What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D, sometimes known as the ‘sunshine’ vitamin, is actually a hormone, called 25- hydroxyvitamin D, which is made by our bodies in response to sun exposure. We can also obtain vitamin D directly from our food, which can include foods which naturally contain vitamin D or are fortified with vitamin D, as well as dietary supplements
The main source is from synthesis in the skin by the action of sunlight. Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Oily fish e.g. salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines and fresh tuna are the only significant sources. Eggs and meat provide very small amounts.
Why is vitamin D important for toddlers?
Toddlers have a particular need for vitamin D to support the development of their bones and teeth, because they are going through a period of amazing growth and development
The role of Vitamin D in the body
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bone growth through regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the diet — minerals that contribute to the structure and strength of bones during child development.
Very low levels of vitamin D in infants and toddlers can lead to rickets (skeletal deformity in children). In recent years vitamin D has also being linked to many aspects of health and particularly in the formative toddler years.
Infants and toddlers are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency if their mother was vitamin D deficient during pregnancy, through low exposure to sunlight or not taking vitamin D supplements.
How to improve Vitamin D intake?
The Recommended Daily Intake (RDA) for Vitamin D is 10µg for children aged 1-10 years. Vitamin D intake is difficult to achieve due to lack of sunshine in Ireland and the limited number of foods rich in vitamin D. Try to encourage increased consumption of oily fish and eggs to boost vitamin D intake.
Even with a varied diet, it can be difficult for toddlers to achieve the required amount of key nutrients necessary for healthy growth. As part of a balanced diet, 2 beakers (2x150ml) of Growing Up Milk can provide about half of the requirement for vitamin D in toddlers. Growing up milk is a nutritionally tailored milk drink for toddlers made originally from cows’ milk and enriched with key nutrients essential for toddler growth and development.