The Importance of Vitamin A for Children: Benefits, Dosage

The Importance of Vitamin A for Children: Benefits, Dosage

It's never too early to start explaining vitamin and mineral needs to children. 

If they're old enough to ask for junk food for dinner every night, they're old enough to start learning why junk food isn't always the best nutrition option.

When you introduce new foods to children, teach them about vitamin A.

Vitamin A is one of the most important building blocks that carry children from childhood to adulthood. Here's what parents need to know about vitamin A, including natural ways to incorporate more of it into their child's diet. 

What is Vitamin A?

Vitamin A, also known as retinol or retinoic acid, is a vitamin that the body uses for a variety of important processes. 

Vitamin A is a gold mine for almost every function of the human body. This vitamin actively nourishes the body while protecting it from potential sources of damage. 

Benefits of Vitamin A for Children

Vitamin A is important for people of all ages. Here are some things to teach kids about the value of adding foods rich in vitamin A to their diet. Vitamin A supports normal growth and development in children.

Children grow in the blink of an eye, and while that process is happening, it's important to provide them with everything their bodies need to grow and develop.

Supports and Nourishes Bones and Tissue

Vitamin A, in addition to calcium and vitamin D , works to support children's bones as they grow taller and stronger. 

Hair, nails, and teeth all contain keratin, a substance that the body produces with the help of vitamin A . Your child's adult teeth are still in their gums. Giving them enough vitamin A throughout their lives can help strengthen their tooth enamel.

Some children will be happy to hear that vitamin A can make their hair and nails healthier. Children who prefer to avoid cutting their hair or end up wearing nail polish can be reminded that vitamin A will help their hair and nails. 

Vitamin A Helps Organ Function

Kidneys, lungs, heart, pancreas, liver, and reproductive organs need vitamin A to maintain their health. Many B vitamins also have the same function. 

Vitamin A Required for Vision

The outer covering of the eye, called the cornea, requires vitamin A to stay clear. A cloudy cornea can significantly impair vision. Vitamin A also helps keep the eyes moist, preventing chronic dry eyes.

The eye adapts to low light conditions using a special protein called rhodopsin, which helps the eye see effectively in the dark. The body needs vitamin A to make rhodopsin. Without vitamin A, the eyes are at risk for night blindness. 

Vitamin A Strengthens Immune System

Vitamin A is an important antioxidant. Antioxidants help protect the body from oxidative damage. When pollutants or free radicals contact healthy cells, they steal electrons. Vitamin A will sacrifice itself in exchange, leaving healthy tissues to run their business, keeping the body safe and protected. 

Vitamin A also serves to protect the body from measles. Measles and vitamin A deficiency are often associated. Vitamin A supplementation can help prevent measles from becoming fatal. 

How Much Vitamin A Does My Child Need?

The need for vitamin A will change throughout a child's life. The body can do a lot with very small amounts of vitamin A, and as such, vitamin A is measured in micrograms (thousandths of a milligram), not milligrams or IUs. 

  • Birth to 6 months - 400 mcg of vitamin A daily
  • Seven months to 12 months - 500 mcg of vitamin A daily
  • Ages one year to 3 years - 300 mcg of vitamin A daily
  • Four years to 8 years - 400 mcg of vitamin A daily
  • Ages nine to 12 - 600 mcg of vitamin A daily

Talk to your pediatrician about vitamin A intake. Some children may need more or less vitamin A than others. It may be difficult to self-assess a child for adequate vitamin A intake unless the child is a picky eater who refuses to eat a wide variety of foods. 

If that's the case, mention your child's picky eating behavior to the pediatrician. You will be able to find solutions for adequate supplementation of the things your child needs to be healthy. 

The Best Source of Vitamin A for Children

Like most vitamins and minerals, their richest food source is beef liver. There are two types of households. You already know which house you live in. If beef liver is impossible to serve at the dinner table, here is another valuable source of vitamin A that most family members will enjoy.

Fruits and vegetables

Pumpkins, sweet potatoes, carrots, oranges, and butternut squash are naturally very high in vitamin A. Beta carotene is responsible for the orange pigment in fruits and vegetables. The body can convert beta carotene into vitamin A. 

Sweet potatoes are very easy to serve for children. Kids who love french fries, mashed potatoes, or tater tots will likely enjoy sweet potatoes as an alternative to traditional white potatoes. If you're looking to serve healthier versions of foods like French fries, an air fryer will make your kitchen's best friend.

Low Fat Dairy Food

Although not mandatory, many dairy farmers choose milk fortification. Dairy products made with fortified milk usually contain vitamin D to increase calcium absorption and small amounts of vitamin A. 

Children who are lactose intolerant, children with milk allergies, and children who eat plant-based foods can get calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D from well-known brands of soy milk. Always check the nutrition label to make sure soy milk has enough vitamins. Avoid soy milk with added sugar. 

Fortified Bread and Cereals

Some vitamins are hard to find in nature. That's why there are fortified or fortified breads, pastas, rice products and cereals. If using breads and cereals at home, consider substituting the regular brand for an fortified version. 

Not all fortified breads and cereals will contain vitamin A, so be sure to check the label. Always try to avoid fortified cereals with excessive amounts of added sugar.

Dessert with Vitamin A

Vanilla ice cream, carrot cake, and pumpkin pie contain large amounts of vitamin A. Consider serving them on special occasions to increase the nutritional value of desserts. 

Homemade pumpkin pie can be a healthy addition to a dessert menu if added sugar and fat are used sparingly. It can even be made vegan and gluten free. 

Can Children Get Too Much Vitamin A?

Excessive consumption of vitamin A can cause rashes, dry or brittle hair, and peeling of the skin or lips. This side effect is very rare.

People who consume too much beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A in the diet, may find their palms turning orange. This condition called carotenemia just looks worrying. In most cases, it is completely harmless.

Simply reducing your carotene intake will cause the condition to heal on its own.

Can Children Have Vitamin A Deficiency?

Vitamin A deficiency is very common in developing countries. They are hardly found in the United States. Children with malabsorption disorders, including many premature babies, can develop vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

Children with cystic fibrosis may be more likely to be deficient in vitamin A. Because the pancreas of a person with cystic fibrosis has difficulty processing fat and fat-soluble vitamin A, it is important to work with your pediatrician to develop an adequate fat-soluble vitamin supplementation plan.