoul1
High doses and RDAs
High doses of supplements may be vital to someone affected by PMS or menopause or more seriously ME, multiple sclerosis, PMS, irritable bowel and arthritis and other symptoms.
According to Patrick Holford, Founder of the Institute of Optimal Nutrition, ‘The RDAs (Recommended Daily Allowance) are levels which are designed to prevent deficiency, such as scurvy, beri beri and rickets, not to provide optimum health.
Patrick Holford

‘With some vitamins such as Vitamin C you could take 10 times the recommended daily allowance for specific problems. But for magnesium, calcium and zinc, for example, the RDAs are about the accurate amount that one should take.’


Some people take care to avoid eating wheat, dairy products, yeast, sugar, salt, artificial flavourings and sweeteners, without realising they are contained in the supplements they are taking.

For instance, pure Vitamin C is quite unpleasant to taste and bears no resemblance to the sweet-tasting orange tablets which children love because they are either laced with sugar or (even worse) sweeteners that have been linked to health problems.


  • Look carefully at the list of ingredients to avoid unwanted additives;
  • Become familiar with what they mean and go for the supplements where ‘added extras’ are left out;
  • Tinctures present no problems as they do not need binders, fillers or coatings;
  • Avoid supplements made from GM sources;
  • Look to see if sugar or an artificial sweetener is listed in the ingredients;
  • Check the list of fillers and binders – see “Acceptable Ingredients” below;
  • If there are any E numbers listed don’t buy!


Tablets (but not capsules) usually need additional materials to make up their bulk and these are called fillers or excipients while binders bind all the ingredients together. Some of the commonly used excipients are shellac – insect resin – and talc, which most of us don’t fancy eating!

Acceptable ingredients

Dicalcium phosphate; cellulose; alginic acid/sodium alginate; gum acacia/gum arabic; calcium stearate or magnesium stearate (vegetarians should check if this is animal or vegetable source); silica; zein; and Brazil wax.

From: The Optimum Nutrition Bible, Patrick Holford


Some proprietary brands contain cochineal which is considered by Patrick Holford, to be one of the top 20 additives to be avoided, as it is linked to asthma and rhinitis. It’s made from the dried bodies of an insect found on cactus plants!


When it comes to choosing between tincture, capsules, tablets or vegi caps, Patrick Holford, claims, ‘There isn’t much difference between them. The advantage of a tablet or capsule is that you can pack in more ingredients. A concentrated extract is absorbed quicker – but you need to take higher doses to equal the amount packed into a tablet.

‘Manufacturers carry out disintegration tests on their products using simulated gastric juices. Capsules or vegi caps dissolve quickly, but tablets made by good manufacturers will completely disintegrate in 10 minutes.’

What is foodstate?

Some supplements incorporate the vitamin or mineral in a more complex molecule so that they are in the form they appear naturally – sometimes known as foodstate. They are better absorbed by the body and can be more powerful.

 When to take vitamins

If you take a number of supplements you don’t want to be remembering C at meal times, B in between, A at bedtime and so on. The most important thing is to remember to take your supplements every day and it’s easier to remember if you take them at a set time. Many supplements have to be taken with a meal so breakfast is a good time to enable you to get the most of them throughout the day.

  • One main exception is calcium which should be taken at night time because bone regeneration takes place in your sleep;
  • Evening primrose oil and some of the fishy oils can make people feel a bit nauseous and it is obviously better to take those with food;
  • Any supplements containing isoflavones such as estroven, should be taken at the same time every day because they prompt a rapid increase in blood isoflavones which peaks within four hours and then decreases.

What is time release?

Time Release supplements release small quantities of the supplement over a prolonged period. They are most suitable for people who find it easier to take their supplements all together first thing in the morning.


Eating for two?

In the last few years there is much more awareness about the need for pregnant women to be careful about what they eat and drink while carrying a baby. Organic food for babies is virtually the norm in the UK now, even in ready-made foods. Scientists believe that a baby is programmed for a lifetime of good or poor health in the first few months of its life according to the type and amount of nutrition they receive.

If babies are better off eating organic food, it makes sense to avoid pesticides during pregnancy as well to avoid chemicals passing through the placenta to the foetus.  Also see Natural Baby.

What to eat:

When you’re pregnant you need plenty of:

Fruit and vegetables – broccoli is high in calcium, green leafy vegetables contain folic acid and all fruit and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Wholegrains – such as brown rice, wholemeal bread and wholewheat pasta.

Protein – fish, chicken, eggs, cheese, pulses (beans or lentils), or soya products such as tofu.

What not to eat or drink

Research has shown that just 200mg (two cups) of caffeinated drinks – coffee, tea, hot chocolate – can cause miscarriage in the early part of pregnancy.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is planning on advising women to avoid caffeine altogether in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and some may suggest cutting it out for the whole of the nine months. Herbal teas make a good alternative.

The new study carried out by Dr De-Kun Li and colleagues looked at 1,063 women who were in the first couple of months of pregnancy. They asked them to keep diaries about their caffeine intake until the 20th week. Out of the group 172 women miscarried before 20 weeks and there was an obvious link with caffeine. There was an increased risk of miscarriage of 15 per cent in those women who drank 200mg (four cups) of caffeinated drinks (hot chocolate, coffee and tea) a day, and a 25 per cent greater risk if they drank more than that.

Other foods to avoid:

Raw or partially cooked eggs to avoid salmonella and this includes mayonnaise, salad dressings, mousses and ice cream made with raw eggs. It’s healthier to eat organic/free range eggs and much healthier for the chicken too

Soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert and chevre (type of goat’s cheese) as they are unpasteurised

Pate of any kind because it can cause listeria

Liver products – and supplements that contain too much Vitamin A, such as cod liver oil

Some types of fish – only shark, swordfish and marlin and no more than two tuna steaks a week or four medium sized cans due to mercury content

Raw or undercooked meat

Undercooked ready meals

Raw shellfish because it can contain harmful bacteria and viruses

Peanuts if you think your baby is at risk – for instance if someone else in the family has a peanut allergy

Sugar and fat – it’s easy to put on additional weight when you’re pregnant because you are eating for two but it’s harder to take off afterwards, so try to avoid too much saturated fat and sugar in cakes, biscuits, sweets

What not to drink:

Caffeine – due to research above it is important to either cut out or drastically reduce intake of coffee, cola, tea or coffee. Try herbal teas instead or coffee substitutes like Bambu.

Alcohol – many women get caught out with alcohol before they realise that they are pregnant. Current advice is to avoid alcohol entirely or just drink one or two units (small glass of wine) a week.

To find out about latest findings on food in pregnancy go to

Vitamins and Minerals:

Folic Acid: 400 mcg (microgram) supplement daily from the time you start trying for a baby until the 12th week of pregnancy, and eat plenty of dark green vegetables (cabbage, spinach, greens, chard). The reason for taking folic acid is that it is believed to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the baby, such as spina bifida.

Iron: You may need to ask your GP about iron supplements if you are deficient. Floradix is a good all round tonic, high in iron, which is derived from vegetables.

Vitamin D: It is advisable to take Vitamin D supplements because few people in Britain get enough sun for the body to make the amount we need for pregnancy.

You should not take Vitamin A in pregnancy

There are a number of good supplements that can be taken in pregnancy – see below:

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Pregnancy Complex Viridian Nutrition 60 vege caps £13.50
Pregnancy Omega Oil Viridian Nutrition 200ml £12.25
Vital Essence (for each trimester) Zita West 4 weeks of tablets £24.50
Ante-Natal Forte (Pregnancy Formulation) Biocare 60 veg caps £12.30
*** Please click here to order these products from the Nutri Centre ***

Vitamins – do I need them?

It is a common belief that there is no need to take supplements when people eat a healthy diet. It is unlikely that anyone in our society consumes enough vitamins and minerals from their food alone. Apart from pesticides, insecticides and fertilisers which directly pollute our food, intensive farming has depleted the earth of vital minerals.

See Vitamins and minerals chart/Vitamins – choosing and using/Vitamins and minerals for kids

Optimum nutrition

As many as 41 per cent of Britons obviously do believe they need vitamin and mineral supplements because they spend over £350 million a year on them. For some people a good multivitamin and multimineral provides sufficient intake.

High doses of supplements may be vital to someone affected by PMS or menopause or more seriously ME, multiple sclerosis, PMS, irritable bowel and arthritis and other symptoms.

According to Patrick Holford, Founder of the Institute of Optimal Nutrition, ‘The RDAs (Recommended Daily Allowance) are levels which are designed to prevent deficiency, such as scurvy, beri beri and rickets, not to provide optimum health.

‘With some vitamins such as Vitamin C you could take 10 times the recommended daily allowance for specific problems. But for magnesium, calcium and zinc, for example, the RDAs are about the accurate amount that one should take.’

Also see Vitamins – Choosing and Using

Low levels of iron

A staggering 96 per cent of women aged 19 to 24 and 91 per cent 19 to 64 year old women have well below the recommended intake of iron, according to research undertaken by the Food Standards Agency and Dept of Health. Women lose iron every month when they have periods and this may account for such low levels, but their lack of iron means that their babies may be deficient too.

The result of low levels of iron in the blood are that you can be anaemic – not having enough red blood cells, and the symptoms are:

  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • weakness
  • pale skin
  • restless legs.

You can get more iron by eating plenty of green leafy vegetables such as spinach, greens, and kale and from liver, red meat, pulses such as lentils, wholegrains and dried fruit. Sometimes people get constipation when they supplement iron, so you may find it better to have Spirulina which is high in iron or one of the liquid iron supplements.

Absorption is often hindered

  • Vitamins and minerals are needed for chemical reactions such as releasing energy from food or breaking down fat molecules;
  • Others build strong bones, keep skin supple and help us fight stress or pollution;
  • Additives in foods and antibiotics in meat adversely affect our immune systems.

With a healthy intestinal tract it is possible to absorb about 30 per cent of the zinc in food, but with a zinc deficiency the metabolism of Vitamins A and B6 suffers because the enzymes which convert them to usable forms are zinc dependent.

According to Alex Kirchin, Technical Manager, Viridian Nutrition (see Healthy Experts):

“If we eat an exclusively organic diet, it is possible to obtain most of the basic levels of nutrients we need, but in reality, the high levels of anti-nutrients generated by environmental pollutants combined with our stress-inducing society, mean that we need far more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA). We actually need optimum or super-nutrition and that can only be attained with food supplements.

Featured Products
True Food Selenium Veg Tablets Higher Nature 60 x 200ug £7.90
Beetroot Extract veg capsules, natural source of iron & trace minerals Biocare 90 £11.75
Magnesium Citrate tablets Solgar 60 x 200mg £8.51
Zinc Complex Viridian Nutrition 30 veg capsules £6.80
Eskimo-3 Omega 3 capsules Nutri Ltd 105 £14.50
*** Please click here to order these products from the Nutri Centre ***


The Vitamin Alphabet, Dr Christine Scott-Moncrieff – click on the Amazon carousel

The Optimum Nutrition Bible, Patrick Holford – click on the Amazon carousel

Healthy foods for long life

(Source: British Nutrition Foundation)

Particularly good for Important food component Great food sources
The heart Unsaturated fatty acids Vegetable oils and reduced fat spreads, nuts, seeds, avocados
Heart, brain, joints Long chain Omega 3s Oily fish
Gut & heart Insoluble fibre Wholegrain foods, nuts, seeds, vegetables, skins of some fruits including tomatoes
The heart Soluble fibre Pulses, oats, rye, barley, some fruits and vegetables, potatoes
Muscle, immune system Protein Protein Lean meat, chicken, seafood, eggs, pulses, quorn, soya products
All body systems Antioxidants, Vitamin C Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, citrus fruits, melon, kiwi
Prostate Lycopene Tomatoes, guava, apricots, watermelon, papaya, pink grapefruit
All body systems Beta-carotene Dark green, yellow and orange fruit and vegetables – carrot, pumpkin, spinach melon
Eyes Lutein/zeaxanthin Kiwi fruit, grapes, spinach, kale, broccoli, red and orange peppers
All body systems Vitamin E Plant oils, nuts, seeds, watermelon
Prostate, immune system Selenium Brazil nuts, bread, fish including shellfish, meat, eggs
The heart & brain Folate Leafy vegetables, fruits, beans, wholegrain products, liver, nuts, fortified breakfast cereals
Bone Vitamin K Green leafy vegetables, liver, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, some fruits (rhubarb, kiwi)
Bones & Heart Calcium Low/reduced fat milk/dairy products, fortified soya products, bread, canned fish (with bones)
Heart Potassium Root vegetables, fruit, lentils, beans, fish, milk, yogurt, nuts
Blood Iron Liver, meat, beans, nuts, dried fruit, wholegrain foods, fortified breakfast cereals, dark green leafy vegetables
The heart & brain Alcohol in moderation Alcohol (moderate amounts)
Teeth Fluoride Drinking water, tea, fish
Blood, immune system Zinc Meat, shellfish, milk/dairy foods, bread, cereal products