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Eating Lots of Fortified Foods, Plus Taking Vitamin-Mineral Supplements Could Be Bad for Your Child

The smiling girl holds a medicinal capsule in a hand

A report released recently by the Environmental Working Group cautions parents to watch out for their children getting too many vitamins and minerals in their diets from fortified foods.

According to the report, the problem could arise when children eat lots of servings of fortified foods, such as ready-to-eat breakfast cereals and nutrition bars, especially when these children also take daily multivitamin + mineral tablets or ‘gummies’.

We know that some vitamins are considered safe, and perhaps even beneficial, when taken in higher levels than the United States recommended daily allowance (RDA). An example is vitamin C; when you’re coming down with a cold, many health experts will advise you to take higher amounts of this immune-system-boosting vitamin, to help fight the germs. Excess C vitamin is simply washed out in the urine.

But that’s not the case with all vitamins, nor is it the case with minerals. Vitamin A, for instance, can be very toxic to developing fetuses when supplements are taken at high levels during pregnancy. Similarly, B vitamins, including niacin, which is mentioned in the report, have safe upper daily limits that have been set by U.S. government regulatory agencies.

Like vitamins, minerals also have daily-intake limits that are considered safe. While getting enough of these essential nutrients is vital for good health, getting too much of them can cause digestive and more serious health problems.

Federal U.S. law requires that certain foods, such as enriched cereals, be fortified with specific nutrients, including folate. But in today’s more health-conscious marketplace, many other products, like breakfast bars, are also fortified.

The EWG report underlines the importance of consuming processed foods as little as possible, emphasizing instead whole, unprocessed foods for your family. Specifically, this translates to not letting your children eat too many bowls of enriched ready-to-eat cereals a day or load up on enriched breakfast bars or granola bars, especially if they also take a daily multivitamin + minerals tablet.

All health experts agree that it is best for a person of any age to get their nutrients from the natural foods that they eat, instead of from fortified, processed foods, which often also introduce a lot of artificial chemicals and preservatives that can only do harm. This means taking the time to serve your kids a variety of natural and nutritious meals. Instead of a sugary, chemical-packed breakfast cereal, teach your children to enjoy a bowl of oatmeal with some minced fruit or nuts folded in it. A nice chunk of good, natural bread, with some scrambled eggs and diced tomatoes, and a glass of fruit juice or milk on the side, make a wonderful and super-nutritious breakfast.

Doctors advise that it’s very hard to get too many vitamins or minerals when we eat whole foods or when we moderate our consumption of enriched foods. The problem, again, arises when enriched grains and other enriched foods are eaten in too much abundance, especially when the person also takes vitamin or mineral supplements.

If you have any concerns about your child’s diet, the best thing to do is talk to your pediatrician. He or she can give you feedback on your child’s diet, as well as assess whether or not your youngster needs to take vitamin/mineral supplements.

By Lisa Pecos

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