How to know if your child has mineral deficiency? - Tayyari Jeet Ki by Bournvita
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Nutritional Health|09 February 2023

How to know if your child has mineral deficiency?

Written by Divya Gandhi
Founder/Owner/Dietitian at Diet and Cure Clinic with 10 Years of experience. Double Diploma from VLCC & IGNOU, BBA from IP University

Imagine this, your child goes to school and on the way home picks up an ice cream or a pack of chips, or may eat processed food from the school canteen. You’ve prepared lunch for your kid but their stomach is already full from the junk they ate. Well, it’s a very common tale in almost every household.  This junk food that they consume, on a routine basis, is very low on essential nutrients like minerals. Minerals are micronutrients that can also be consumed through drinking water, apart from food. But children tend to replace water with carbonated drinks instead when they’re out of the home. Most of the time, they even forget to drink water. 

Experts say, children are prone to mineral deficiency diseases due to poor diet intake, especially with the modern-day lifestyle they lead. Calcium, zinc, iron, iodine, magnesium, potassium, manganese, phosphorous, sodium, and selenium are all essential minerals needed for the proper growth and health of growing children. A severe lack of these minerals in the body is termed Mineral Deficiency

What are the different types of mineral deficiency diseases? 

1. Calcium Deficiency (Hypocalcaemia)

Your child is deeply focused in his/her studies. Abruptly, some twitching or a spasm or muscle pain occurs and the focus breaks. Don’t take that lightly if it repeats often, it could be a symptom of calcium deficiency in your child. Now, how to take note of other symptoms, as there is more than one of course? 

More often than not, if you notice tingling in the fingers or toes or face, brittle nails, coarse hair, pale and dry scaly skin, tooth decay, loss of memory, confusion, insomnia, or your kid gets prone to fractures due to fragile bones. All these are signs your child maybe lacking the important mineral ‘calcium’ in the body. Calcium is responsible for maintaining strong bones and teeth. 

Foods that can help fight calcium deficiency:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Kidney Beans
  • Okra
  • Almonds

2. Iron Deficiency 

The growth of red blood cells is majorly associated with iron intake. Iron produces hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. Low iron intake can cause the risk of anemia in children. The symptoms that depict an iron deficiency may include exhaustion, shortness of breath, headaches, anxiety, hair loss, and restless leg syndrome.

Foods that support iron intake:

  • Lentils
  • Legumes
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Chickpeas
  • Beans (kidney beans, pinto beans, lima beans etc.)
  • Spinach
  • Tofu
  • Dark Green leafy vegetables (broccoli, mustard greens, etc.)
  • Apples
  • Pomegranates
  • Dry fruits
  • Nuts

3. Iodine Deficiency

A deficiency of iodine brings to the table a dramatic risk of mineral deficiency diseases like hypothyroidism and goiter, along with impaired growth in kids. The symptoms of iodine deficiency in children may occur in the form of lethargy, chronic fatigue, muscular weakness, hair loss, puffy face, or unusual weight gain.  

Foods with high iodine content to fight the deficiency:

  • Iodized table salt
  • Cow’s milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Lima Beans
  • Prunes
  • Other Beans (kidney beans, pinto beans, etc.)

4. Magnesium Deficiency

Low magnesium levels in growing children can cause a wide variety of mineral deficiency diseases including hypocalcaemia, hypokalemia, hypertension, migraine headaches, or risk of early diabetes. The symptoms witnessed in magnesium deficiency usually include muscle cramps and spasms, irregular heartbeats, weakness, anxiety, confusion, twitching, or even seizures.

Foods that help increase the magnesium in the body:

  • Beans (kidney beans, lima beans, etc.)
  • Peas (green peas, chickpeas, etc.)
  • Whole grains 
  • Yogurt
  • Dry fruits
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Bananas
  • Peanuts
  • Dark Chocolate

5. Manganese Deficiency

Manganese is a mineral that supports several metabolic functions like the metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, and cholesterol. These are the functions related to the proper growth of the child in many ways. As, they help in healthy brain function, regulation of blood sugar levels, calcium absorption, and formation of bones and connective tissues. Manganese deficiency, in children, may cause the onset of symptoms like impaired growth, impaired glucose intolerance, skeletal abnormalities, skin rashes, imbalanced carbohydrate and lipid metabolism

Foods with high manganese density:

  • Whole grains
  • Soybeans
  • Brown rice
  • Spinach
  • Pineapple
  • Tofu
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beans (Kidney beans, pinto beans, etc.)

6. Phosphorous Deficiency

Phosphorus is related to the development and maintenance of bones and teeth in children. It commands the cell and tissue repair function too. Nonetheless, the deficiency of phosphorus can cause a variety of symptoms in children, which include loss of appetite, excessive fatigue or weakness, irritability, bone pain, increased susceptibility to infections, joint pain or swelling or stiffness, brittle hair or nails, and dental cavities

Foods with phosphorus-rich properties:

  • Legumes
  • Lentils
  • Peanuts
  • Almonds
  • Green peas
  • Kidney Beans
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Whole Grains
  • Cheese
  • Potatoes

7. Potassium Deficiency 

Potassium breaks down into electrolytes to enable proper functioning of cells, tissues and organs in the body. It is required for the electrical activity of the heart and for nerve activity. Mineral deficiency diseases like electrolyte disorders are associated with potassium deficiency. Symptoms of this mineral deficiency are known to show the signs of hypertension, nausea or vomiting, 

constipation, tingling and numbness, muscle cramps, fatigue or weakness, depression or other mood changes

Food to support proper potassium intake:

  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beetroot
  • Beans (Kidney beans, pinto beans, etc.)
  • Oranges
  • Watermelon
  • Coconut water
  • Yogurt
  • Lentils
  • Dried apricots 
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Raisins

8. Zinc Deficiency

Zinc is an element required in small quantities to carry out vital chemical reactions in the brain. It has a major role in the creation of DNA, growth of cells, healing damaged tissues, building proteins, and supporting the immune system. Symptoms relating to zinc deficiency in children can cause impaired neurological function, diarrhea, impaired immunity, gastrointestinal problems (abdominal pain, anorexia, etc.), hormone imbalances, skin problems (dermatitis, acne, etc.), and food allergies

Foods that provide zinc in the diet:

  • Chickpeas
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Yogurt
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Lentils
  • Spinach
  • Peanuts
  • Avocado
  • Tofu
  • Kidney beans
  • Sesame seeds
  • Cashews

9. Sodium Deficiency

Sodium is one of the most important mineral components in a child’s diet. The deficiency of sodium brings blood pressure levels dangerously down and can lead to mineral deficiency diseases like kidney failure or even types of cancer. That is because sodium regulates the blood pressure, maintains fluid balance, and is also responsible for nerve impulse conduction and muscle contraction.  

Symptoms generating from sodium deficiency may look like lethargy or fatigue in children, confusion, headaches, dizziness, muscle cramps or spasms, nausea or vomiting, or even seizures and coma

Foods to help address sodium deficiency:

  • Table Salt
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Vegetable juices
  • Pickles
  • Beetroot
  • Celery

10. Selenium Deficiency

Selenium provides protection against cell damage and infections in children. It is required for the production of thyroid hormones and also acts as an effective antioxidant. Symptoms including hair fall, poor wound healing, tiredness and fatigue, lowered immunity, difficulty concentrating, and discoloration of nails are signs of selenium deficiency in children. 

Foods that can help manage selenium deficiency:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Brown rice
  • Lentils
  • Yogurt
  • Oatmeal
  • White rice
  • Beans (lima beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, etc.)

A sign of mineral deficiency in your child can cause a genuine concern, as it is a sneak-peak into the overall health and growth of the child. Mineral deficiency diseases are no less than a threat to the proper functioning of your child’s system.  These mineral deficiency diseases can cause upheaval and imbalance in the working of the brain and hormones of a generally healthy child. Taking your child to a doctor on the onset of any of the symptoms of mineral deficiency diseases is the first and the wisest step. But for the prevention of mineral deficiency, it would be a good idea to provide your child with a diet full of mineral-rich foods on a daily basis.

Also, to check your child’s nutrition score based on their current diet here.

The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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