Organic and locally grown food, regular exercise, sunshine, and good fats that include Omega-3 fatty acids are great for kids. There’s no substitute for healthy food, but a chewable vitamin can fill in gaps and increase peace of mind, unless the label includes the following ingredients:
Ferrous Sulfate is Synthetic Iron
Besides being poorly absorbed and hard on the digestive system, ferrous sulfate, or FeSo4, is responsible for common childhood poisonings. A dose of three grams may be lethal for a two-year old. Since 1998 better packaging has greatly reduced the number of fatalities, which used to occur when children accidentally ingested adult iron pills thinking they were candy. A small child can still get sick from taking a whole bottle of children’s vitamins, however, so if they contain FeSo4 be certain the cap is childproof and the bottle is stored out of reach. A better option is to purchase vitamins containing carbonyl iron, which is a very safe mineral supplement.
Magnesium Stearate is a Filler
Sometimes listed as stearic acid, this compound is the main ingredient in soap scum. It forms a white solid insoluble substance that manufacturer’s prize for it’s lubricating action. It is a common ingredient in hard candies and baby formulas. The problem with magnesium stearate is that it can interfere with the absorption of nutrients, including vitamins. Magnesium stearate is made from hydrogenated cottonseed or palm oil. Hydrogenated oils produce trans fats which can harm a child’s immune system. Cottonseed is subject to contamination by pesticides.
Get the Right Vitamin D
If a child gets plenty of sunshine (and if it isn’t washed off with soap before it has time to absorb), vitamin D in supplement form is unnecessary and could be harmful. During winter months and flu season children and adults both need more vitamin D to keep immune systems healthy. Vitamin D2, or Ergocalciferol, is a synthetic form that has found to be toxic in large doses. Cholecalciferol, known as vitamin D3, is a safer, natural form. Vitamin D is technically a hormone, not a vitamin.
The Right Choice in Sweeteners
Children’s vitamins have to taste good or kids won’t take them. Natural sugar is not harmful in moderation; there’s a big difference between an adequate one gram of sugar per serving and an excessive 3 grams of sugar per serving.
Fructose is sweeter than glucose or sucrose. The three are combined in nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, but fructose alone is metabolized quickly by the liver, accelerating processes which lead to weight gain, metabolic disorders and high cholesterol. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that higher intake of fructose by school-age children increased their risk of early cardiovascular disease. Stay away from high fructose corn syrup in vitamins and other foods. Artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, should be avoided also.
Artificial Colors and Flavors Don’t Belong in Children’s Products
The worst of these are colors made from petroleum products that are carcinogenic and can cause salicylate reactions in chemically sensitive kids. FD&C Red #40 Lake, FD&C Yellow #6 and Blue #2 Lake are best avoided. Artificial flavors is a catchall term for chemicals.
Say No to Allergens and Yes to Chelates
Wheat, dairy, soy, corn, yeast, sodium, starch may not be welcome, depending on known allergies or elimination diets. Chelates, on the other hand, are minerals that are already bonded to digestible organic molecules to increase absorption.
Chewable vitamins can be an important supplement for kids’ health. Looking for chelated minerals, including natural iron, reasonable amounts of sugar, the right vitamin D and avoiding artificial colors, flavors, allergens and hydrogenated oils will ensure that children take vitamins with healthy ingredients.