Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Supplements – Will I Give Them To My Kids?

by Kristen Suzanne in baby, kids

I was recently emailed the following question…

Hello Kristen,

I want ask a question about your plans on raising your child if you do not mind. I am not sure how you feel about supplements for your child when the child gets older. People like VIctoria Boutenko, Jinjee Talifero, Julie Pitcher, Ka Sundance and I am sure the list goes on, but they do not supplement and they do not supplement their children. Then there is Shazzie and a few others who believe supplements are important. The people who say supplements are not necessary say that if we eat a variety of veggies, fruits, tropical fruits especially and wild edibles and live in a climate where they get to enjoy the sun majority times of the year say that supplements are not necessary. How do you feel about supplements when it comes to raising your child? I just want to know your opinion if you will.

It’s a great question. Here is my plan… 

As most of you know, I’m not anti-supplement. I’ve been pretty diligent for years regarding vegan DHA and B12 supplements in my diet, and I will do the same for my kid(s). I think the Raw Vegan (or high raw, all vegan) diet done correctly, and thoroughly planned, can provide much of what we need instead of supplements; however, there are a couple of things that can be difficult to adequately get with foods alone (i.e., vegan DHA and B12). And, to be honest, I don’t think I’ll always be able to safely rely on foods to provide my family’s needed nutrition in all instances (examples below). Therefore, I play it safe and supplement from time to time to ensure everything is taken care of, and I’ll do the same for my (future) kids. In my mind, it’s like, “Why not?” I’m certainly not doing any harm by consuming high quality, non-synthetic supplements, and, in fact, I get peace of mind when I do take them.

Getting adequate nutrition goes deeper than just getting a balanced, seasonal, and organic diet. What about possible deficiencies that were created from the past, or from other issues such as our depleted soil, toxic environment, varying stress levels, different backgrounds, different geography, experiences traveling abroad, varying athletic levels, etc? As a result, I find it impossible to prescribe one way of living for every family. It’s dependent on the unique situations for each family, and what is warranted not only changes from family to family, but within each family as well. For example, our family is going to travel a lot (including overseas travel). As a result, I’ll pay extra attention to what foods will be available to us and noting whether we can get a balanced array. Perhaps there will be some places around the world where we won’t get a lot of greens or we can’t eat organic. It would be smart to bring supplements such as green powder and other nutrients to make sure we get everything we need. 

The key for me is that we won’t rely on supplements (with the exception of B12 and vegan DHA – and even these I don’t always take daily), and we won’t use them as a crutch in place of getting an optimally balanced diet of whole, plant-based foods. We’ll get our nutrients from foods as much as possible. Here are some examples: We consume organic citrus, kiwi, and/or colorful bell peppers to get vitamin C and other powerful phytonutrients. We make sure our diet has vitamin E, iron, and zinc from sprouted / dehydrated, organic pumpkin and sunflower seeds. We ensure selenium is our my diets from Brazil nuts. We get adequate iron and calcium from leafy greens (as well as some cooked vegan foods). We get vitamin K1 and K2 from greens and fermented foods, respectively, although I’m not opposed to a vitamin K2 supplement from time to time when we’re not consuming enough fermented foods. We consume plenty of superfoods such as hemp foods, goji berries, wheat grass, etc. I could go on and on… but you get the point. I will follow the same protocol for my kids, and I will take an even harder look at their diets to really ensure they’re getting everything they need for strong, growing bodies. If this means some extra supplementation, then bring it on!

Regarding the two supplements that I do rely on: vegan DHA and B12. 

Both of these can be more difficult to get through food. Moreover, with DHA, even if my family did get plenty of the nutrients (omega 3s and 6s) required for us to assimilate DHA, we’re not guaranteed that we can all convert it efficiently. And, it’s a similar story for B12. Perhaps there was a time when people received adequate B12 from the soil on produce, but that’s not the case anymore. The general consensus among doctors that I respect is that we need to supplement a vegan diet with B12.

How about vitamin D? Fortunately, my family lives in a climate with plenty of sunshine for this vitamin. However, if we travel for extended periods of time and we don’t get enough vitamin D, then I will look into having my family supplement.

Bottom line: The raw vegan diet rocks and it’s full of nutrition for my family. It takes careful planning to do it successfully, which I’m willing and happy to do. And, in the process, when I see that we might not be getting enough of something via our food intake, I’m grateful to have supplements as an option. We will also tap into the expertise of two kinds of doctors for our family (more specifically our children). If needed, we will visit both an M.D. (although I suspect we won’t use this person very much), and we’ll see an N.D. (naturopathic doctor) to consistently get our blood levels checked and ensure we all have optimal levels of nutrients, and then make necessary changes accordingly. 

As a final note, don’t take what I’m going to do for my family as gospel for your loved ones. I think every family needs to address this topic on an individual level and speak with a professional when necessary to ensure everything is getting taken care of.

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