The basics of nutrition can be as simple as A,B,C – and D,E,K. Let’s look at the different vitamins we find in veggies and how they benefit growing bodies.
In the classroom a C may be considered average. In a child’s body, however, a C is as important as an A, a B and sometimes even a K.
Indeed, if a child’s body were a classroom, the letter grades that matter most apply to vitamins, and each has an important role. From their beating hearts to the hairs on their heads, kids’ bodies rely on vitamins for healthy growth and development.
And the best way for kids to receive these essential nutrients is through the whole foods that naturally produce them. Veggies do that in spades. (And wedges and salads and spirals!)
Want to make sure your kids are getting their ABCs and Es and Ks? Following is a list of important vitamins and the veggies that contain them.
Vitamin A: This is the vitamin for those who want to avoid making spectacles for themselves, literally. Vitamin A is the go-to for healthy vision, but it’s also important for fighting infections (immunity) and keeping your skin in the pink. Note that vitamin A is fat-soluble and therefore should be eaten with healthy fats such as olive oil or avocados. The top veggies for vitamin A include carrots, sweet potatoes, kale and other dark leafy greens, winter squash and lettuce.
Vitamin B: Not to get complex on you, but vitamin B comes in numerous forms, each of which is conveniently numbered:
- Vitamin B-1: Also known as thiamin, B-1 transports energy to the brain and central nervous system. You can find small amounts of thiamin in artichokes, lima beans, iceberg lettuce, spinach and beet greens.
- Vitamin B-2: B-2 stands for riboflavin, a nutrient that is crucial for red blood cell growth and production. Excellent veggie sources of riboflavin include broccoli, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts and potatoes.
- Vitamin B-3: Here we’ve got your niacin, which protects the normal function of skin, nerves and digestion. Potatoes are good sources of niacin, as well as peas, asparagus and corn.
- Vitamin B-5: If you’re grateful that your kid’s lunch is converted into so much energy, you can thank vitamin B-5, or pantothenic acid. It helps our bodies convert food into energy and also produce melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep cycles. Avocadoes, sweet potatoes and mushrooms all carry B-5.
- Vitamin B-6: This is the thinker’s vitamin. It’s good for our brains and oxygen-transporting hemoglobin production. Winter squash, spinach and potatoes are all B-6 rich.
- Vitamin B-7: Our seventh B stands for biotin. It is important for cell growth and energy production and can be found in your cauliflower and avocadoes.
- Vitamin B-9: This is folate, one of the most important of B vitamins. It’s behind healthy cell and tissue growth and good metabolism. Spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and peas are among folate-rich veggies.
Vitamin C: This super-strong antioxidant protects us from cancer and other illness. Antioxidants are important because they keep free radicals in check, and too many free radicals could damage our cells and tissues. Our bodies also need C to develop and maintain blood vessels, cartilage and scar tissue. Exemplary C delivery systems include bell peppers, dark leafy greens, broccoli, tomatoes and peas.
Vitamin D: We all need to regularly bone up on vitamin D. Our bodies need it to absorb calcium, which strengthens our bones, and to support our immunity. Vitamin D also helps to alleviate inflammation, when the body tries to heal itself from damaged cells or other unwelcome visitors. You can find D in mushrooms, the only veggies to score this essential vitamin.
Vitamin E: Another fat-soluble vitamin, E can help protect against heart disease and cancer (for grownups, vitamin E battles age-related vision problems). Dark leafy greens, avocadoes, squash and broccoli all bring the D.
Vitamin K: Oh, K, you may be one of the least familiar vitamins. Not that it doesn’t haul its weight. High levels of vitamin K can help protect us from cancer and heart disease. Our bodies also need it for blood clotting, very important for parents whose kids have a tendency to play with spirit. Salad greens, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli and herbs such as basil are all K-OK.
Want your kiddos to get all of these vitamins? You can do it by mixing all of the above veggies with some noodles in a hearty tomato broth. You’ll have the real alphabet soup! You can add a dollop of Cheesy Cheddar Vegy Vida as an easy-peasy way to boost the protein, without fake fats or preservatives.
In the big classroom of parenting, that would get you an A+.