A well-researched vitamin, B6 is essential to various activities in the human body. From processing carbohydrates -- important for physically active children -- to forming molecules needed in the nervous system, B6 has an effect on over 100 chemical reactions. Lacking the proper amount of B6 can result in various conditions, from lethargy and skin problems to anemia and seizures, but there are many foods your family will enjoy that provide this and other vital nutrients.
Introducing additional sources of B6 to children's diets can be tricky. Most worthwhile sources of B6 are fruits, vegetables and fish -- not always tops on kids' lists of favorite foods. The best foods for B6 are spinach, red bell peppers, turnip greens and shiitake mushrooms. Boil the spinach and mix in some shredded cheese to make the vegetable more appealing to kids. Slice red bell peppers and serve them raw along with sliced carrots and celery for kids to dip in a side of ranch dressing.
If your children enjoy fruit, feed them bananas and watermelon for additional B6 intake. While not as rich in B6 as those fruits, grapes, pineapple, cantaloupe and strawberries are also good sources of the vitamin. Blend up fruit smoothies using any or all of those sources of vitamins for your kids to enjoy. Encourage your children to eat celery -- a vegetable rich in B6 -- by adding cheese, creamy dressing or peanut butter to it. Make cheese and bacon-topped potato skins for a fun B6-filled snack. Steam broccoli and coat it with melted cheese for a kid-friendly B6 side dish. Raw carrots and tomatoes are also good sources. If your children aren't fans of cod, halibut or salmon -- all high in B6 -- alternate turkey, chicken breast and beef tenderloin for dinner. Eggs and whole grain cereals are good choices for breakfast foods high in B6.
Serving raw, fresh vegetables is the best way to retain all of the B6 in them. Canned vegetables lose up to 80 percent of the inherent B6, while fruit from a can has almost 40 percent less than a fresh alternative. Freezing and cooking foods also releases some of the B6 in them, as much as 50 percent in some cases. Loading up on various foods rich in B6 is the best way to increase your children's intake if you cook or freeze a lot of the sources. The Institute of Medicine recommends maximum intake levels of B6 by age, and therapeutic levels should always be monitored by a physician.
Benefits of B6 Therapy
In addition to the benefits for fatigue, skin disorders and anemia, some studies have shown B6 therapy to be helpful in some children with autism. One study theorized that supplementing B6 in autistic patients could improve brain function. The Journal of Child Neurology published an analysis of 4,000 surveys given to parents of autistic children. The results showed that the most successful course among this sample was a high-dose supplement of B6 and magnesium. For every one report of worsening behavior in a child, eight and one-half of respondents saw behavioral improvement with the therapy.
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- Health Supplements Nutritional Guide: Vitamin B6
- "The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine"; Abnormally High Plasma Levels of Vitamin B6 in Children with Autism; James B. Adams, et. al; February 2006
- "Journal of Child Neurology"; Controversies in the Treatment of Autistic Children: Vitamin and Drug Therapy; Bernard Rimland, PhD
- "Autism Research Review International"; B6 Therapy Raises Verbal IQ in Children with PDD; 2002
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