Many vegan parents choose to raise their young children on a vegan diet until they are old enough to make their own dietary decisions. This allows the parents to expose the children to plant-based meals and cruelty-free products that align with their personal beliefs, while also eliminating the time and energy it takes to prepare two separate meals — one plant-based and one not.
As the vegan movement has grown in popularity over the past few decades, more people have started speculating whether or not eliminating all animal products from a child’s diet impacts their development.
It’s no secret that individuals consuming a vegan diet are more likely to experience vitamin and mineral deficiencies as their food options are more limited. If these deficiencies go unnoticed or unresolved, they can have serious consequences, especially for young children.
This is why it’s crucial for vegan parents to monitor the most important vitamins for vegan kids to ensure their children are getting the proper nutrients from their diet.
Here are some of the most important vitamins for vegan kids.
One of the most essential micronutrients in a child’s diet is protein. Protein contains compounds called amino acids that contribute to the development of bones, muscles, tissues, and organs. Protein is also largely responsible for producing enzymes and hormones. Without sufficient protein, vegan children are more likely to experience stunted growth, which can open the door to a variety of other health issues.
While there are many plant-based foods that contain protein like beans, lentils, and whole grains like quinoa, many vegan parents decide to sneak in extra protein through all-natural plant-based protein supplements to ensure their children are getting enough protein to sustain their growth.
Vitamin B12 is the building block of various bodily processes, including protein metabolism, brain and nervous system formation, and creating red blood cells. Individuals who are deficient in B12 are more prone to nervous system disorders, anemia, infertility, and other diseases affecting heart function.
Anyone can have low vitamin B12 levels based on their diet, lifestyle, and various other factors, but since the vitamin is only found naturally in animal products, vegans have a higher risk of deficiency. Vegans can try to reach adequate levels by consuming B12-fortified foods, but the best measurable way to ensure their intake is sufficient is usually by taking a trusted vitamin B12 supplement.
Vitamin D is a crucial element in our bodies’ absorption and regulation of the calcium and phosphate we consume from our diet. This absorption process promotes the circulation of vitamin D in our bloodstream and is responsible for delivering other essential health benefits in many areas of the body, including strengthening bones and muscles, promoting a healthy immune system, and supporting heart health.
While vitamin D has been called the “sunshine vitamin” due to our ability to absorb the nutrient from sunlight through our skin, too much sun exposure can lead to its own health problems, and it is not a reliable way to determine if and when a person has absorbed adequate levels of the vitamin.
Because of this, many health specialists recommend that children, especially vegan children, take a vegan vitamin D supplement.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, it is during childhood and adolescence that a person’s peak bone density is determined. This means that the nutrients we consume during our developmental years impact the strength of our bones for the rest of our lives.
So, how can vegan parents ensure their children are getting enough calcium from their diet?
Luckily, there are many plant-based milks, yogurts, and cereals that are fortified with calcium available on the market. Plants like certain types of nuts, leafy greens, and beans/lentils are also good sources of calcium for vegans.
Are you looking for the best supplements and vitamins for vegan kids?
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