On Monday I told you about how there may be times when giving nutritional supplements to your children is necessary for their health, and I also told you about the top 5 nutritional supplements for kids that you may want to have on hand in case you need them.
Today I want to talk to you real food purists who, like me, want to do your best at staying away from supplements and instead, first going for the real thing that gives our children the nutrition their bodies need… foods!
Is Food Enough
Do you remember me saying that it’s unfortunate for those of us these days who are trying to get the majority of our nutrition from the foods we eat because of the commercial farming practices? Well, that’s true. Commercial farming is great as it provides a lot of food for people who need it, but at what cost? Nutrient void food? What good is that going to do us?
Not only that, but commercial farming practices don’t properly replace nutrients taken from the soil by the many crops that come and go. Sure the crops are fertilized to yield larger produce, but that fertilizer doesn’t always benefit the soil. Crop after crop is planted, and most times the soil isn’t allowed to rest between seasons. Did you know that you’re also not supposed to plant the same crop in the same soil over and over? This is because bacteria and other diseases can form in that soil and harm your crop. You’re supposed to rotate crops from time to time in order to change things up a bit.
Same goes with your meat and dairy foods. If animals are fed grains that are full of chemicals, additives, and GMOs as well as given hormones to bulk up their meat, then these things will be found in their meat and the dairy products that come from them.
Now this post isn’t on best gardening practices or the pros of eating grass-fed animal products. The point of all of this is to say that when you buy most commercial foods, you’re most times buying foods that have less nutrition and have been chemically altered to look delicious.
Where To Obtain Quality Foods
If you’re considering getting as much nutrition from your foods, I’d suggest that you do your best to purchase organic foods that haven’t been sprayed with chemicals or infected with GMOs, go with local foods from your farmers market as those are grown or raised on a smaller scale by smaller farms that tend to follow traditional farming practices since they aren’t mass producing foods, or to grow and raise your own organic foods in your backyard (or front yard if you’re like me). To me, this is how you can obtain the highest quality sources of foods possible.
Now, beyond fruits and vegetables, purchasing grains, beans, dairy products, meats, and other pantry staples from organic, local sources when possible is also a good idea. Co-ops are great as are purchasing from well-known, respected companies online like Amazon and Vitacost. You also have the option to shop at local grocery stores that may bring in local produce or even health food stores that buy close to home from sustainable sources.
And of course all this goes without saying that the more you can prepare your foods properly, the better they’ll be for you and your kids.
Replacing Supplements With Food
Okay, so let’s now look at the supplements I mentioned on Monday and talk about what we natural mamas can do to get as much of these nutrients from food sources rather than supplemental sources. If you missed Monday’s post on the 5 best natural supplements for children, read it first as it goes into more detail about why these supplements are important for children.
1. Cod Liver Oil
Remember how I said that cod liver oil was a great source of omega fatty acids and that fermented cod liver oil is a good source of antioxidants and vitamins A & D? So where do you look when trying to get these things from foods or from things other than a supplement?
Well, let’s look at each of the benefits of cod liver oil and go from there.
Omega Fatty Acids
Omega Fatty Acids (particularly omega 3) is beneficial to the body’s health in many ways. Basically omega fatty acids help with immune, brain, cardiovascular, inflammatory, hormone, and nervous system functioning. (Source) I’m not going to go into the different types of omegas and how they each play a vital role in the health. You can do your own research via the source link above if you wanna know more. What I want to talk about is what foods you can get omegas from.
Most people get their omegas from a wide variety of sources, but there are certain foods that contain more than others.
Flax seeds and walnuts contain the highest amount of omega 3 and these can be added to foods or consumed as oils. There are other varieties of vegetable oils that contain omega fatty acids, but you have to keep in mind that most vegetable oils are fragile oils and they can be damaged easily which will cause them to do more harm than good. Be sure to use oils correctly in your foods.
Certain fish like sardines, salmon, and cod also contain high amounts of omegas. There are other fish that contain omega oils, but these are the highest. The best fish are wild-caught (not farm-raised), and the amount of omegas is mainly based on the region the fish come from and the fish’s diet of seaweed and algae where omegas are found. You can consume seaweeds and algaes as well, but the omega amounts are much more concentrated in the fish.
Grass-fed beef, dairy, and eggs all contain omegas thanks to the plants the animals eat while grazing and due to the content of any supplements they may be given such as algae or fish oils in their feed.
Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, greens, and spinach contain omega fatty acids as do some other vegetables.
Fermented cod-liver oil also contains antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances found in foods that help to defend the body… mainly from free radical damage. To learn more, click here to read WebMD’s How Antioxidants Work.
Foods that contain high levels of antioxidants are beans (small red, kidney, pinto, black), berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries), nuts (pecans), vegetables (artichoke), and fruits (apples, prunes, cherries, prunes).
Vitamin A is beneficial to the body as it helps form and maintain strong, healthy skin, teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucus membranes, and eye sight. It helps prevent birth defects and is also an antioxidant.
You can find vitamin A in orange and yellow fruits and vegetables (cantaloupe, pink grapefruit, apricots, sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash), in some dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, greens), and in grass-fed animal products (butter, egg yolks, organ meats).
Vitamin D is beneficial to the body as it helps to pull calcium and phosphorus into the bones and teeth (during formation or repair)… making them strong and healthy. It’s also required for mineral metabolism, optimal nervous system function, muscle tone, reproductive health, insulin production, protection from depression, and every type of chronic illness, from cancer to heart disease. (Source)
The best source of vitamin D is from sun exposure. You can learn more about that in this article “Grasping The Importance of Vitamin D“. As far as getting vitamin D from food sources, you’re a bit more limited. Vitamin D is found in wild-caught fish (salmon, sardines, cod, tuna), pastured milk, eggs, organ meats, and even in shitake mushrooms and algea.
Probiotics are linked to digestive health and immune function, but instead of depending on probiotics from supplements, why not increase the amount of foods your child consumes on a daily basis in order to get a good amount of probiotics in them that way?
Foods that contain probiotics are mainly cultured and fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, kombucha, fermented/aged cheeses, fermented veggies (sauerkraut/kimchi, pickles, okra, etc.), algae (spirulina, chorella), and even soaked grains will have a little bit of healthy bacteria. Plus, don’t forget that if you grow your own vegetables in healthy soil, you’re more than likely getting some soil-based probiotics from them.
3 & 4. Multi-Vitmains and Trace Minerals
Vitamins (water-soluble and fat-soluble) and minerals are found in almost all foods. If you’d rather skip the daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplements and focus on getting a good variety of vitamins from food-based sources, then eating a well-balanced real food diet is key. Since vitamins and minerals are found in all foods, and the amounts found in each food vary, a “well-balanced” diet is very important. Eating a good variety of high-quality foods each and every day will ensure that your child is getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals in their diet.
Vitamins and minerals are found in grass-fed animal products like meats, organ meats, dairy, and eggs as well as in vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds. You can also find high vitamin/mineral content in bone broth, sea salts, seaweeds/algae (kelp, spirulina, chorella), clays, bee pollen, and in natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, molasses).
Every single meal your child eats will contain some of these foods if you’re feeding them a good variety and if you’re keeping the sugars and processed foods at bay. Sugar and processed foods as well as improperly prepared grains can hinder mineral absorption, and I honestly believe that these things are the major causes of our mineral deficiencies in our children today. I don’t think that we’d need vitamin and mineral supplements as much is we were all able to focus on feeding our families real foods that are prepared in a healthy way.
5. Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2 is a little-known vitamin that has come into the spotlight recently. I explained it’s benefits in Monday’s post so I won’t repeat that info. Below, I want to go over the foods that are currently thought to contain good quantities of vitamin K2 in order for children to get as much of it as possible from food sources.
Vitamin K2 has been found in grass-fed animal sources like meats, organ meats, dairy, and eggs and in fermented foods like natto, sauerkraut fermented with a k2 culture, and cheese (brie and gooda). Unfortunately, it’s thought that grass-fed sources of vitamin K2 don’t contribute enough of this essential vitamin as the body needs, but the fermented sources do a better job.
Now you may have noticed a pattern with these foods. If you’re trying to skip these 5 best natural supplements for your kids (or at least skip them the majority of the year) and you still want to get their benefits, then there are several foods to focus on including in your child’s diet.
- Meat: grass-fed meat including organ meats, wild-caught fish
- Dairy: grass-fed milk, butter, cheese
- Vegetables: organic vegetables, fermented vegetables, seaweeds
- Fats: organic, fresh nuts and seeds, healthy oils/fats used properly
Including a good variety of these foods on a daily basis is going to go so far in helping your little ones be healthy… not only now while they’re small, but it will affect them as they grow into teenagers and adults as well as when they have children of their own. Feeding our children a quality real food diet is truly investing in their future.
What About Grains?
It’s funny. I’m not an anti-grain person. I LOVE bread, but I realize that most of us consume way too much of it and it’s harming out health.
First of all, the quality of our grains are lacking these days. They’re mass produced, they’re toxic, they’re old, and they’re heavily processed. Need I say more?
Secondly, we eat the same kinds all the time. Hello wheat… I’m talking to you! What happened to eating a good variety? What about those ancient grains we hear about from time to time.
And lastly, we eat grains that have been prepared incorrectly. Soaking and spouting will go a long way at helping grains digest properly and benefit the body nutritionally. Improperly prepared grains that contain high amounts of phytic acid will cause the body to miss a good portion of the nutrients the grain provides.
Speaking of grain nutrients, grains basically provide fiber (so do fruits, vegetables, and herbs if you eat enough), minerals (as do the majority of the above foods), as well as B vitamins (again, found in the above foods). So as you can see, you can get almost all of the nutrients that grains provide via the foods mentioned above… or at least a good amount of those same benefits. Now I’m not saying, skip grains. I’m just saying, limit them and prepare them properly to see if you and your kids don’t feel better. I’m sure your health will benefit from it.