25th Sep 2020

From vitamin D and calcium to zinc and vitamin C, a range of nutrients team up in the body to support a range of important functions. So, eating an array of delicious and nutritious foods isn’t just a treat for your little one’s tastebuds, it’s also important for supporting their health.

You may know that these nutrients are an integral pillar of any healthy lifestyle and play several different roles to support your child’s overall health and wellbeing.

Did you know that these nutrients often don’t work alone? In fact, several vitamins and minerals team up within your little one’s body to help unlock their full potential.

Read on to discover four nutrient combinations, how they work together to support your little one’s health, and how you can incorporate them into their healthy, balanced diet.

Vitamin D and Calcium

Calcium contributes to a number of important bodily functions, but did you know that vitamin D is also involved? We need adequate amounts of the sunshine vitamin for our bodies to absorb the calcium we get from the foods we eat (1).

In tandem, these two nutrients work together to support healthy teeth, bones and muscles (1).

Your child’s body requires vitamin D to produce the hormone Calcitriol (also known as active vitamin D), which helps to support dietary calcium absorption (2). So, when their vitamin D levels are inadequate, their body may struggle to produce Calcitriol. In turn, it may leech calcium from the stores in their bones (2).

To support your child’s healthy teeth, bones and muscles it’s important they get enough vitamin D and calcium.

In Australia, we receive 90% of the vitamin D we require from sunlight, but small amounts of it can also be found in our food (3).  If you’d like to learn more about how to spot inadequate vitamin D levels, click here.

Sources of Calcium (4):

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Fortified milk alternatives
  • Tofu

Sources of Vitamin D (5):

  • Sunshine!
  • Salmon

Serving Suggestion:

Sipping on a glass of milk on a nice, sunny day (following sun safety of course)!

Vitamin B12 and Vitamin B9 - Folate

Although vitamin B12 is sourced from animal products and B9 is most commonly found in plant-based foods, the two join forces inside our bodies.

This B-Vitamin duo works to support bodily processes that are integral to cell division and replication, while also metabolising the amino acid, homocysteine (6).

This is important because cell division helps to repair injuries (7) (which may be a common occurrence if your little one is rough and tumble) while homocysteine is a chemical their body uses to make proteins which are important for their growth and development (8).

Alongside this, folate depends on B12 to be absorbed, metabolised and stored in the body (6).

If you’d like to learn more about the importance of B-Vitamins, you can find more information here.


Sources of Vitamin B12 (5):

  • Mackerel
  • Beef
  • Fortified cereal
  • Tuna

Sources of Vitamin B9 (Folate) (5):

  • Broccoli
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils

Serving Suggestion

Why not try a yummy beef mince bolognese with a side of broccoli and asparagus? If your little one is especially picky, you can always try pureeing the veggies and mixing them through the pasta sauce. For more fussy eating tips, click here.

Iron and Vitamin C

Did you know that there are two forms of iron we consume in our diet? This mineral plays a variety of roles within your little one’s body and is important for converting blood sugar to energy.

Iron also helps support healthy skin, hair and nails (9). For more information about how iron helps to support health and wellbeing, click here.

When it comes to the body’s ability to absorb iron, there are a number of different factors at play. One of these is the difference between the two different types of iron, known as haem and non-haem iron.

Haem iron is primarily found in meat and poultry while fortified cereals and eggs are common sources of the non-haem variety. Haem iron is more readily absorbed by the body whereas our bodies find it more difficult to utilise non-haem iron (10, 11).

That’s where vitamin C may help. In your child’s gut, vitamin C can help convert the less readily absorbed non-haem iron into a more bioavailable form that the body finds easer to absorb. Want to explore more about how vitamin C can support your child? Click here to learn more about the vitamin.

Sources of Vitamin C (5):

  • Kiwifruit
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli

Sources of Haem Iron (4):

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Tuna

Sources of Non-Haem Iron

  • Lentils
  • Iron-fortified breakfast cereals
  • Wholegrains
  • Dried beans

Serving Suggestion

When plating up sources of non-haem iron at mealtime (such as lentils), try following it up with a yummy fruit platter for dessert.

Zinc and Vitamin C

Zinc and vitamin C are both important nutrients for maintaining your child’s healthy immune system function.

But, these two essential nutrients also team up to ward off unwanted bugs and germs thanks to their roles supporting elements of both innate and adaptive immunity (12).

Innate immunity is the first line of defence against germs and adaptive is the second (13). To learn more about the difference between innate and adaptive immunity, you can find more information here.


On one hand, zinc supports the immune system by helping to maintain mucus membrane health. Mucous membranes are the physical barriers that keep bugs and germs out of your little one’s body (14).

Just like skin protects the body, mucous membranes protect the insides.

They line the inside of your child’s body, including their nose, throat and lungs, (15). The mucus they produce prevents dirt and foreign invaders from entering your little one’s body, while also helping keep bodily tissues moist (15).

Zinc also plays an important role in immune cell development and function, while supporting an effective immune response (14). This means that when your child has adequate zinc levels, their immune system functions optimally.

Vitamin C

Meanwhile, vitamin C also contributes to supporting their developing immune system by maintaining a variety of cell functions involved in both innate and adaptive immunity (16).

In particular, vitamin C helps to stimulate the function and production of white blood cells, which are an important component of their immune system 17).

Together, zinc and vitamin C may help support your little one’s immune system to help ward off pesky bugs and germs.

Sources of Zinc include (4):

  • Beef
  • Crab
  • Fortified cereals
  • Soybeans

Serving Suggestion:

Whip up some homemade crab cakes with a side of steamed broccoli. Alternatively, if your child isn’t a fan of broccoli, try mashing the steamed veggies up and mixing them through the fritter batter rather than serving separately.

So, there you have it, four nutrient combinations that you can include in your child’s diet today. Remember, the best way to support their intake is through healthy and varied diet. So, why not try mixing up your meals this week to focus on the pairings above?

What's Next?

Of course, if you have any concerns about your child’s nutrient intake, talk to your local health professional.

Have you found this information useful? If so, you may enjoy the following:

The Ultimate Guide: Which Vitamins Are Important For Children 

Important Minerals For Your Child (And How To Help Them Get Enough) 

3 Things You Should Know When Choosing A Supplement